A 24-team field has been reduced to four as the Euro 2020 semifinals get set to kick-off in London. We examine the two contests below, highlighting the key factors that will determine which nations advance and predicting the result for each fixture.
Tuesday, July 6
Italy vs. Spain (3:00 p.m. ET)
- Venue: Wembley Stadium (London)
Spain enters Tuesday’s contest with a tournament-best 12 goals and have more attacks (365), corner kicks (47), possession (67.2%), and successful passes (3,856 – an astounding 1,182 more than next-best Italy) than any side at Euro 2020.
Dominant stuff from a team that’s spent heaps of time in the attacking third, but a deeper look reveals a worryingly toothless frontline. Luis Enrique’s charges had 28 shots against Switzerland – with 10 of those hitting the target – but still needed an own goal and some horrendous penalties from their 10-man opponent after two hours of open play to progress. Out of Spain’s dozen goals, 10 of those came against Slovakia and Croatia – the latter match also required extra time against an inferior foe – meaning La Roja have managed to score only twice across their other three outings.
Strike tandem Alvaro Morata – who has two goals in 293 minutes played – and Gerard Moreno – who’s on zero goals in 197 minutes – have endured the brunt of these failings, and neither offered much against the Swiss. Moreno came on in the 57th-minute for a fatigued Morata and missed four attempts, one of which was a prime chance from close range. Spain’s continued wastefulness could prove costly, especially against an Italian side capable in attack.
Being capable in attack hasn’t always been a hallmark of Italy’s best teams, but that’s precisely what they are under Roberto Mancini. Even without left-back Leonardo Spinazzola – who was one of the best players at Euro 2020 before rupturing his Achilles in the last-16 win over Belgium – Italy’s penchant for probing and relentless attacks should prove a weighty threat against Spain.
Slick interplay and lightning-quick passing sequences have been the calling card of a tactical approach that starkly contrasts Mancini’s predecessors. Antonio Conte’s counter-attacking brand and Gian Piero Ventura’s bumbling and rigid methods that favored back-to-the-wall Catenaccio-inspired defending have been ditched for fluid attacks. It’s been a refreshing change.
While it’s not without its risks, nobody will argue with the results: Italy has won 13 on the spin, outscoring opponents 28-2 over that spell, and are 33 unbeaten – both national team records. The Spaniards will need to have their best performance of the tournament to snap the Azzurri’s stellar streak.
Prediction: Italy wins
Wednesday, July 7
England vs. Denmark (3:00 p.m. ET)
- Venue: Wembley Stadium (London)
The trauma of talisman Christian Eriksen suffering cardiac arrest on the pitch and the two defeats that followed seemed to consign Denmark to an early exit – until a remarkable 4-1 victory over Russia started to establish the Danes as one of the tournament’s strongest sides.
Mikkel Damsgaard and Joakim Maehle have flourished with the added responsibility in Eriksen’s absence, combining for three goals and two assists while wreaking havoc down the left side. Maehle’s emergence is perhaps the most surprising after an average first season with Atalanta: Only the Netherlands’ Frenkie de Jong has completed more dribbles at Euro 2020 than the wing-back.
This tournament’s timing was helpful to Denmark. Conservative coach Age Hareide’s contract expired during the one-year delay, and his predecessor, the highly rated Kasper Hjulmand, has since melded his attacking instincts with the defensive solidity that was left behind. Kasper Dolberg has scored more goals in his last two appearances (three) than he did in his previous 12 international outings.
England can also count on a striker in form after Harry Kane caught fire near the end of the Three Lions’ last-16 elimination of Germany. The Tottenham Hotspur marksman then notched a brace in the dominant quarterfinal win over Ukraine and has shown a fine understanding with Raheem Sterling throughout the Euros.
But who’s joining Kane and Sterling in attack is one of the biggest talking points leading up to this match. The clamor for Jack Grealish to start contests has led to a peculiar situation where his reputation grows each time he’s named on the bench, while Phil Foden, Jadon Sancho, and Marcus Rashford’s qualities are no secret. Bukayo Saka also impressed over his two starts.
The next conundrum is whether Gareth Southgate opts for a four or three-man backline, with the latter option likely providing the best foundation to deal with Denmark. No team has scored more goals from open play at the tournament (eight) than England’s opponent.
Prediction: England wins