With two teams already booking their place in the semifinals of the 2020 Euros, two more spots are up for grabs on Saturday. While these games are from the side of the bracket that’s considered weaker, that doesn’t mean there won’t be plenty of drama and excitement. Let’s take a closer look at Saturday’s quarterfinal matches and try to predict the winners.
Before the tournament, almost nobody would have predicted this matchup in the quarterfinals. But that’s how things have worked out and now one of these often overlooked nations is going to have a date in the semifinals. The Czech Republic remain perpetual underdogs with a moneyline of +290 while Denmark’s moneyline is listed at +105.
It’s hard to say that the Czechs have been impressive in this tournament, but it’s hard to deny that they’ve been effective. They’ve played their game and rarely allowed opponents to make them uncomfortable or take them out of their game plan. That game plan has involved staying organized defensively and patiently waiting for opportunities to go on the counterattack. The plan has worked brilliantly with the Czech Republic conceding just two goals in four matches.
Of course, the Czechs also have something that most teams in this tournament lack, which is a striker who’s in top form right now. Patrik Schick has scored four goals in four matches with the Bayer Leverkusen man scoring all but one of his team’s goals. Schick has provided moments of magic when given the opportunity while the Czechs, as a team, have looked dangerous on set pieces and done brilliantly to take advantage when other teams make mistakes. There’s no better example of that than when they sprung a counterattack on the Dutch during the Round of 16 that resulted in the Netherlands going down a man because of a red card, opening the door for the Czechs to score twice while up a man.
With upsets starting to spring up in the Round of 16, it’s easy to start looking at Denmark as a team of destiny. Keep in mind that the Danes began this tournament by losing their best player to cardiac arrest that he suffered during the team’s opening match. The last few weeks have become an emotional rollercoaster for Denmark, but the Danes have been able to ride that wave of emotions and play with an incredible spirit and togetherness. That has spurred them to back-to-back wins with the Danes scoring four goals in each of those games.
Outside of the team’s spirit, the key for Denmark has been young players stepping to the forefront. Mikkel Damsgaard has filled the shoes of Christian Eriksen as a playmaker with world-class ability, even if the 20-year-old still lacks experience. Likewise, Kasper Dolberg stepped up with two goals in the Round of 16 with Yussuf Poulsen missing the match due to injury. The Danes have also gotten strong performances in this tournament from veteran forward Martin Braithwaite, who is a threat to step up in the later rounds. The Danes have also settled into their three-back defensive formation with Jannik Vestergaard, Andreas Christensen, and Simon Kjaer, looking strong defensively in their last two matches.
While the Czechs have gotten to the quarterfinals with smoke, mirrors, and some timely goals by Schick, Denmark is starting to look like a genuinely good team. They’ve rallied around each other after Eriksen’s collapse but the Danes also look like a team that’s talented enough to play in the quarterfinals of a major tournament. They have plenty of quality individually and couldn’t look any stronger collectively, which should be enough to carry them to the semifinals.
Pick: Denmark 2-0
On paper, this is the biggest mismatch of the quarterfinals. Ukraine is clearly playing with house money at this point, having only gotten this far at a major tournament once before. Meanwhile, England is the betting favorite to win the whole tournament heading into the quarterfinals. Naturally, the Three Lions are massive favorites in this match with a -240 moneyline compared to Ukraine’s moneyline of +700.
Despite being the betting favorites to win the tournament, there are still lingering questions about England. They’ve been unconvincing throughout the tournament despite taking down a difficult German side in the Round of 16. After all of the hype around England’s offensive prowess before the tournament, they’ve still only scored four goals in four matches. The fact that star striker Harry Kane finally scored late in the Germany game is a good sign moving forward. However, Gareth Southgate still hasn’t found an attacking lineup that works with the Three Lions not coming alive offensively against Germany until Jack Grealish came off the bench, as the England team has been lacking some creativity in midfield during the tournament.
On the bright side, England is yet to concede a goal in four matches, although they did dodge a couple of bullets against Germany. It remains to be seen if England will return to a four-man backline moving forward or if Southgate will prefer to stay with the three-center-back formation that worked against Germany. Either way, goalie Jordan Pickford has come up big when asked to make a save and the defensive midfield tandem of Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips has played well together. If the Three Lions can continue to keep their opponents from scoring, they should be able to manufacture enough goals to keep advancing.
Much like England, the Ukrainians haven’t exactly been convincing in this tournament. They’ve only won two of their four matches, beating North Macedonia and then surviving a Round of 16 match with Sweden, scoring the game-winning goal late in added time when Sweden was down a man. It’s hard to deny that they’ve benefitted from a little good fortune during the tournament. Nevertheless, they’ve reached the quarterfinals and have surely grown in confidence just by getting to this stage.
The fact that Ukraine is playing with house money could play to their benefit in the quarterfinals. Manager Andriy Shevchenko would prefer the Ukrainians to play a progressive game and push forward and they have the kind of attacking players to do that. Both Andriy Yarmolenko and Oleksandr Zinchenko play their club soccer in England and have the skills to create goal-scoring chances coming out of the midfield. The pair has combined for three goals and three assists in four matches with Roman Yaremchuk also chipping in a pair of goals. While Ukraine can be vulnerable at times defensively, when they decide to push forward, they have the personnel to score goals.
If Ukraine chooses to throw a little caution to the wind and play a high-pressing style, they might be able to catch England by surprise. The English haven’t spent a lot of time in this tournament facing teams that are willing to come out of their shell and play an open game. There’s at least a chance that we’ll see the Ukrainians try to do that in hopes of being able to force England into a mistake and perhaps grab a lead, which would put pressure on the tournament favorites. Of course, while they haven’t shown it yet, England has more attacking firepower than Ukraine, which could ultimately be the difference in the game.
Pick: England 4-2