While there were few surprises among the 16 teams that survived Euro 2020 group play to reach the round of 16, we just witnessed a thrilling four-day stretch of soccer that has given us plenty to talk about ahead of the quarterfinals, which will take place this Friday and Saturday.
We’re focusing on four big questions here, in honor of the four match-ups.
- Italy is a legit title contender
- France should fire Didier Deschamps
- Spain Manager Luis Enrique is the biggest reason his team is still alive
- England is a worthy favorite — and a good bet — at +205 to win the tournament
The concept here needs little explanation, so, Alex Blowers and Chops, let’s get to it.
One of the stories of the tournament so far is Italy, who cruised through Group A, capturing all nine possible points and winning their matches by a combined score of 7-0.
Fact or fiction: Italy is a legit title contender
If I were asked whether Italy is the title contender, I would be leaning “fiction.” But despite the shakiness against Austria — they were lucky not to go down 1-0 late in the second — I still believe the Italians are on the short list of teams that could knock off England.
They’re going to have their hands full against Belgium, though, even if the Belgians are missing both Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard. As someone who’s followed La Liga the past two seasons, I would not recommend holding your breath Re: Hazard returning and making an impact. But I feel confident in De Bruyne not only playing, but causing Italy problems in the quarters. Still, I get why Italy is currently third-favorite (+370) to raise the trophy, behind only England and Spain. I should also apologize for getting off-topic there, but it’s hard not to be excited about Italy-Belgium!
You can look at the Austria game in two ways. Was it just an off day or the first decent opponent Italy have faced? For me, it was a big test against a side packed with solid Bundesliga talent and Italy struggled at times. Roberto Mancini has given himself some tough decisions to make for the Belgium game:
- Marco Verratti or Manuel Locatelli?
- Domenico Berardi or Federico Chiesa?
- If Giorgio Chiellini isn’t fit, Francesco Acerbi or Alessandro Bastoni to try and stop Romelu Lukaku?
Put your money on England!!!
With so many contenders getting knocked out, Italy is 1B to England’s 1A. Unfortunately, Italy will have to go through 1C (Belgium) and likely 1D (Spain) before even potentially playing England.
Oddsmakers do have them as third favorites overall. They are also favored against Belgium. So it’s not exactly the easiest road ahead.
Fact or Fiction: France should fire Didier Deschamps
Alex and I are on the same page, and he makes a much better case than I could. I couldn’t agree more on Lenglet in particular. “No right being anywhere near the French squad” might sound harsh on the centerback to some, but I’d actually call it an understatement. Unheralded Barcelona defenders Ronald Araujo and Oscar Mingueza were better than Lenglet in La Liga late last season, so giving Lenglet a spot ahead of guys like Dayot Upcamecano and Ibrahima Konate is unfathomable.
More importantly, international soccer is not about patience, so France’s 2018 World Cup championship doesn’t mean Deschamps should necessarily survive this disaster. And make no mistake, that’s what a team with this talent, and depth, losing to Switzerland has to be considered, especially given they led 3-1 with 15 minutes remaining.
I’d also be more likely to write off the loss to Switzerland as a shocking aberration if France had fared better in group play. While Germany, Hungary and Portugal deserve some credit for Les Bleus’ slog through Group F, it was clear France was a long way from its ceiling, especially against Hungary and Portugal.
I don’t know how losing both left-backs Lucas Hernández and Lucas Digne gets you to a 3-5-2 with Adrien Rabiot at left wing-back? Taking off Antoine Griezmann in the 88th minute was a bad decision with the game at 3-2. France missed him in extra-time. They still should have had enough to beat Switzerland but it’s poor squad planning that has cost them.
France are stacked with an abundance of talent right now. Deschamps’s choice to take Clemént Lenglet’s is so baffling when players like Dayot Upamecano, Ibrahima Konaté, and Theo Hernández are available. He’s been awful for Barcelona and had no right being anywhere near the French squad, let alone the starting lineup for the Switzerland game.
You only have to look at Germany and Joachim Löw to see how wrong it can go when you keep hold of a manager for too long. Deschamps’s time is up.
Capitulating is in France’s DNA. That’s not on Didier. He didn’t make Pogba turn off on defense or Mbappe miss that penalty. He’s not a booger-eater like Löw either. Frank de Boer? Yeah he needed to go. Deschamps not so much.
Fact or Fiction: Spain Manager Luis Enrique is the biggest reason his team is still alive
Tyler: I’m glad I’m not a huge fan of La Roja, because I don’t know if I could take the ups and downs so far. But since that horrific start against Slovakia in Spain’s final game of group play, these guys have been pretty damn good. Enrique might be dealing with the most lineup questions of any manager left, but he’s pushed the right buttons so far, even if Busquets would not start in my midfield given his struggles with Barcelona against elite clubs.
I expect Spain to get by Switzerland and meet the winner of Belgium-Italy in the semifinals. Given the lack of household names on this roster, that will serve as a testament to Enrique’s work as a manager. This team would not have recovered from the early missed PK against Slovakia,* the catastrophic early own-goal against Croatia or the 92nd-minute equalizer by Croatia in that round of 16 battle without a steely manager.
* OK, maybe they could have shaken that off regardless of who was on the sideline.
I like how Luis Enrique has stuck by Álvaro Morata and supported him at every opportunity. He’s used his squad well, rotating players and keeping everyone involved (except Thiago lol).
His biggest issue is he doesn’t know his strongest eleven but that could all become clear against Switzerland.
Spain will make it to the final.
He’s barely played Thiago. If anything, Enrique’s holding them back.
Seriously though, Spain started draw, draw against two teams they were favored to beat. Yes, they’ve turned it up since then, but they’ve also been favored in every match to date.
Fact or Fiction: England is a worthy favorite, and a good bet (+205) to win Euro 2020
Average defense would probably do the trick given everyone this team has up top, and so far, they’ve been excellent on the back end, piling up four straight shutouts to start their run. England and France were by far the deepest teams in the field, and with France now at home, England will be the clear favorite in every game the rest of the way. That starts with Saturday’s clash with Ukraine, with England -590 to take out Ukraine (+400).
Given the issues both second-favorite Spain and Italy had in the round of 16, England is Euro 2020’s team to beat.
This is the best opportunity I can remember that we’ve had to win a World Cup or Euro. Although I haven’t agreed with some of Southgate’s selections, I am coming round to his cautious approach and think it will get us to the final.
WHERE WE’ll BEAT ANY TEAM STUPID ENOUGH TO WALK OUT ON TO THE WEMBLEY PITCH!!!!!!
FOOTBALL’S COMING HOME!!!
THREE LIONS ON A SHIRT!!!
They were already second-favorite. And other contenders have been KO’d. They have the easiest half of the bracket. IT’S COMING HOME!