After Denmark and Italy, the Czech Republic and Belgium reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2021 by winning against the Netherlands and Portugal. Portugal set out to defend their European Championship title with a far better squad than five years ago in France but this time they ultimately proved less adept at chasing games than grinding out results.
Fernando Santos’ side bowed out of the tournament earlier than they would have liked in losing 1-0 to Belgium in the last-16 but they did not go out quietly, peppering Thibaut Courtois’ goal with shots until the end and hitting the post.
It was the first sensation of this Euro. After a well-mastered first round (three wins against Ukraine, Austria and North Macedonia, eight goals scored, two conceded), the Netherlands were surprised by the Czech Republic (2-0). Already very criticized before the competition because of his system with five defenders, Frank de Boer has never managed to find the solution in his coaching after the exclusion in the second half of Matthijs de Ligt (55th). This failure will not remain without consequences for him. Solidarity and opportunists, the Czechs took the opportunity to dive twice (Tomas Holes 68th, Patrik Schick 80th) and achieve a huge blow. Saturday, July 3 in Baku (Azerbaijan), they will face Denmark for a place in the last four.
Germany, France, Belgium: for the defence of their title, the Portuguese will not have been spared on their way, marked out by some of the biggest favourites to the final victory in this European championship. A real obstacle course, which ended in the heaviness of the Cartuja de Seville.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal there everything at the Dutch defence mechanism but was beaten by a realistic Belgium (1-0), who continued their journey in the tournament but lost Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard to injury. First, in their group with three wins in three games – against Russia, Denmark and Finland – the Red Devils managed to make the necessary qualitative leap forward against the toughest opponent they have had to face. until then. Thanks to a big strike from Thorgan Hazard (42nd), they join Italy in the quarterfinals, Friday, July 2 in Munich (Germany)
Their winning goal in Paris was a hit-and-hope shot from Eder and five years on in Seville, the shoe was on the other foot as Thorgan Hazard’s piledriver proved the difference, ending Portugal’s reign as European champions.
Earlier on Sunday, team spirit helped the Czech Republic secure a surprise 2-0 win over the Netherlands in their last-16 clash despite them being sloppy at times in attack, coach Jaroslav Silhavy said.
Tomas Holes and Patrik Schick scored second-half goals to take the Czechs into the quarter-finals with a deserved victory over a Dutch side that topped their group with three wins.
“I have no words,” Silhavy said. “When the final whistle was coming, we said ‘we did it’.
The program of the day
Croatia-Spain (6 p.m., BeIN Sports 1)
After having timidly started their tournament against Sweden (0-0) and Poland (1-1), Spain obtained its first victory and its qualification for the knockout stages with a crash, against poor Slovakia (0-5 ), equaling the record for the greatest success in the final phase of a Euro. The selection of Aymeric Laporte, scorer during this great success and at ease in the defence of La Roja (holder at each meeting), will have to continue its momentum when it receives Croatia, vice-world champion.
Second, in their group behind England, Luka Modrić’s teammates will not be easy opponents, they who also remain on a comfortable success against Scotland (3-1). By scoring a superb goal during this meeting, from an outside of which he has the secret, the Real Madrid midfielder has proved that he is still an essential link in the heart of the Croatian game, and that he will be the player to watch. The winner of this meeting will face France or Switzerland in the quarter-finals in St. Petersburg on July 2.
France-Switzerland (9 p.m., TF1 and BeIN Sports 1)
Do serious things start for the Blues? Not really, since the France team already had a lot to do to get rid of a group of death with Portugal and Germany in particular. But first, of its group, the band of Didier Deschamps is now entering its phase with direct elimination, where the slightest mistake is not forgiving. Switzerland even seems an affordable opponent for the Habs, reigning world champions and who have acquired in this terribly raised pool F some certainties.
That of having a Karim Benzema finally confident, he who scored against Portugal (2-2) a liberating double, or of being able to count on a Paul Pogba boss size in the middle. But be careful not to think you have already arrived against these Swiss, third in Group A behind Italy and Wales, but who have some strengths to show. Its star Xherdan Shaqiri, two goals against Turkey on the last day (3-1), will try in particular to exploit the French faults in a defensive sector not the most serene in the group stage.