Captain Shaqiri’s big chance to step up as Euro 2020 enters final week

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Euro 2020 has reached the quarter-final stage, with just over a week remaining of the tournament. Come next Sunday, one nation and one squad will be celebrating glory, but it will be so near but so far for seven.

Before then, however, there’s a whole lot of action to get through – two more games have to be won before anybody reaches the final.

The last eight looks heavily weighted on one side of the draw – three of the four remaining favourites are grouped there – but that just means a rare opportunity for success for those in the other half.

The first two quarter-finals today should prove every bit as exciting and tense as the last-16 games were – particularly the first one, given how both teams got to this stage.

 

Quarter-final match-ups talking points

  • Switzerland and Spain‘s last-16 games totalled 14 goals, both went to extra time and the Swiss went to penalties
  • Belgium and Italy were the pre-tournament favourites, outside of the two nations who were title-holders
  • Goals have been free-flowing between this quartet; Spain have hit 10 in their last two games, while Belgium and Italy have only conceded once all tournament so far

 

Today’s fixtures

  • Switzerland vs Spain, quarter-final, 5pm on ITV
  • Belgium vs Italy, quarter-final, 8pm on BBC One
  • Peru vs Paraguay, Copa America quarter-final, 10pm on BBC iPlayer
  • Brazil vs Chile, Copa America quarter-final, 1am (Sat morn) on BBC iPlayer

 

Expectations on…

SAINT PETERSBURG, RUSSIA - JUNE 12: Romelu Lukaku of Belgium celebrates after scoring their side's first goal during the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group B match between Belgium and Russia on June 12, 2021 in Saint Petersburg, Russia. (Photo by Gonzalo Arroyo - UEFA)

Romelu Lukaku. Belgium might be without both Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne, leaving their striker as the main outlet and goal threat and without his most creative partners.

There is a sense that this is the last tournament several of these ageing Belgians – particularly in defence – might feature at and they haven’t quite made the most of their chances, so this is a huge one for Rom. Can he fire them through and almost shoulder the burden alone?

If he can shine against Italy, his world-class status would be heightened and Belgium would immediately become favourites to win the lot.

 

Key battle to watch

France coped woefully with the Breel Embolo-Haris Seferovic partnership, even though Switzerland didn’t have a huge volume of possession. Most particularly, crosses delivered into Seferovic’s head – his one real strength as a striker – were so poorly dealt with, resulting in two goals.

Switzerland will absolutely have watched how each of Pau Torres and Eric Garcia failed to deal with late high balls against Croatia, and Aymeric Laporte has been far from assured at the back for Spain, too.

Expect this to be how they target Luis Enrique’s side as often as possible – Steven Zuber’s crossing has been insanely good since he came into the team.

 

Fans are talking about…

Two Reds meeting in the early game…or not, since Thiago doesn’t get picked for some bizarre reason. Shaqiri is likely to be the Swiss skipper, with Xhaka suspended.



 

Reds in action

Those precise two. Thiago will likely be sub, Shaqiri will be captain. No Reds in the latter game.

 

Predictions

Spain to presumably remember to defend at some stage today, and do enough to earn a semis spot. Italy to edge out Belgium, but that game is really too tough to call.

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