Source: Imago Images
Source: Imago Images

EURO 2024, quarter-finals: what will be remembered?

EURO OlyBet 04.07.2024

Just eight teams remain. Results-wise we are into the final stretch with just seven games to go, but as the saying goes, results are not everything. Defining moments of the tournament can happen at every turn.

Years or even decades after a major tournament, football aficionados – at least the ones interested in history or those who lived through it – can probably name the winner. Spain in 2012, Germany in 1996, et cetera. But who did they meet in the group stages and what were the scores? Such trivia questions tend to be forgotten quickly.

And there is nothing wrong with that because the game of football is about the bigger picture. The stories behind the results. Iconic moments like “The hand of God” (Maradona, ’86) or the Panenka (Panenka, ’76) live forever. By the way: did you know that it was the decisive kick of the penalty shootout which Antonin Panenka converted to win EURO 1976 for Czechoslovakia? Quite possibly the perfect moment.

So far, this tournament has offered two such events, both in the Round of 16. The bicycle kick of Jude Bellingham and the tears of Cristiano Ronaldo. Both men could be heading home by the end of the week, but that would not matter. Those could be the “Where were you when…” moments of EURO 2024.

Turn it into a game with your friends to reminisce about the good ol’ times. The Zidane head-butt in 2006. Balotelli flexing in 2012. Brazilian Ronaldo’s haircut in 2002. It is a results business, sure, but it is never really just about the results, is it?

Well, winning it all still matters. So which of the eight remaining teams will take the next step and why?

All times listed below are in Eastern European Summer Time (GMT+3).

Spain – Germany

Friday, July 5th 19:00

Could this be the game of the tournament, the real final? Both teams have excelled so far, with Spain conceding just once (vs Georgia in the Round of 16) and still advancing comfortably. They are unbeaten against Germany in their last four major tournament matches (2W 2D), including the EURO 2008 final (1-0 for Spain with Fernando Torres scoring). It will be interesting to see how will Spain approach the game, as they have not built their game around possession this time.

Germany, playing in front of their home crowd, has found it a bit difficult to break down packed defences despite ten goals in four matches – but they also overperformed in the group stages, scoring 8 times on 5.1 xG. Spain could be the perfect opponent tactically, and they have not lost to the Spaniards on home soil since their first-ever meeting in 1935 (5W 3D). The Germans are unbeaten in their last eight (6W 2D), so hopes will be high.

Player to watch: 28-year-old Fabian Ruiz might not be a household name for many. Since joining PSG from Napoli two seasons ago, he has been a bit-part player, but Ruiz is an integral cog for the new-look Spain side. He scored and assisted vs Croatia (3-0) and again vs Georgia (4-1).

Portugal – France

Friday, July 5th 22:00

A repeat of the EURO 2016 final, Portugal has won just one of their last 14 meetings with France – the very same match, in which Cristiano Ronaldo went off injured and Eder (remember him?) scored the winner in overtime. Portugal has gone goalless over the last 180 minutes, but is yet to play any team near France’s calibre.

Defensively, France is the second-best team of the tournament, with xG against them just 2.63 over four games. Should their attack finally click, France will be favourites for the title again: they are yet to score from open play, with their three goals at EURO 2024 coming via two own goals and a penalty. It might be a bit misleading though, as they create enough chances (5.88 xG in the group stage).

Player to watch: What should Roberto Martinez do with Cristiano Ronaldo? Many question whether the 39-year-old talisman should keep his spot in the starting XI. He is yet to score in the tournament and missed a penalty vs Slovenia. But if Ronaldo can turn the dispute in his favour and use it as motivation…

England – Switzerland

Saturday, July 6th 19:00

England fans might not be keen on Gareth Southgate, but this will be his 100th match in charge of the national team, with just two managers reaching that milestone previously. And with good reason: Southgate has led England at four major tournaments and they have reached the quarter-finals every time, the best-ever stretch for England. So far, they have lost the quarter-final (vs France 2022), the semi-final (vs Croatia 2018), and the final (vs Italy 2021). Could they go all the way?

A repeat of the last final was on the cards, but Switzerland knocked out Italy. They have reached the quarter-finals five times at major tournaments but never progressed beyond this stage even though they have lost just one of their last 14 games at the European Championships (6W 8D with two of those draws ending in a penalty shootout defeat). This could be their time to step up, with seven different players scoring for the Swiss so far.

Player to watch: After an unforgettable season with Bayer Leverkusen, Granit Xhaka has been the main man for Switzerland as well. The 31-year-old midfielder has created more chances (8), completed more passes (254), and made more line-breaking passes (51) than any other player on the team. And he knows the English inside out after spending seven seasons at Arsenal.

Netherlands – Turkey

Saturday, July 6th 22:00

A match we have never seen before at a major tournament, those two are rather familiar with 15 meetings overall. Netherlands won the latest game 6-1 in 2021, but lost 2-4 the same year; their last two meetings have produced 6.5 goals per game. The Netherlands have won two knockout ties in a single EURO just once, in 1988, when they went on to lift their only notable trophy so far.

Turkey overcame the odds against Austria, but has been here before. 16 years ago, they reached the semi-finals after showing a never-say-die attitude; with plenty of backing from the stands, they could do it again. Getting the experience of these games will be priceless for a very young team which could surprise many in 2028 or 2032.

Player to watch: Turkey captain Hakan Calhanoglu watched the Round of 16 vs Austria from the stands, but will surely return to the starting lineup after serving his suspension. For the 30-year-old midfielder, this could be the last chance, and he is more than capable of causing problems for the Netherlands.


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