EURO 2020 SATURDAY PREVIEW: WALES VS DENMARK & ITALY VS AUSTRIA
Saturday 26th June – 5:00pm – Wales / Denmark
First British nation involved in these last 16, Wales will be travelling to Amsterdam to face Denmark. Before getting into the Eriksen story, it is important to look back at the Welsh road to the next round. In their second participation at the European Championships, the Welsh have yet again qualified out of the groups, a group composed of Italy, Turkey and Switzerland. On paper, many discredited them and expected them to finish last, with Italy and Turkey clear favourites to take the first spots in the group. In the end, the Turks didn’t show up, finishing last with no points. In the meantime, Wales battled to get back on level terms with Switzerland to get a draw, fought hard in Baku to get the win against Turkey and were beaten outright by Italy. No worries for Bale and his teammates though, they made it safely through in second spot. They have felt at times very poor, without any game plan, particularly when Kieffer Moore is not on the pitch. They will surely have to improve in order to get through one of the main stories of this tournament.
Other than being on paper a brilliant team with a lot of experience and talent, with notable ex and current Premier League players, Denmark also started the tournament in dramatic fashion. Hosting their neighbours Finland in Copenhagen, the atmosphere was electric. The crowd didn’t just see 22 men kicking a ball however, they unfortunately witnessed Christian Eriksen having a heart attack on the pitch. Safely out of hospital today, the Inter player is not sure whether he will play again. The incident is on everyone’s minds, and it certainly destabilised his teammates who eventually lost the game 1-0. They were strong against Belgium, but eventually lost that game as well, with De Bruyne, Hazard and Witsel coming on in the second half to create a real difference. Everything seemed doomed for, but the incident seemed to have motivated the players even more and they went on to thrash Russia 4-1 at home in front of a wild crowd, a true top class Euros night. Now, without their key creator, it is hard to see how far this team can go, but they will certainly not be a push over. It is very hard to predict the outcome of this game, but it should be spectacular.
Prediction: Wales 1-2 Denmark
Saturday 26th June – 8:00pm – Italy / Austria
Strong outsiders when the tournament started, the Italians’ back-to-back 3-0 victories against Turkey and Switzerland changed their status as one of the favourites to go very far. The lack of experience of certain players doesn’t seem to affect them much, with Mancini creating a great cohesion and tactical masterpiece with this team. Locatelli and Spinazzola have been some of the standout players of the tournament so far, Immobile has finally started scoring and the defence is extremely solid, as per usual. Unlike usual Italian teams, this one is exciting to watch when they are going forward, they are a joy to watch and will certainly be difficult to beat. They would play Portugal or Belgium in the next round, which, on the basis of experience and pure talent, could be a real ask to go any further. They will however be expected to get over the hurdle that Austria is to them progressing onto the next round.
Austria have progressed for the first time out of the groups of the Euros, an important step into the right direction for this team that seemed to rely all too much on David Alaba in the past. Now, it is not to say that the new Real Madrid player has not been essential this year to the Austrians, far from that. He has been a central player to their success. He is however accompanied by players who seem to have matured and seem to be at their prime of their career, ready to deliver on the biggest stage. Featuring many Bundesliga top players such as Sabitzer, Laimer, Lainer or Baumgartner, this Austrian team can be uninspired at times but certainly took full advantage of the weaknesses within the Ukrainian and Macedonian defences. Victories against both those nations saved their poor performance against the Netherlands. There is nothing particularly overwhelming about Austria, but they are no push over and will be up for the fight against the Italians. The underdog story is always valid in these competitions.
Prediction: Italy 2-0 Austria