If the final two matches of Group F are anything to go by we may be in for a treat for the knockout phase. Unheralded Hungary almost defied the odds and were agonisingly close to beating Germany. Will we see more matches like Wednesday night? In all likelihood things may return to type in terms of the higher seeded teams learning lessons from their group games as they look to navigate their way into the latter stages of Euro 2020. Here are my confirmed selections for Perfect Picks’ Euro 2020 Contest #7 Saturday and Sunday games.
Perfect Picks Euro 2020 Contest #7: Last 16 Saturday and Sunday
Wales v Denmark
Ending a group game in defeat can be seen as taking momentum away for some teams. In the case of Wales, they stood up valiantly against Italy’s onslaught of 23 shots on goal in Rome and only lost by one. The best they could have hoped for was a 2nd place finish in the group and that’s exactly what they achieved. Anything beyond the round of 16 will be a bonus and realistically speaking Wales will be hard pushed to repeat their heroics of reaching the Euro 2016 semi-finals. As for Denmark, they’ve certainly come a long way after their first game. It goes without saying that almost every neutral fan will no doubt be supporting De rød-hvide on Saturday. It’s tough to call how this match will go and I wouldn’t be surprised if we go beyond extra-time.
Prediction: Draw (penalties)
Italy v Austria
Italy had the luxury of rotating a number of their players for the final group game against Wales and still winning. Playing all of their games on home turf also served as a benefiting factor that led to three wins from three. It now remains to be seen how they will adapt as they go to Wembley for the round of 16. They play an Austria team that lacks experience of knockout football at this level, but with two wins under their name at Euro 2020 they mean business. No doubt that Baumgartner will do his utmost to rally his team for a big performance. Can they really cause an upset? Probably not. I can only see this match finishing one way. Prediction: Italy to win by 2 (Star Pick) Netherlands v Czech Republic
Like Italy, the Netherlands finished their group with a 100% record to further emphasise that they are genuine contenders at Euro 2020. Depay has translated his club form brilliantly on the international stage – he seems like a completely different player from the one that we saw at Manchester a few years ago. His teammates haven’t been bad either with honourable mentions to Dumfries and Wijnaldum for their performances. The Dutch are the favourites for a reason. Having said that, the Czech Republic have won four of their past six matches against the Oranje. Even if they qualified as a best 3rd place team that shouldn’t negate their pedigree if they play to their strengths. Of course they will give it a go, but I think the Netherlands have enough in their ranks to win this game. Prediction: Netherlands to win by 2 Belgium v Portugal
For a moment on Wednesday night, it looked as if the reigning European champions were about to be knocked out due to the in-play group permutations. Then up stepped Ronaldo to convert his second penalty of the game on the hour mark and in doing so he became the joint-scoring international goal scorer for good measure. Portugal didn’t set their group alight in 2016 and they’ve also shown their vulnerabilities this time around. But none of that really matters as they did what was needed to reach the knockouts. In contrast, Belgium looked self-assured throughout their group games. Does it mean they have they peaked too early? Could this match be a wakeup call? No doubt it will be difficult. On balance, I think Belgium have a good chance to progress but if they do I think it will happen after 120 minutes of football. Prediction: Draw (penalties)