England have not so far entertained the neutral at Euro 2020, but heavyweight clashes with Germany rarely disappoint.

The old rivals on Tuesday meet at a major tournament for the first time since the 2010 World Cup, where chaos reigned in another last-16 bout.

A stodgy England approach – not out of keeping with this year's group stage, a Rob Green error aside – gave way as the knockout phase began. The teams shared 35 shots – the only Three Lions tournament game to feature at least 17 for each side since 1998 – and England's 1.13 expected goals (xG) surpassed each of their prior three matches in South Africa.

Germany won 4-1.

 

Control is the name of the game now, though – at least for Gareth Southgate's England.

As Germany traded blows with the big boys in Group F, conceding first in each of their fixtures and extending their run without a clean sheet at a major tournament to eight matches, England kept their guard up.

The Three Lions have 15 clean sheets in 19 games, including three in three at the finals – as many as in 14 matches at the past three major tournaments combined and already more than their two at Euro 96.

At the same time, England netted just twice in Group D, becoming the lowest-scoring pool winners in Euros history.

These statistics do not suggest an exciting, attacking outlook, even if the squad list does. But criticism of Southgate will soon fade if the result goes his way at Wembley this week.

Express yourself

Jack Grealish, Harry Kane, Raheem Sterling, Marcus Rashford, Jadon Sancho, Dominic Calvert-Lewin, Phil Foden and Bukayo Saka – England's eight attacking options – registered a combined 147 goal involvements in the league in 2020-21.

It is easy to see why fans want these players to be let off the leash. Premier League Golden Boot winner Kane has had five shots, one on target and 11 touches in the opposition box in 246 minutes.

But England's rapid starts to matches have been too easily forgotten.

In each of their group games, the Three Lions hit the post inside 11 minutes. Raheem Sterling's lob against the Czech Republic was touched onto the post when it could have become England's earliest Euros goal at one minute and 47 seconds. That honour still belongs to Alan Shearer (2:14) – against Germany in 1996.

Southgate's side had at least 60 per cent of the possession in the opening quarter of an hour of all three matches. Nine of their 22 attempts came in this period.

The issue has been capitalising on this dominance, with Sterling's header against the Czech Republic the only time England have netted before the 15-minute mark.

Southgate has been level-headed in his assessment of performances so far but acknowledged his team have "run out of steam a little bit in a couple of games".

Unable to either race into a big early lead or maintain this initial frantic pace, England have settled for slowing the play instead, ensuring to avoid the sort of setbacks that saw Shearer's goal cancelled out by Stefan Kuntz on 15 minutes in 1996.

They have been successful in this regard of late, their past four wins – over the course of five matches – coming by 1-0 scorelines. Only in 1990 have England previously had five 1-0 wins in a calendar year.

Don't give it away

In the second half against the Czech Republic, with protecting a narrow lead their only apparent aim, England did not attempt a single shot.

Yet this performance stood completely at odds with the previous most recent example of the Three Lions failing to muster an effort after half-time. Against Spain in the Nations League in 2018, Southgate saw a three-goal lead at the interval almost wiped out.

 

 

England look to be able to manage games now. Even after the goalless draw with Scotland, Southgate spoke of the need to "manage the tournament as well as the game".

They have been versatile in that sense.

In the win over Croatia, England ceded 60 per cent of the possession after the restart and 81.6 per cent in the final 15 minutes, yet their opponents' six second-half chances were worth a meagre 0.3 xG combined.

That figure stood at just 0.07 xG as the Czech Republic attempted in vain to rescue a result in an uneventful second period in which England preferred to keep the ball a little more (53 per cent of the possession).

England have given up opportunities worth 0.77 xG across their three second halves. In the group stage, Spain (0.93) were the only other team below 1.0 in this sense.

Besides against Croatia, when Sterling struck on 57 minutes, England have benefited from not needing to chase a result, with their own second-half xG of 1.57 the seventh-lowest.

"We look difficult to play against," was Southgate's summary, one he will hope holds true against Germany, whose average possession percentage (64.7) far outweighs Croatia's (55.5).

With or without the ball, though, England have managed to dictate the pace of the play – and it is slow.

While averaging 4.5 passes per sequence in the first round – the seventh-highest – Southgate's side ranked last for both direct speed (0.98 metres progressed upfield per second) and directness (17 per cent of distance covered per sequence was upfield).

Crucially, the opposition were slowed, too. Only against Spain (0.87) did teams progress fewer metres upfield per second than against England (1.1), whose opponents moved upfield with a tournament-low 19 per cent of their distance covered per sequence. Croatia and the Czech Republic each fell below their averages in both metrics when facing England.

"I felt like we've been in control in the games," said captain Harry Kane, adding: "I feel like we're in a controlled place going into the big match on Tuesday."

But the worry will be whether England remain capable of responding, picking up the pace should their plodding plan fail and they fall behind.

In the 20 games that followed the 2018 World Cup, England conceded first four times and won on each occasion.

However, since then, in 12 outings, they have lost both such matches without scoring (1-0 v Denmark, 2-0 v Belgium). In Russia, Southgate's side were beaten in all three games in which they trailed at any stage.

After the Scotland stalemate, Southgate said of his reluctance to throw on additional offensive players: "If we had to chase to win, with no consequences for conceding, then you might approach it differently."

So, perhaps it might take England to concede first for fans to see the all-out attacking approach they crave. 

If that happens, though, the form book suggests the Three Lions may well end up bidding their tournament hopes arrivederci.

Luke Shaw launched a scathing criticism of former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho and his "strange" personal agenda, with the Red Devils and England full-back insisting "clearly I'm in his head".

Mourinho managed Shaw at United from 2016 until he was sacked in 2018 and the Portuguese boss was often critical of the England international publicly in Manchester.

Shaw has since flourished under the guidance of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer at United, but Mourinho – now in charge of Serie A side Roma following his Tottenham sacking – took aim at the Englishman's poor corner-taking for England at Euro 2020.

After England's win over the Czech Republic, Mourinho told talkSPORT: "The negative thing I would say is once more they were very poor on attacking corners.

"The service was dramatically bad. They have so many good players to attack corners. The crosses are not passing the first man.

"Luke Shaw, in my opinion, very good tonight but very poor on the corner. [Kalvin] Phillips, the same. England has great power at this level and going to knockouts, one corner can decide a game."

Responding to Mourinho's latest barb, Shaw – back in the national team following his return to form at club level – said: "I don't understand it. I don't know why he is still going on and wanting to point at me.

"I don't feel like the set-pieces were as bad as he was saying. I might have done one in the second half, a corner, that didn't get over the first man. But that was one out of three. The other two or three, I don't think, were as 'dramatically bad' as he says.

"Look, he has got to do his job. I'm used to him saying negative stuff about me, so I just pass it by.

"His voice is obviously very big. He likes to talk a lot about me, as everyone has seen recently. But his voice is his own. He can say what he wants, I will focus on myself. I take set-pieces at United, so it wasn't as if it was something I wasn't ready for."

Shaw – gearing up for the Euro 2020 last-16 showdown against Germany – added: "He likes some players, he doesn't like others. I fell into the category where he didn't like me.

"I tried as hard as I could to get back into his side but it never worked out, no matter what I did. There is no hiding that we didn't get on.

"I think he was a brilliant manager but, you know, the past is the past. It's time to move on. I'm trying to move on but obviously he can't. He continuously talks about me, which I find quite strange. Even some of the lads [here] have said 'what's his problem?' and 'why does he keep talking?'

"Hopefully, he can find his peace with that and stop worrying about me. Clearly, I'm in his head a lot and he thinks about me a lot. I don't think any of you realise the two or three years I had with him and how bad [the criticism] was then. What he says now is nothing compared to how it used to be.

"I find it easy to ignore him now and even laugh about it. But it's better just to ignore it. I knew if time came into it, I would be able to outlast him and I have. I can now just focus on getting better and improving."

Ahead of Tuesday's clash, England have never won a European Championship knockout match in 90 minutes (D4 L2) – four games have gone to penalties, with the Three Lions only progressing once via this method, against Spain at EURO 1996.

Shaw – gearing up for the Euro 2020 last-16 showdown against Germany – added: "He likes some players, he doesn't like others. I fell into the category where he didn't like me.

"I tried as hard as I could to get back into his side but it never worked out, no matter what I did. There is no hiding that we didn't get on.

"I think he was a brilliant manager but, you know, the past is the past. It's time to move on. I'm trying to move on but obviously he can't. He continuously talks about me, which I find quite strange. Even some of the lads [here] have said 'what's his problem?' and 'why does he keep talking?'

"Hopefully, he can find his peace with that and stop worrying about me. Clearly, I'm in his head a lot and he thinks about me a lot. I don't think any of you realise the two or three years I had with him and how bad [the criticism] was then. What he says now is nothing compared to how it used to be.

"I find it easy to ignore him now and even laugh about it. But it's better just to ignore it. I knew if time came into it, I would be able to outlast him and I have. I can now just focus on getting better and improving."

Ahead of Tuesday's clash, England have never won a European Championship knockout match in 90 minutes (D4 L2) – four games have gone to penalties, with the Three Lions only progressing once via this method, against Spain at EURO 1996.

England's last four victories have all been by a 1-0 score, as many as their previous 26 wins had been. The only previous year they have had five 1-0 wins was in 1990, with two of those wins coming at the 1990 World Cup when they reached the semi-final.

Eden Hazard fears he suffered a serious hamstring injury after Belgium eliminated defending champions Portugal in the Euro 2020 last 16 as Roberto Martinez also awaits news on star Kevin De Bruyne.

Belgium ousted Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal 1-0 en route to the quarter-finals on Sunday but it may have come at a cost, with Hazard and De Bruyne both hobbling off in Seville.

Thorgan Hazard's stunning long-range strike set up a showdown with in-form Italy, however, it was overshadowed by brother Eden Hazard, who clutched his hamstring as he left the field late in the match after De Bruyne succumbed to an ankle problem early in the second half.

Afterwards, Eden Hazard – who has been hampered by injuries since joining Real Madrid in 2019 – told reporters: "I hurt myself, I felt something in the hamstring.

I think I have something, we'll see tomorrow. We will analyse the injury well, we will see the extent afterwards.

"As captain, I will stay with the group because I have an important role to play."

Thorgan Hazard said: "I hope it's not a big injury but it doesn't look so good. The medical staff in Belgium is very good so we hope everything will be ok for the rest of the tournament. Also for Kevin because we need these two players to go forward."

Joao Palhinha's challenge on De Bruyne in the 45th minute saw the Belgium star substituted shortly after the restart, as head coach Martinez added: "We will take 48 hours now to assess the situation of the two players.

"We go back to Belgium now and they will have scans on the injuries tomorrow.

"It's too early to say how they are doing. With Kevin, it's the ankle -- he couldn't really turn in the second half. With Eden it's the muscle, but we have to wait for a diagnosis."

Belgium claimed their first win over Portugal since September 1989 (3-0 in a World Cup qualifier) – ending a run of five meetings without a victory against them (D2 L3).

The Red Devils also equalled their longest winning streak at major tournaments, winning five in a row for the second time (both under Martinez). Belgium have won 10 of their 11 games across the World Cup and European Championships since the Spaniard took charge.

"We had incredible concentration and defended really well," said Martinez. "We scored a very good goal. In the second half the more the momentum went to Portugal we had to show an incredible mentality. Everything was about being disciplined and tactically astute.

"We never lost concentration and there were difficult moments. The way Portugal pushed for victory until the end, this gives me incredible satisfaction.

"This is what a winning team needs. We know the talent we have but all the other elements you need were shown today. For us it was the biggest test there is."

Belgium have scored six goals from outside the box in the last two European Championships (2016 and 2020); at least twice as many as any other team in this period.

Thorgan Hazard was the fifth different Belgian player to score from outside the box in the competition since 2016, along with Radja Nainggolan (two), De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard.

Belgium's Thorgan Hazard netted in consecutive games for the country for the first time, while he has now scored four international goals since his brother Eden last scored for the national team.

"I think the trajectory was a little bit weird for the goalkeeper," Thorgan Hazard said after his goal was compared to Ronaldo. "I tried my luck.

"In these matches, if you have an opportunity or you have a chance, you always have to try and with a little bit of luck, it went it. Especially as this was a qualifying goal so it’s a dream." 

Fernando Santos could not question Portugal's effort as he revealed some players were in tears after losing to Belgium at Euro 2020.

Portugal were reigning European champions having stunned France in Euro 2016 and an exciting squad hinted at another challenge over the coming weeks.

But a draw with France in their final Group F match saw Santos' side condemned to a last-16 clash with the world's top-ranked team.

Thorgan Hazard was the matchwinner for Belgium, his spectacular strike enough for a 1-0 success – their first against Portugal since 1989.

This was despite Portugal attempting 23 shots – worth 1.7 expected goals (xG) – to the Red Devils' six (0.2 xG).

"We are disappointed and sad," Santos told TVI24. "I've got some players crying in the dressing room. They gave everything.

 

"A defeat is a defeat. I honestly don't have many words to say right now. We all wanted it and we believed in it.

"We had confidence and we were convinced that we could reach the final and win. There is no justice or injustice, we conceded a goal and we could not score."

The coach added: "The players did everything. They gave them what they had and there's nothing to point to them.

"They were tired but found energy to overcome the gap in rest between the teams. But that's no good now, it's just talk."

Joao Palhinha made his first senior international start in the middle of midfield, completing 94.6 per cent of his passes and making a game-high six tackles.

"We have to raise our heads, see what we can improve," he told RTP. "Obviously this does not represent the value of this team.

"We really missed the lucky moment, that was the definition of this game. It is with great misfortune that we leave here with this result."

Belgium and the Czech Republic booked their spots in the last eight of Euro 2020 on Sunday. 

The Red Devils' starting XI against Portugal had an average age of 30 years and 148 days – the oldest named by any of the remaining teams in the competition – and that experience seemingly paid off as they produced a stubborn display to edge past Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. 1-0. 

In the other game, the Czech Republic took full advantage of Matthijs de Ligt's red card early in the second half to seal a shock 2-0 win over the Netherlands. 

Stats Perform looks at the best stats from another absorbing day of action in Euro 2020.

Belgium 1-0 Portugal: Hazard strike seals Red Devils' progress

The Red Devils booked their place in the last eight with their first victory over Portugal since September 1989 (3-0 in a World Cup qualifier), ending a run of five meetings without a win against them.

The winning goal came from Thorgan Hazard in the first half, the Borussia Dortmund man scoring in consecutive games for his country for the first time.

He has also now scored four international goals since his brother, Eden, last scored for the national team, highlighting the older sibling's recent difficulties.

That goal ensured Roberto Martinez's side equalled their longest winning streak at major tournaments, sealing five victories in a row for the second time. Indeed, the Red Devils have won 10 of their 11 games across the World Cup and European Championship since Martinez took charge.

Portugal, meanwhile, will go away and lick their wounds after being eliminated with just one victory from their four games (D1 L2), their fewest in a single European Championship since their first appearance in 1984, when they also won one of four (D2 L1).

It should perhaps come as little surprise they were unable to bounce back from Hazard's goal. Since Euro 2004, they have only fought back to win in one of their 10 games in the competition when they have conceded the opening goal (D3 L6).

Netherlands 0-2 Czech Republic: De Ligt's dismissal proves costly

Frank de Boer's men became the first side to win 100 per cent of their group stage games before losing in 90 minutes in the first knockout round at a European Championship.

They can scarcely have any complaints either, given they failed to have a single shot on target in a European Championship and World Cup game for the first time since Opta records begin (1980). 

Their hopes suffered a blow in the 55th minute when De Ligt became the first player to be sent off at the European Championship for the Netherlands since John Heitinga in 2004 (also versus the Czech Republic). De Ligt (21y 319d) is now the fourth-youngest player to receive a red card in the tournament.

 

The Czech Republic took full advantage of his dismissal, winning their first game in the knockout stages of a major competition since Euro 2004 thanks to goals from Tomas Holes and Patrik Schick. 

Holes became the first Czech player to both score and assist in a single match at the European Championship since Jan Koller and Milan Baros also did so against the Netherlands at Euro 2004.

Schick's goal, meanwhile, was his fourth in four games at Euro 2020, with only Baros (five) now having scored more major tournament goals for the Czech Republic.

For years, Belgium's 'golden generation' has promised much but never quite lived up to its potential – in arguably their last opportunity for success, they are primed to give it all they have.

The one area of Roberto Martinez's team that would cause most supporters concern would be their aging backline, but in the face of sheer desperation and an attack brimming with quality, they stood firm in Seville to see off Cristiano Ronaldo and defending European champions Portugal 1-0 on Sunday.

It was a performance that brought further credence to the growing idea that pragmatism rules on the international stage, with Belgium making the most of a wonderstrike and then offering little threat themselves at the other end.

A gauntlet was laid down to Portugal and, despite boasting a squad far superior to the one they possessed five years ago, Fernando Santos was seemingly unable to harness that greater collective talent.

That's not to say Portugal have been great entertainers since winning Euro 2016. No, in fact pragmatism and even dull football have almost been a staple under Santos, and this was very much the case during the opening 45 minutes in Seville, with Belgium's difficulty in breaking down a typically rigid defence notable.

Though Romelu Lukaku's efforts at least kept the Portugal backline busy.

The occasion was perhaps understandably billed as Lukaku v Cristiano Ronaldo, though it was hardly a shootout between the pair as some might've hoped.

Instead, they were forced to graft in what was something of a slog, and that suited Lukaku a little more than it did record-chasing Ronaldo.

 

The Inter star was first a nuisance in the 10th minute as he brilliantly used his frame to block Ruben Dias and tee up Eden Hazard on the edge of the box, though his subsequent shot was sliced horribly high.

Later, in a move that highlighted his flexibility as much as his raw power, Lukaku surged through the middle as he led a break, impressively holding off Joao Palhinha, who desperately tried to foul him. Fortunately for Portugal, Lukaku's eventual pass was cut out and referee Felix Brych bizarrely opted against bringing the play back when Belgium failed to take full advantage.

But soon after, Lukaku's somewhat under-appreciated role took centre-stage once more, as he again bullied Dias on the edge of Portugal's box to sustain an attack, and just a few seconds later it was 1-0.

Thorgan Hazard, for much of his career often seen simply as "Eden's brother", took the game by the scruff of the neck, as he blasted past Rui Patricio from 25 yards.

That put him ahead of Eden for total Euros goals, his two coming in just three appearances. The older brother has one in nine games.

It was a moment of beauty somewhat out of keeping from the rest of a first half in which the majority of the highlights revolved around displays of physicality.

The goal arriving so close to half-time at least allowed Portugal a chance to regroup and potentially alter their system to be more aggressive in attack, which, in fairness, they were as Santos' men managed 15 shots compared to eight in the first period.

Portugal were on the front foot for most of the second half, their first proper chance coming shortly after a couple of attack-minded substitutions – Ronaldo did well on the right, drifting in and finding Diogo Jota in the box, only for him to blaze over.

The Selecao really upped the ante in the final 15 minutes, purely out of desperation.

Dias saw a goal-bound headed pushed away by Thibaut Courtois, before Raphael Guerreiro linked up with Ronaldo and saw a right-footed effort come back off the post.

At the other end Lukaku continued to be a vital outlet for Belgium. While chances were difficult to come by, his lung-busting runs relieved the pressure on several occasions, buying the Red Devils a little extra time.

But for all of Portugal's incessant pressure, keeping alive their dream of retaining the crown wasn't to be.

It wasn't a wasted couple of weeks for Ronaldo at least, the all-time great taking several more records.

He leaves Euro 2020 as the top-scorer in European Championship history with 14 goals and the top-scoring European player at major international tournaments with 21.

But the last one, the biggest record of them all is out of reach for the time being, with Ronaldo left tied on 109 international goals with Ali Daei.

While Lukaku still has some way to go to matching the exploits of his Serie A rival, Rom v Ron went the Belgian's way, and if he continues to produce similarly selfless displays over the next couple of weeks, he could well inspire the 'golden generation' to their defining achievement.

Belgium ended Portugal's European Championship defence with a 1-0 win in Seville, despite losing Kevin De Bruyne and Eden Hazard to injuries in the last-16 clash.

With both sides facing a daunting route to Euro 2020 glory, it was Belgium who emerged to reach a quarter-final tie against in-form Italy thanks to Thorgan Hazard's long-range strike.

It was a goal that deserved to settle a game of few chances, although De Bruyne's substitution early in the second half will concern Roberto Martinez, as will Eden Hazard’s departure late in the match.

Portugal could not capitalise and paid the price for a third-placed Group F finish that condemned them to this side of the draw.

At odds with a tense finale, opportunities were few and far between prior to Belgium's spectacular 42nd-minute opener.

Portugal's Diogo Jota dragged wide and Thibaut Courtois parried a Cristiano Ronaldo free-kick – his first sight at a record-breaking 110th international goal – before Thorgan Hazard blasted beyond Rui Patricio from 25 yards, the ball fading away from a flailing goalkeeper.
 
Joao Palhinha's challenge on De Bruyne in the 45th minute saw the Belgium midfielder substituted shortly after the restart, but Portugal did not respond until the introduction of Bruno Fernandes and tournament debutant Joao Felix.

Ronaldo teed up Jota to flash a strike over and Joao Felix got up to meet Renato Sanches' cross, only to head into Courtois' arms.

An ill-tempered affair threatened to tick by without Portugal seriously threatening an equaliser, but Ruben Dias headed straight at Courtois and Raphael Guerreiro struck the post, agonisingly close to forcing extra time.

 

What does it mean? Belgium win but lose star power

Belgium showed little besides the moment of magic from Hazard, an unlikely hero alongside De Bruyne, brother Eden and Romelu Lukaku. It proved enough on this occasion.

But when facing Italy next, Martinez will hope to have De Bruyne and Eden Hazard available to make their own special contribution to the knockout rounds.

De Bruyne has created a tournament-high 10 chances in just 134 minutes, while Eden Hazard contested 19 duels and won four fouls in this match, providing a vital outlet for his side.

Hero Hazard helps out

Thorgan Hazard's hit was one to remember, but he also played a key role in protecting Belgium's narrow lead.

The wing-back made five tackles, three clearances and also an interception when playing behind Eden.

No new Ronaldo record

It is surely a case of when not if Ronaldo reaches that magical number of 110, pulling clear of Iran great Ali Daei, but this was not his night.

Although five goals may still be enough to earn the Golden Boot, the forward scarcely looked like adding to that tally. He had four attempts but his best was a long-range free-kick.

What's next?

Belgium head to Munich on Friday to face Italy, with Ronaldo and Portugal watching on from home.

Kevin De Bruyne exited Belgium's Euro 2020 last-16 clash with Portugal due to injury on Sunday.

The Manchester City midfielder's involvement in the Euros was delayed due to facial fractures sustained in the Champions League final.

De Bruyne had subsequently starred as Belgium eased through the group stage, however, assisting one and scoring another in a comeback win over Denmark, before laying on a further assist against Finland.

But he lasted just 48 minutes of the knockout game against Portugal in Seville.

Joao Palhinha had been booked just before half-time for a challenge on De Bruyne from behind, and the felled star soon found he could not continue in the second period.

Red Devils coach Roberto Martinez took no risk, quickly calling Dries Mertens on in De Bruyne's place.

Belgium would have to face in-form Italy if they advance, while world champions France are also in the same half of the draw – two opponents against whom they would not like to be without De Bruyne.

Matthijs de Ligt accepted responsibility for the Netherlands' Euro 2020 exit after he was sent off in the 2-0 last-16 defeat to the Czech Republic.

The Juventus defender was dismissed 10 minutes into the second half after a VAR review for a deliberate handball that denied Patrik Schick a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Goals from Tomas Holes and Schick, his fourth of the tournament, secured a memorable win for Jaroslav Silhavy's side as they secured a quarter-final clash with Denmark in Baku.

The Netherlands were far from the free-flowing side that eased through the group phase, Frank de Boer's men becoming the first Dutch side since at least 1980 to go through a Euros or World Cup game without managing a shot on target.

Yet De Ligt felt his error when judging a bouncing ball, and the handball that followed, was the main reason for their defeat.

"Of course, it feels bad. We basically lost the match because of what I did. In hindsight, I shouldn't have let the ball bounce," he told NOS.

"Ultimately, that moment changed the game. I saw how the team fought in the final minutes and I'm very proud of that, but I do feel responsible.

"We had some chances in the first half. No shots on target, but chances. I didn't really feel like they were much better.

"Of course, this hits hard. Playing in a tournament is always a golden opportunity. If you're then knocked out like that, it's even more painful."

 

Midfielder Frenkie de Jong was surprised at his side's insipid display, particularly after their exploits over the first three matchdays.

"It was almost as if we were tired, although I have no idea why," said the Barcelona man. "We really wanted to win it. For some of the boys, this was the biggest game of their careers so far.

"It's not that we weren't prepared tactically. We were focused, and we certainly didn't underestimate them. We just couldn't get our game going. Sometimes you have days like that."

France captain Hugo Lloris believes the outcome of the Euro 2020 last-16 clash with Switzerland will hinge on the match-day attitude of Les Bleus.

The title favourites have yet to truly hit their stride, narrowly beating Germany but drawing with Portugal and Hungary in the group stage.

They topped Group F but left room for improvement, and will look to show in Monday's clash with the Swiss in Bucharest that their pedigree has not been overstated.

Lloris said in a news conference on Sunday: "We've turned the page from the group stage which demanded a lot of effort. We're entering a new competition.

"In the approach we take, it's completely different. We know that we can't make an error. There will be adversity. We will have a great team playing against us who have achieved beautiful things in recent seasons.

"We know the mental aspect will come into play. This will certainly be key to success. We have to produce a performance of a very, very high level to get through to the next round.

"We can count on our background and experience but that's not enough. We have to put all the necessary ingredients together to succeed.

"This wil mean lots of effort, sacrifices, talent and equally discipline. We have to be prepared to overcome this challenge in a mental sense. All of this as a team. From the start we've lived this adventure with all the players, the technical and medical staff. We want to go as far together as possible."

 

France have a number of injuries, with Lucas Digne, Jules Kounde and Marcus Thuram all ruled out by head coach Didier Deschamps. Lucas Hernandez could be involved, though, after a knee problem.

Goalkeeper Lloris said: "It's up to us to give the response on the pitch, by putting in the necessary energy, showing discipline and making the efforts to write our history and create success.

"We're a team of competitors, we don't like losing, but especially when you know that you can go home, the challenge is even greater. It's up to us to do what is necessary in our performance to still be there in the next round and to rise to the occasion."

Karim Benzema's two goals in the draw with Portugal were a welcome boost for France, with the recalled Real Madrid striker showing his value.

Benzema and Antoine Griezmann, who scored in the draw with Hungary, are the only France players to score so far at these finals, with a Mats Hummels own goal bringing about the team's opening win over Germany.

There is surely more to come from the likes of Kylian Mbappe, who has had a team-high eight shots at goal and built up an expected goals tally of 1.29, second only to Benzema (1.71).

According to Lloris, there was never any doubt about Benzema's impact on his return, even before he made a goalscoring contribution.

"I think he's been ready, since he was called up, to do what is necessary for the team but also in a personal sense to bring his experience, his background and his talent in order to help the France team," Lloris said.

"Obviously a striker is looking for goals, that builds confidence. We already know his influence on the team's game, we've not needed to wait for him to score these two goals to see it."

Georginio Wijnaldum struggled to explain the Netherlands' "off-day" against the Czech Republic as their Euro 2020 campaign ended at the last-16 stage.

Frank de Boer's side were the favourites to reach the quarter-finals after three wins from three games in the group stage, but they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat in Budapest as a red card to Matthijs de Ligt proved costly.

The Juventus man was sent off for a deliberate handball and the Czech Republic capitalised on their advantage, Tomas Holes and Patrik Schick scoring the goals to send them through.

The Netherlands failed to attempt a shot on target for the first time in a European Championship or World Cup match for the first time since at least 1980 as they struggled to replicate the attacking flair they showed previously in the tournament.

Captain Wijnaldum was an isolated figure throughout in the number 10 role, completing just 10 passes in the contest, the fewest of any Oranje outfield player in a Euros knockout match for at least the past 41 years.

Wijnaldum pointed to a good chance for Donyell Malen, which was missed barely 30 seconds before De Ligt's red card, as a key point in the contest but admitted his side deserved little for their performance.

"In the second half, we had a good chance and you have to finish that," he told NOS.

"The goals we gave away, the chances we didn't take... all that goes through your head. After the red card, we found it difficult to put them under pressure. Things just got more difficult for us.

"The whole match was tough going. Somehow we couldn't deal with the way they pressurised us. We couldn't create spaces. We fashioned a few chances in the first half, but not enough.

"Before the tournament, there was a lot of criticism around our way of playing, and we turned that around. Today was an off-day. I can hardly explain it. It's very difficult, but it's the reality."

The Czech Republic will face Denmark in the quarter-finals next Saturday.

 

The Netherlands have been one of the most obviously entertaining and thrilling sides to watch at Euro 2020 and the opening stages of their shock 2-0 last-16 defeat to the Czech Republic in Budapest was no exception.

Frank De Boer's side were rapid and relentless down the flanks and, by the time Denzel Dumfries peeled infield and charged into the centre-forward position to collect Daley Blind's raking pass, a bedraggled Czech backline might have found it easier to be marking all 50,000 inhabitants of the Scottish town with which the rampaging right wing-back shares a name.

Tomas Kalas managed to force Dumfries wide and made a vital, scampering challenge. There is entertainment in such last-ditch defending too, although it rarely looks much fun for the protagonist.

Seven minutes before half-time, it was impossible to ignore a towering man in orange who appeared to be deriving little enjoyment from what was unfolding.

Some worryingly passive Dutch defending let Lukas Masopust find Antonin Barak in the area. In flew Matthijs de Ligt with a goal-saving challenge. The Juventus centre-back howled at everyone within earshot. He was furious.

 

De Ligt the leader

At that moment, it felt like the 21-year-old was in the process of turning in a defining performance to quell the hum of criticism that has soundtracked the past two years of a career that still promises so much.

"De Ligt is the centre-back of our defence. He needs to become much more of a leader than he is now," Netherlands great Marco van Basten told the NOS channel in a curiously harsh criticism after De Ligt returned to help his side to a clean sheet against Austria following the chaotic 3-2 win over Ukraine.

"He went to Italy to learn how to defend more, but I think he didn't learn much there. He needs to lead the rest much more."

De Ligt left Ajax after their celebratory 2018-19 campaign already looking like a born leader. It was hard to imagine those credentials being questioned. But a transitional year at Juventus as Maurizio Sarri tried to implement a new style, followed by last season's ignominy of surrendering the Serie A title under Andrea Pirlo amounted to an unforgiving education in Italy's top flight.

Still, he managed to retain an admirably positive outlook.

"I'm really lucky as I'm playing with almost everybody I'd be watching if I was a young player," De Ligt told The Athletic midway through 2020-21.

"[Leonardo] Bonucci is really good in the build-up, so I talk to him about that and watch what he is doing. [Giorgio] Chiellini is really good at marking, so I'm trying to learn from him too.

"I play with [Virgil] Van Dijk [for the Netherlands]. In the end, though, it's so important that you develop your own game and don't start being a copycat of someone else."

Sunday's match, with Van Dijk a long-term absentee and the prospect of a charge for glory such as the one Bonucci is underpinning with Italy, looked like it might become the game where De Ligt stepped out of those considerable shadows.

De Ligt the scapegoat

As it was, his ill-timed stumble and handball to deny Patrik Schick a goalscoring opportunity – moments after Donyell Malen should have opened the scoring at the other end – engulfed the defender and his team-mates in a darkness they could not lift as the lights went out on their Euro 2020 bid.

"An experienced mature defender doesn't make the second mistake and lets the forward go on and score, because he doesn't leave his team with 10 men on the field," Gary Neville said on ITV after some horrid last-ditch defending that was no fun at all for the man involved.

 

De Ligt's red card makes him an obvious scapegoat. Everything changed when he went off. Save for the effervescent Dumfries charging forward to draw a yellow card from Vladimir Coufal, making a block to rival De Ligt's earlier effort to thwart Pavel Kaderabek and still causing havoc in the opposition half, there was little to recommend about how De Boer's men responded to adversity – their game management very much a minute-by-minute, reactive endeavour.

Tomas Holes' 68th-minute opener hastened the capitulation and the Golden Boot-chasing Schick put the result beyond doubt with his fourth of the tournament. The Netherlands were out, having not conceded a goal at any stage with De Ligt on the field.

He will not have wanted to perversely prove his worth in this fashion. De Ligt's tendency to find positives will be put to its biggest test after this shot at greatness slipped through his fingers because the ball did not.

Spain boss Luis Enrique has described the abuse received by Alvaro Morata as a "crime" and says it should be a matter for the police. 

Morata has been the focus of attention since being jeered by his own fans during a pre-Euro 2020 friendly with Portugal after missing several opportunities.

He was then criticised for his displays in Spain's 0-0 draw with Sweden in their Group E opener and 1-1 draw with Poland, a game in which he scored but missed more chances.

The Juventus striker, whose loan from Atletico Madrid was extended for another season last week, then missed a penalty in Wednesday's 5-0 win against Slovakia, which saw Spain progress from their group in second place.

Morata revealed in an interview that he has received vicious messages on social media during the tournament, while his wife and children have also been targeted in public. 

Luis Enrique has repeatedly leapt to the defence of Morata for his performances and is expected to stick with the 28-year-old for the last-16 tie with Croatia on Monday. 

Speaking at a media conference, the Spain boss said: "The situation is so serious that it must be put in the hands of the police because it is a serious crime. 

"Insulting Morata's relatives is a crime and I hope it is corrected outright."

 

Spain will hope to end a run of falling at the first hurdle in the knockouts of a major tournament when they face Croatia.

After winning Euro 2008, the 2010 World Cup and Euro 2012, La Roja were eliminated at this stage of both Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

Despite that, Luis Enrique said his side have no doubts about their ability to get past Croatia. 

"I have had the same confidence since the start of the Championship," he added.

"No team has surprised us. I thought we were going to be first in the group, but football is the result. But in terms of morale and dedication, we are at the max.

"We have not been there since 2012, but against Slovakia we had to win and now we have another final. I don't know if we are going to pass, but my team has no doubts. We are going to try to minimise the threat of the rival."

The match will be Croatia and Spain's third major tournament meeting, with both previous such clashes coming in European Championship group stages. Both sides won once each: Spain in 2012 and Croatia in 2016.

The Czech Republic reached the quarter-finals of Euro 2020 with a surprise 2-0 win over the Netherlands, who had Matthijs de Ligt sent off.

A close game in Budapest swung the way of Jaroslav Silhavy's men 55 minutes in when De Ligt was dismissed for a deliberate handball that prevented Patrik Schick from having a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Tomas Holes then headed in the opening goal before superbly setting up Schick for the second as the Czech Republic progressed to the last eight, where they face Denmark.

The majority of the Netherlands' first-half threat came through the forward runs of Denzel Dumfries, the right-back posing a real danger down the right but unable to provide for Memphis Depay and Donyell Malen.

The best of the first-half chances fell to Antonin Barak, who was teed up by Lukas Masopust but saw his effort from six yards out just blocked over the bar by De Ligt.

Malen carved out a brilliant opening to break the deadlock, driving his way through the Czech Republic defence only to see Tomas Vaclik take the ball from his feet as he tried to round the goalkeeper.

Moments later, De Ligt misjudged a bouncing ball and hooked it away from Patrik Schick with his hand as he fell, leading referee Sergey Karasev to send off the centre-back after a VAR review.

Pavel Kaderabek had a great chance when Schick missed a header, but Dumfries made a brilliant block in front of keeper Maarten Stekelenburg, the Netherlands suddenly on the ropes.

The breakthrough came with a little over 20 minutes left, Holes heading into the net after Tomas Kalas nodded the ball back across the box, with Stekelenburg caught out of position.

Frank de Boer introduced Wout Weghorst in a bid to find an equaliser, but Schick put the game beyond doubt with a slick low finish after Holes drove through a gap between Georginio Wijnaldum and Dumfries before cutting the ball back.

 

UEFA has denied preventing supporters attending the Euro 2020 clash between the Netherlands and Czech Republic from displaying rainbow flags.

Earlier on Sunday, it was reported by Dutch outlets De Telegraaf and Nu that fans arriving for the game in Budapest were having their rainbow flags – a sign of support and pride for the LGBTQ community – confiscated by security guards on the instruction of UEFA.

Hungary has recently faced criticism over its treatment of LGBTQ communities after passing a law that prohibits the sharing of content in schools that could be deemed to promote homosexuality or gender change.

Germany had hoped to underline opposition to that decision when they faced Hungary in their final group-stage game by lighting up Munich's Allianz Arena in rainbow colours, but were blocked from doing so.

However, UEFA insisted any attempted suppression ahead of Sunday's quarter-final in the Hungarian capital would not have been decided upon by Europe's football governing body.

UEFA pointed out local authorities were responsible for areas such as fan parks, and said any rainbow flags should be welcomed.

A statement read: "UEFA had earlier today informed the Hungarian Football Federation that rainbow-coloured symbols are not political and that in line with UEFA’s Equal Game campaign which aims at fighting against any type of discrimination, including against the LGBTQI+ community, such flags will be allowed into the stadium.

"Contrary to some reports in Dutch media, UEFA would like to clarify that it has not banned any rainbow-coloured symbols from the fan zone in Budapest and that the fan zone is under the responsibility of the local authorities. UEFA on the contrary would very much welcome any such symbol into the fan zone."

Netherlands captain Georginio Wijnaldum outlined he would wear a rainbow-coloured captain's armband for his side's last-16 meeting with the Czech Republic.

He also threatened to walk off the field should he or any of his team-mates be subjected to abuse, after reports of players facing homophobic and racist taunts during games held in Budapest during Euro 2020.

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