It's time to move on from Belgium’s quarterfinal round exit at the hands of an invincible Italy, as well as Ukraine and Switzerland’s memorable run to the Euro 2020 last eight. We are within sniffing distance of the semi-finals -- the first match is between known rivals Spain and Italy, while the second encounter will see Denmark putting in the extra effort against England, as the Christian Eriksen episode remains a constant source of inspiration for Kasper Hjulmand and his men.
Italy vs Spain (12:30 am IST, Wednesday)
Venue: Wembley Stadium
A Euro 2020 encounter between Spain and Italy is not absolutely surprising. On Wednesday, the two teams will meet in European Championship history for the fourth time in a row. Italy's confidence levels are pumped with a 32-match unbeaten streak under Roberto Mancini, while Spain have also enjoyed a 12-match undefeated run, having drawn two.
Mancini’s side will be desperate to wear the European crown after failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup. And they’re on song already, with Ciro Immobile, Matteo Pessina, Manuel Locatelli and Lorenzo Insigne striking the right chords. But there's bad news as well. Left-back Leonardo Spinazzolla, one of the architects of the Azzurri’s spotless Euro 2020 campaign, has suffered a ruptured achilles and is doubtful for the semi-final. For La Roja, the goals have come, but not exactly from their strikers. Luis Enrique will look to address this chink in their armour before taking the field on Wednesday.
The last time the two teams met in a pivotal clash, La Roja beat the Azzurri 4-0 in the final of Euro 2012, winning their second consecutive European crown. From the line-up of over a decade ago, Enrique still has the experience of midfielder Sergio Busquets and Mancini can make the most of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. In the 2016 edition, Italy beat Spain 2-0 in the round of 16.
Head to head: Spain and Italy have met a total of 34 times in football history. Spain have won 12 while Italy have won 9 times. Nine games ended in a draw.
England vs Denmark (12:30 am IST, Thursday)
Venue: Wembley Stadium
Both England and Denmark are on a roll. The Three Lions, who have kept a clean sheet in the tournament so far, will enjoy full fan support at the Wembley Stadium, and Euro 1992 champions Denmark will carry the Christian Eriksen inspiration into the last four.
Calling the Inter Milan midfielder a “big part of our road to Wembley”, coach Kasper Hjulmand clearly wants to make Eriksen proud. Denmark’s Euro 2020 campaign took off on a sad note, with Eriksen collapsing on the field in their opener versus Finland, which they lost 1-0. The following match, too, ended in disappointment against the mighty Belgium. But then Hjulmand’s boys thrashed Russia (4-1), followed by Wales (round of 16) and then Czech Republic in the quarters.
Gareth Southgate’s concern of Harry Kane not hitting the back of the net is now a thing of the past. The England skipper scored a brace versus Ukraine, and before that a late strike versus Germany in the round of 16. England met Denmark in a major football tournament last in 2002, in the second round of the FIFA World Cup. In England’s 3-0 victory, the goals came from Rio Ferdinand, Emile Heskey and Michael Owen.
England have reached the semi-finals of the European Championship for the first time in 25 years, and they will leave no stone unturned in their bid for a first-ever Euro title. The Danes will hope for their second European crown, as they would keep Eriksen close to their hearts.
Head to head: Both England and Denmark have met a total of 22 times. The Three Lions have won 12 and Denmark four times. Six matches ended in a draw.