In what has been one of the most entertaining tournaments in recent memory, Manchester City stars have been at the heart of an incredible start to the knockout stages at Euro 2020.
Czech Republic 2-0 Netherlands: Nathan Aké
The Netherlands entered the Round of 16 with incredibly high expectations, having waltzed through the group stages and landing on the weaker side of the draw. The Oranje were massive favorites to take down the Czech Republic, who most predicted before the tournament to be ousted at the group stage, but the Dutch seriously underwhelmed in a shocking 2-0 defeat. Aké did not feature at all in this match, despite central defender Matthijs De Ligt being sent off for handball, and it shows that now-sacked manager Frank De Boer had close to no faith in the City defender.
In the end, the warning signs were present that this team was not what it had been built up by many to be, as seen with their 10-minute near-capitulation against Ukraine in the opening match. Given the intense pressure by Dutch fans and players to play a back four to keep with the tradition of their football and the return of Virgil Van Dijk, Aké’s pathway into the side could be even murkier moving forward. Overall, it was an incredibly disappointing return to major tournament football for Holland after missing out on Euro 2016 and World Cup 2018, and perhaps Aké’s lack of involvement played a role in their demise.
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Belgium 1-0 Portugal: Kevin De Bruyne, Rúben Dias, Bernardo Silva
In the most high-profile matchup of this round, Kevin De Bruyne’s Belgium marched on to a quarterfinal against Italy courtesy of a Thorgan Hazard wondergoal. De Bruyne was sadly injured yet again, and looks set to miss the clash against Italy.
For Portugal, they were the better side overall, albeit not by much, and will now not defend their 2016 crown. For all of their talent, it was arguably misused by Fernando Santos, who could not even find a place in the starting lineup for Bruno Fernandes, who had a shocking tournament. Silva and Dias both tremendously underperformed their levels this tournament, and City’s João Cancelo was a big miss for this team. Despite having arguably the most talented squad in the tournament, most of Portugal’s big names outside of Cristiano Ronaldo did not perform throughout the tournament, and they were promptly dumped out by Belgium’s golden generation. Change will need to come ahead of World Cup 2022, but it remains to be seen if Santos will retain his position.
Spain 5-3 Croatia (AET): Aymeric Laporte, Rodri, Ferran Torres
In one of the tournament’s very best games, Spain narrowly advanced over Croatia to set up a shock quarterfinal against Switzerland. Rodri came on from the bench, but Aymeric Laporte and Ferran Torres started the game for the Spanish, who played some of Euro 2020’s most dominant football following a shocking own goal error from goalkeeper Unai Simón to open the scoring. La Roja did not let this shift in momentum get them down, as Torres grabbed an assist and then a fantastic goal of his own to establish a 3-1 lead heading into the 80th minute. From there, Spain completely switched off, allowing Croatia to rescue two late goals and send the game to extra time against all odds. Once again, however, the Spanish showed resilience, and scored two more in extra time to make it ten goals scored in their last two matches. With France cleared from the path, Spain have a real chance to win Euro 2020 and appear to be playing their best football at the right time, although they must find more consistency.
England 2-0 Germany: Raheem Sterling, John Stones, Kyle Walker, Phil Foden, Ilkay Gündogan
In a match that featured a whopping five City players, England broke their German curse, eliminating their rivals for the first time since the 1966 World Cup final, also on home soil. Sterling scored yet again for the Three Lions late on before Harry Kane added a second. With the Netherlands eliminated, England are the clear favorites to reach the final, with a path that could include Ukraine and Denmark.
For Germany, it’s another disappointment at a major tournament. Gündogan did not start for the first time this Euros, and did not even come off the bench in a surprise defeat that will end Joachim Löw’s tenure in charge.
Ukraine 2-1 Sweden (AET): Oleksandr Zinchenko
Ukraine pulled a slight upset over 10-man Sweden in the round of 16 in dramatic fashion to advance to face England. Zinchenko was immense for his national side, scoring for the first time this tournament with the equalizer before assisting his side’s dramatic 120th minute winner at the very death. Ukraine have advanced surprisingly far in this tournament, and although they will not be favorites against England, Andriy Shevchenko’s team will not be downed easily.