Following a short break after four completely crazy days of last-16 action, the European Championship was back in action for the quarter-finals, where the eight teams played out their games on Friday and Sunday to leave us with four on the other side.
From a showstopper between Belgium and Italy to a completely unexpected appearance from the Czech Republic, there is lots to unpack from the second knockout stage of the Euros, so let’s get right into it:
Switzerland vs Spain
The first quarter-final was held in Russia, where Switzerland (who had knocked their French neighbours out in the round of 16) faced the goalscoring enigmas from Spain, who barely managed to score once in their first two matches before smashing 10 in their last 210 minutes of action.
Luis Enrique’s side started off well, taking the lead just eight minutes in through Jordi Alba’s deflected long-ranged strike, which went down as an own goal for Denis Zakaria.
Spain had a couple of other good chances in the remainder of the first half, but a mix of sub-par finishing and Yann Sommer kept the scoreline at 1-0.
Switzerland looked much more threatening in the second period as Spain dropped off, and after they missed a few chances of their own, Xherdan Shaqiri equalised.
A controversial red card to Remo Freuler left the Swiss with 10 men and about 15 minutes of normal time plus extra time to go, but thanks to some heroic goalkeeping from Sommer (and not-so-good finishing from Spain again), the match went to penalties.
After Sergio Busquests missed the first spot-kick, Fabian Schär was denied by Unai Simón in the second round of efforts. Rodri’s effort was saved by Sommer immediately thereafter, but there was another twist as Manuel Akanji followed suit.
Gerard Moreno put the Spaniards ahead for the first time in the shootout, and Mikel Oyarzabal then had the chance to seal the deal after Ruben Vargas sent his shot high.
The Real Sociedad forward delivered, so Switzerland suffered heartbreak as they went out of the Euros, albeit in the bravest of ways.
Belgium vs Italy
Hardly had the first game ended when Belgium and Italy kicked their clash off at the Allianz Arena.
After an end-to-end start, Italy started to control the game with sustained possession thanks to their midfield dominance and threatened the opposition defence quite often.
Belgium did possess a threat on the break, especially in the form of Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, but they were the side that conceded first as Nicolò Barella scored.
With just two minutes left in the first half, Lorenzo Insigne scored an absolute stunner from outside the box to add a bit of buffer for Italy.
That evaporated as soon as first-half stoppage time when Romelu Lukaku converted a penalty won by Jérémy Doku.
Belgium did have a few opportunities to equalise in the second half including a chance for Lukaku from less than six yards out, but a goal-saving intervention from Leonardo Spinazzola kept Italy in front, so they progressed to the semifinals.
The Czech Republic vs Denmark
The unlikely Czech quarterfinalist met Denmark in Baku for the penultimate fixture of the round, which certainly lived up to expectations. Within just five minutes, Thomas Delaney gave the Danes a 1-0 advantage by heading a corner home.
Kasper Dolberg then added a second just before half time as the Czechs looked to slowly inch their way back into the match, but they halved the deficit just four minutes after the break as a couple of substitutions worked wonders for them while Denmark were seemingly still stuck in the dressing room.
The remainder of the match was a hard-fought affair with full-blooded challenges and duels from both sides, but there were no more goals to speak of, so Denmark secured a semi-final spot with a 2-1 win.
Ukraine vs England
The last quarter-final took us to Rome, where Ukraine were facing England.
All pre-match eyes were on Jadon Sancho, who was starting a Euros match for the first time in his career just a couple of days after officially securing a move to Manchester United.
The Three Lions got off to a quick start as well, opening the scoring through Harry Kane in the first five minutes. They were able to control the tempo of the game for the rest of the half.
Then, barely a minute into the second half, Harry Maguire headed a set-piece past the goalkeeper to double England’s lead.
Kane bagged his brace quickly thereafter before Jordan Henderson came off the bench to score a fourth and secure a comfortable victory for England to set up a semi-final date at Wembley Stadium.
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