The Dutch See Red, Italy Advance, & More From Days 1 & 2 of the Knockout Stages

Unlike the Champions League, the Euros (and World Cup) have only one leg in the knockout stages. If you win, you advance. There’s no room for error, as four teams have already found out. Austria, Wales, the Netherlands, and Portugal have been eliminated in the Round of 16, and four more will be eliminated in the coming days. But who has been eliminated, and who has advanced?

Denmark 4-0 Wales

Denmark’s fairytale story continues. A motivated Danish team, led by OGC Nice striker Kasper Dolberg, fired four past Wales goalkeeper Danny Ward to advance to the Quarterfinals. Dolberg scored twice, Joakim Maehle scored once, and Barcelona’s Martin Braithwaite scored in the 94th minute to add some gloss to the scoreline.

Denmark and Danish fans will be pleased with this result. Not only does it mean that Denmark will move on, but it also displays the tremendous depth that exists in the squad. Striker Yussuf Poulsen, who had been the team’s leading scorer, was out of the match with an injury but Dolberg was more than capable of filling in. They’ll be tested against the Czech Republic next.

With a different referee, however, this game could’ve had a very different outcome. Wales’ 6’5 striker Kieffer Moore was never able to get into the game, as he was commonly called for fouls whenever he used his height to his advantage. At least two of Denmark’s goals should have been called back: an offsides on Martin Braithwaite and a foul prior to one of Dolberg’s goals. Harry Wilson also received a very questionable red card at the end of the game.

Denmark ultimately deserved to win, but the match should’ve been much closer with a capable referee.

Italy 2-1 Austria

Favorites Italy advanced in extra time after several scares from underdogs Austria. Federico Chiesa put Italy ahead with a neat finish after 95 minutes and Matteo Pessina doubled Italy’s lead to secure the win as Sasa Kalajdzic’s late goal for Austria wasn’t enough.

Italy will be concerned as they looked second best for much of the second half, with Austria even taking the lead through Marko Arnautovic. The goal was rightfully called back for offside, but Italy struggled to get into the game in the second half. In the first half and in extra time, however, Italy looked strong and were able to control possession and frustrate the Austrians. If Italy can be more consistent, this tournament is theirs to lose. They do have a tough matchup in the quarterfinals, though: Belgium.

Austria, meanwhile, will be proud of their performance. They’ve made it to the knockouts for the first time in Austrian history and were expected to lose handily to Italy. Instead, they took the Italians to extra time and almost completed the comeback. Young stars were instrumental in Austria’s performances, with Kalajdzic and Christoph Baumgartner leading the way. Ultimately, they were slightly worse on the day but the future looks bright for Austria.

Czech Republic 2-0 Netherlands

This was undoubtedly the biggest surprise of the first few Round of 16 matches.

The Dutch, who some considered to be possible winners of the tournament, were knocked out by the Czech Republic after losing 2-0. The match was fairly even until Dutch center back Matthijs de Ligt was given a red card for an intentional hand ball. The Czech Republic took advantage, scoring twice to win.

Underdog might be an understatement. The Czech Republic were ranked 40th in the world by FIFA, finished third in Group D, and won only one match at the Euros (against Scotland). In contrast, the Netherlands were ranked 16th by FIFA, finished first in Group C, and won all three of their group stage matches. What the Czechs had that the Dutch didn’t were clinical finishers. Patrik Schick scored his fourth goal of the tournament to seal the win after Tomas Holes scored his first international goal to give the Czechs the lead. Up next is Denmark.

The Netherlands will be left ruing the chances they missed. Donyell Malen was the biggest culprit, squandering a 1v1 with goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik collecting the ball before Malen could shoot. This loss will only add to the pressure on Netherlands manager Frank de Boer, already an unpopular figure to many Dutch fans even before elimination. The Dutch can’t get Virgil van Dijk back soon enough.

Belgium 1-0 Portugal

For a game that was being hyped up as an offensive battle, it really just showed how good both defenses are. In net, Thibaut Courtois starred for Belgium, keeping a clean sheet as Belgium’s center backs prevented most serious threats from going in. Portugal, meanwhile, used Ruben Dias and Pepe to prevent Romelu Lukaku, Belgium’s star man, from scoring. Thorgan Hazard was the only scorer.

Belgium looked impressive, using smart wing play to find Romelu Lukaku farther up the field. Unfortunately for Belgium and Lukaku, they were up against one of the top center back partnerships at the Euros. Unable to find the back of the net more than once, Belgium sat back and defended against Portugal’s fierce attack. Able to weather the storm, Belgium face another tough opponent in Italy in the quarterfinals.

Portugal gave it their best, but it wasn’t good enough. They recorded 23 shots and yet none found the back of the net, with Belgium’s defense proving to be stingy. Whilst there can be no shame in losing to the highest ranked team in the world, Portugal only have themselves to blame for struggling to claim points in the group stage.

Belgium, Italy, the Czech Republic, and Denmark are now guaranteed to advance to the quarterfinals, with each of these teams now three wins away from being the champions of Europe. Will it be a favorite in Belgium or Italy? A fairytale team in Denmark? An underdog in the Czech Republic? Or will it be someone who hasn’t yet advanced?

Let me know who you think will win in the comments!

Image Courtesy of Viborg Kommune, CC BY-SA 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons.

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