A photo taken on June 14, 2021 shows the Estadio La Cartuja de Sevilla in Seville, Spain before the UEFA Euro 2020 Championship Group E match between Spain and Sweden in Seville, Spain, June 14, 2021. (Photo by Joan Gosa/Xinhua)

Euro 2020 half-term report

After 13 days of non-stop football action across 11 cities, Euro 2020 now takes a break for a couple of days before the knockout rounds begin on June 26. With the dust having settled on the group stage, Xinhua takes a look at the performances of all 24 teams in the pan-European tournament so far.

Group A

Italy – An ominously good start for the Azzurri, with three wins from three, no goals conceded, and a great togetherness and esprit du corps among the rank and file. Perhaps the team to beat so far, though a tough knockout draw will likely see them face Belgium and France if they are to make it to the final.

Wales – A fine achievement in qualifying for the knockout stage. Gareth Bale is in typically exuberant form, and his leadership and footballing ability is a crucial cog in the Welsh machine. Whether or not Wales can repeat the heroics of 2016 likely rests on how effectively opponents can shackle the want-away Real Madrid man.

Switzerland – After a slow start threatened to derail their hopes, Switzerland scraped into the knockouts thanks to a clinical win over Turkey in their final group game. Their reward? A daunting tie against reigning world champions France. As ever, much will rest on the form of the oddly-proportioned Xherdan Shaqiri, who always seems to save his best form for the national team.

Turkey – Oh dear. Having been tipped by many as dark horses for the tournament, Turkey never recovered from a 3-0 hammering to Italy, and dispiriting defeats to Wales and Switzerland quickly followed. An inquest will surely follow as to how Senol Gunes failed to get the best of a side packed full of youthful talent.

Group B

Belgium – After Italy, perhaps the most impressive team in the group stage. Whispers that an aging squad might find the going tough have thus far proved unfounded, as the Red Devils breezed into the last 16 with a game to spare with Romelu Lukaku in particularly fine form. And with Kevin De Bruyne now fully fit, they’re a match for anyone.

Denmark – The shocking collapse of Christian Eriksen against Finland put footballing matters firmly into perspective, but with the midfielder now thankfully on the road to recovery, his teammates set about the task of hauling themselves into the knockout stages, which they achieved with an emphatic and emotional win over Russia. A winnable tie against Wales awaits, and given what the Danes have already been through, who’d bet against them going further still?

Finland – A first win in their first ever appearance at a major tournament should have been a moment to cherish for a lifetime, but was completely overshadowed by Eriksen’s collapse. Though the Finns’ desire and commitment could not be faulted, a lack of quality in the final third ultimately showed, and they were one of the two unlucky third-placed finishers not to progress to the round of 16.

Russia – A rather uninspiring Russia side was brought back down to earth with a bump after a chastening 4-1 defeat to a resurgent Denmark side condemned them to fourth place in the group. Coach Stanislav Cherchesov’s contract runs through until next year’s World Cup, but one wonders if he has taken this team as far as he can.

Group C

Netherlands – Lingering doubts over the calibre of head coach Frank de Boer have been put to one side as the Dutch qualified for the last 16 in stylish and enjoyable fashion. Sterner tests await, though, and the Netherlands’ cavalier approach to defending may prove their undoing in the knockouts.

Austria – Wins against North Macedonia and Ukraine assured Austria of their first ever appearance in the knockout stages of a European Championships. A round of 16 tie against Italy will be a different proposition, however, and Alaba, Sabitzer and co will have to dig deep to progress any further.

Ukraine – Sneaking into the knockout rounds by the skin of their teeth as the fourth and final third-place qualifier, Ukraine find themselves in the kinder side of the draw, and their last 16 tie against Sweden is more winnable than most. They are unlikely to make it much beyond that.

North Macedonia – The tournament’s lowest-ranked team knew after two defeats that they would be heading home, but they did not disgrace themselves on the big stage, and veteran Goran Pandev will forever be remembered for scoring their first ever major tournament goal. A valuable experience for players and staff to learn from and build on.

Group D

England – Perhaps burdened by the weight of expectation generated by a promising clutch of youngsters, England rather stuttered through the group stage but still topped Group D without conceding a goal. Though defensively sound, the Three Lions’ much-vaunted attack has yet to fully gel, and better will be needed against old foes Germany in the last 16. If they prevail against Die Mannschaft, confidence will be high and a nation will expect them to progress to a home final at Wembley.

Croatia – A slow start prompted many to suggest that Euro 2020 was a tournament too far for this aging Croatia side, before the evergreen Luka Modric turned in a sumptuous performance to lead his team to victory against Scotland and a place in the knockouts. Not quite at the level of the 2018 vintage, this Croatia side is nevertheless still capable of causing problems.

Czech Republic – The Czechs rather flew under the radar in Group D, with much attention focused on England and Croatia. However, Patrik Schick caught the eye with his wonder goal against Scotland that set the Czech Republic on their way to the knockouts, and his physicality will be a tricky proposition for the Netherlands’ defense to cope with in their round of 16 tie.

Scotland – After an interminable wait, Scotland’s first major tournament since 1998 ended in disappointment. Despite the high of holding England to a 0-0 draw at Wembley, a lack of cutting edge in attack counted against them in defeats to Croatia and the Czech Republic. An imbalanced squad contained many left-backs and centre-midfielders, but was short on centre-backs and strikers.

Group E

Sweden – A rather workmanlike set of performances from Sweden, who topped Group E more by the dint of defensive solidity than attacking flair. Alexander Isak and Dejan Kulusevski did at least try to get spectators off their seats, and a last-16 match against Ukraine is a very winnable reward for topping their group.

Spain – With most of the last decade’s Golden Generation now having retired, this is something of a transitionary Spanish side containing no Real Madrid players, though a five-goal walloping of Slovakia in the final group game suggested that a corner had been turned after their tournament had begun with two uninspiring draws. Hard to see them going past the quarterfinals, but stranger things have happened.

Slovakia – An unheralded Slovakia side managed to eke out a win against ten-man Poland in their first game, and spent the rest of their Euro 2020 more preoccupied with keeping a clean sheet than trying to score. A lack of star quality ultimately told, and a 5-0 drubbing at the hands of Spain saw them packing their bags after the group stage.

Poland – A disappointing tournament for Poland as they finished bottom of Group E despite the best efforts of Robert Lewandowski, who notched three goals in three games and appeared at times to be single-handedly dragging his team through the competition. With coach Paulo Sousa not having impressed, and many key players now well into their 30s, it may be time for a rebuild.

Group F

France – The pre-tournament favourites advanced from the Group of Death in top spot, but they might have hoped to do so in a more convincing manner. Draws against Hungary and Portugal were reminders that Les Bleus don’t always have it their own way, and it took two games before Karim Benzema appeared to be on the same wavelength as his teammates. Still the strongest squad on paper, though, and few would bet against them reaching the final on July 11.

Germany – Jekyll and Hyde stuff from Germany, who were brilliant on the counterattack against Portugal but struggled to impose themselves in their other two games, and came within ten minutes of elimination before Leon Goretzka rescued a 2-2 draw against Hungary. Despite their attacking prowess, five goals conceded is most un-German, and improvements will be needed against England at Wembley in the last 16 if outgoing coach Joachim Low is to leave on a high.

Portugal – Looked remarkably frail defensively as Germany carved them apart in a 4-2 defeat, but made it into the knockouts thanks in no small measure to the remarkable form of Cristiano Ronaldo, who leads the tournament scoring charts with five goals and has equalled the all-time international record of 109 goals for his country. The 36-year-old will need to keep delivering if the reigning Euro champions are to progress any further, with a tough tie against Belgium on the horizon.

Hungary – Roared on by a capacity crowd in Budapest in their first two games, Hungary surprised many with their ability to go toe-to-toe with more illustrious opponents, and came much closer to the last 16 than the final table suggests. Coach Marco Rossi deserves great credit for extracting the maximum from a limited group of players. Hungary will now seek to use this positive momentum as a springboard to qualify for their first World Cup since 1986.

By sportswriter Michael Butterworth