* All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change.
After what has been the longest group stage in the history of any football competition since a ball was first spherical, the Euros are now fully in knockout mode.
Spain, Croatia, France and Switzerland face-off on Monday night – the pairing seemingly making for a straightforward double, but I really don’t know if that’s the case. While Denmark may have been favoured to pip Wales, the manner of the victory sent most into disarray with their expectations.
The problem with international tournaments is that we’re so accustomed to seeing rubbish countries get slapped in qualifying or in the groups that our perception of knockout football falls in-line. This is a different beast.
Now, whether that lends itself to Switzerland getting anything off France is another question, but I’m urging caution ahead of another tantalising early-week double header.
What do you get when aging side face off against a significantly more talented, yet naïve outfit under global scrutiny? Usually absolutely nothing. Spain to this point have been about as passive as England, it’s just that most of you don’t read Marca and still think Alvaro Morata is talented because of how much money sides have paid for him.
Right now, Spain seem the most likely of the better sides to be dumped out and that’s as much due to the hammering they dished out in their last group game as it is about anything that preceded it.
Monday 17:00 – Croatia v Spain
ITV / RTÉ Two
Croatia are still leaning on a lot of experience at the front end of the pitch and while the goals might still be there, the focus will ultimately be on containing their front four. Expect long passages of nothing before the referee blows for full-time and you’re sat wondering how you ever made it through extra-time periods before.
The biggest contributor to Switzerland’s success in qualifying was the efficiency in which they maintain their width. Not being pretentious here, but that’s a tactic commonly employed by sides who know threats come from the flanks and who generally don’t have a top marksman.
France’s Karim Benzema will feed off the spaces in between the central defenders and make them pay. The French really are a pick-your-poison type of opposition. You either maintain width to take out Benjamin Pavard, Lucas Hernandez, Lucas Digne etc; or go compact to hedge out Benzema – or press to ensure Antonie Griezmann doesn’t get a sniff.
Monday 20:00 – France v Switzerland
ITV / RTÉ Two
None of those options will be comforting to the French, but I can’t see them abandoning the approach that got them here. And if they do that, Karim is best-placed to capitalise and find the net at some stage.
READ MORE ON EURO 2020
- Southgate prepares England stars for post-Germany pizza ads
- England v Germany: Paul Ince picks his Three Lions line-up for Euro 2020 clash
- Euro 2020: England’s route to this summer’s European Championship final
- Football tips: Paddy trader’s NAP for England v Germany Euro 2020 clash