Quarter-finals: Czech Republic vs Denmark, kick-off 5pm (UK time, ITV)
Czech Republic and Denmark meet in Baku this evening as two of Euro 2020’s surprise packages go head-to-head for a spot in the semi-finals.
A shock win over the Netherlands in the round of 16 sent the Czech Republic through to the last eight, while Denmark have plenty of momentum after swatting Wales aside with a 4-0 victory.
The Danes will be hoping to channel the spirit of their famous 1992 tournament win, as they bid to go all the way and lift the European Championship trophy once again.
Story so far
The Czech Republic qualified for the knockout stages as one of the four best third-placed teams but were somewhat unfortunate not to finish in the top two of Group D, after impressive displays against both Scotland and Croatia.
Their third place finish meant they faced Netherlands in the round of 16, with few people giving them much hope of progressing.
But Jaroslav Silhavy’s side stunned the Dutch, with second half goals from Tomas Holes and talisman Patrik Schick sending the Czechs through to the quarters with a 2-0 win.
Denmark, meanwhile, have captured the hearts of Europe with their togetherness as a nation following Christian Eriksen’s traumatic cardiac arrest in their opening game.
Kasper Hjulmand’s men progressed to the round of 16 after finishing second in their group, where they met Wales in Amsterdam.
It was delight in the Dutch capital as the Danes put on a stunning display, thumping Rob Page’s side 4-0 to advance in style.
West Ham’s Tomas Soucek is a household name for the Czech Republic, but it is his midfield partner Tomas Holes who is stealing all the headlines at Euro 2020.
Holes has caught the eye ever since his introduction into the side for the game with Croatia — and not just because he’s a defensive midfielder wearing the No9 shirt.
The Slavia Prague star was outstanding against the Netherlands, picking up the UEFA Star of the Match award for his endeavours.
As well as getting a goal and an assist in that game, Holes regained possession more than any other player in the opposition’s half and won five ground defensive duels for his side.
The 28-year-old will have to be on top form again in the quarter-finals as he comes up against the hard-nosed midfield duo of Thomas Delaney and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg.
In many ways, Euro 2020 has been the tournament of wing-backs.
With so many nations opting to use a three at the back system, a host of high-flying full-backs have come into their own.
One of those has been Danish defender Joakim Maehle.
Capable of playing on the left or the right-hand side, Maehle was too hot to handle for Wales’ defenders last Saturday.
The wing-back was a real asset in driving the Danes up the pitch, making the most ball carries of five or more metres (16).
Maehle’s performance was epitomised by his goal, as he found space behind the Welsh defence before cutting in on his left foot and emphatically finishing into the roof of the net.
Premier League clubs will surely be kicking themselves that Atalanta were able to pick up Maehle for just £10million six months ago.
Hjulmand’s high-scoring heroes
A recent injury to Yussuf Poulsen appears to have had little effect on Hjulmand’s side, as they found the net four times for a second successive game.
Their front three of Kasper Dolberg, Martin Braithwaite and Mikkel Damsgaard proved to be too much for an inexperienced Welsh defence, and they go into this quarter-final in scintillating form.
The Czech defence however, has been resolute — keeping a clean sheet against their high-scoring Dutch opponents last time out.
Hjulmand is fully aware that this game will be no easy contest.
He said: “They are a solid and well-trained team, who have a fantastic attitude.
“They play with real intensity, and we will be matched for the first time in a long time, in that sense.”
Czech out the high line
For all their strengths, the Czech Republic are vulnerable to balls over the top — with the Netherlands finding success from that approach in their last 16 match-up.
The Oranje’s best chance of the game came from Donyell Malen getting in behind their high line, but he was unable to make Silhavy’s outfit pay.
The Danes must exploit that weakness. As Croatia found out, deep crosses into the box are unlikely to trouble a commanding Czech backline.
Should they tailor their tactics correctly however, another fruitful evening could well be in store for Denmark.