I can’t help but look on with envy at some of the beauties, as well as a scowl of disapproval at some of the jerseys released for this upcoming 2021-22 season.
Twenty-four teams began a quest to claim the Euro 2020 title and just 16 remain, as the tournament enters the knockout phase.
All the big guns have progressed. Italy will expect to dismiss Austria with ease, France will feel the same way entering their clash with Switzerland and Spain would feel a win against Croatia is near certain.
Elsewhere, tight clashes should play out between the Welsh and Denmark, Netherlands and the Czechs and Sweden versus Ukraine is anyone’s guess.
All eyes will be on Belgium and Portugal and the potential disaster that would be an English capitulation against Germany in a couple of days’ time.
Good luck with your tips for the round of 16 and be sure to enter them in the tipping sheet below to have a say as the voice of the crowd.
Here is the way the panel sees all the action unfolding as the cut throat nature of knockout football begins.
Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, France, England, Sweden
After roaring into the round of 16 amid emotional scenes in Copenhagen, Denmark will hope to make their momentum count against a battle-hardened Wales. This one could go the distance, but the Danes might just shade proceedings.
Having underperformed in tournament football, Austria did well to finish second in their group. Unfortunately for them they run into a red-hot Italy as their reward. The Azzurri play patient football, which they might need to go through here.
I didn’t rate the Netherlands going into the tournament and they go and win three games from three. They tend to win games in spite of manager Frank de Boer, not because of him, but should have enough all-round class to progress against the Czechs.
I reckon Belgium win the battle of the big guns. They looked decidedly impressive in topping their group but more than that, they looked like they still had room to improve. I feel like Portugal have peaked already, so this is Belgium’s game to lose.
Croatia’s clash with Spain could go either way. Neither team was particularly impressive in the group stage, but I reckon Spain’s mean defence should just about nullify the evergreen attacking threat of Luka Modric.
I tipped France to win the tournament and I don’t see Switzerland being the team to upset that notion. Despite that, Les Bleus can hardly be satisfied with a group stage that saw them held to back-to-back draws. They’ll have to step up in Bucharest.
Let’s put it this way: if England can’t beat Germany now, they’ll never beat them. England’s attack should be more than enough to take care of Germany’s plodding back three. The only thing that will stop the English is their weird psychological obsession with this particular fixture.
The football gods have smiled on Sweden. After their stoppage-time win against Poland, their reward is a clash with a serviceable but unspectacular Ukraine in Glasgow. With so much momentum behind them, it’s hard to see Sweden lose this one.
Wales, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, France, Germany, Ukraine
Wales appear likely to do something similar to what they managed five years ago. It wouldn’t be a long stretch to call them the best over-achievers in world football and they should beat the brilliant Danes in Amsterdam.
Italy could well put four or more goals on Austria. The Netherlands are looming as something of a dark horse and if able to silence Luka Modric, may well advance to the last eight.
Belgium have looked far better than Portugal thus far and a leaky defence may prove the downfall of the defending champs in what looks a tight game.
Surely Spain have found their mojo and will obliterate Croatia in a canter?
France look sure things against an outclassed Swiss unit, while the hot and cold Germans may well lift for the effort of a lifetime to shatter English hearts for the umpteenth time.
Sweden and Ukraine looks a nightmare to tip, but I’ll go with the Ukrainians and their x-factor abilities in the best all-time battle between blue and yellow.
Denmark, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, France, England, Sweden
Wales have performed heroically this tournament and the same could be said for Denmark, who overcame that opening match nightmare to cruise into the round of 16. These two teams are well matched, but Wales have the superstars in their front three that could make the difference.
The Italian team look like a brand new Ferrari. Their passing and creativity has been excellent and Roberto Mancini must be loving being behind the wheel of such a well-tuned motor.
Austria are here to spoil the party though and they have the enigmatic Marko Arnautovic to be the annoying fly in the window, ready to earn a penalty or manufacture an unlikely chance when you least expect it.
Lorenzo Insigne will come off the bench on the hour to score the goal that settles this one, Austria keeping on the heat until late in the game but unable to rescue the result.
The Netherlands have not hit their straps yet in this tournament, while the Czech Republic may have peaked too early. Gini Wijnaldum has been a revelation though, and Frenkie de Jong has been at the source of a lot of the attacking play. The Netherlands are here and they mean business!
Belgium versus Portugal is the match of the round. With the game being played a stone’s throw from Portugal, this will feel like a home game for the champions. The excitement levels will be high and conditions will suit the Portuguese.
Cristiano Ronaldo will be going all out to break whatever record he has to break next, but it will be a resolute Belgium who come out firing in the second half and completely turn the game.
Croatia versus Spain should be an absolute belter of a game. Just when we were all writing off Croatia, they come up with a dominant win in their final group match to breeze into the knockouts.
In similar fashion, Spain were looking like messing things right up until the third game of the group stages when they filled their boots against a somewhat unlucky but self-destructing Slovakia.
This one has penalties written all over it, and I’m going for a 1-1 draw at the end of the game with goals from Ivan Perisic and Pablo Sarabia, no further goals in extra time and then a 5-4 success for Spain from the spot.
Switzerland looked really good in their win against Turkey, while France will still be happy that they navigated the Portugal game and picked up a draw.
Breel Embolo will dazzle in this one whenever he gets the ball for Switzerland, inflating his asking price with every burst of speed, but his team will already be behind after an early flurry catches the Swiss by surprise.
France will be two goals up on ten minutes, Antoine Griezmann swooping in to score from a rebound and then Paul Pogba’s crazy legs will send his marker to the floor and he’ll smash in a second.
Switzerland will never be out of the game and the increasingly frustrating time-wasting from the French will win them no friends. A late consolation goal in injury time will be too late for a fightback.
A team who have conceded no goals in the group stage against a team that has been quite generous throughout their group games, this should be the recipe for England to go all out for the win. An early Harry Kane strike to silence the doubters will be followed up by a siege from the home team, but Germany will hang in and equalise just before the half.
The teams will trade a further goal each, and just as extra-time looms, Jack Grealish will beat three players on a barrel-chested run a la Gazza and rifle into the net to race away and celebrate a dramatic winner with the fans. A glorious day in London with England through to the quarter-finals.
Ukraine showed flashes of what they can do in their opening game with Netherlands, but they don’t have enough flair to worry a workmanlike Sweden side who have surprised with their stubborn resistance against Spain and their resilience in regaining the lead against Poland.
Wales, Italy, Netherlands, Belgium, Spain, France, England, Sweden
Riding on back of pride, exhilaration and renewed optimism may not be quite enough for Denmark against a steadily improving Welsh side led by Gareth Bale. I’m expecting a tight affair in Amsterdam, which may well end up in extra time or further, and somewhat reluctantly my prediction is for the Danish side to just fall short.
Austria surprised most observers with their narrow win over Ukraine to reach this round of 16. They are likely to be forced into much desperate defending as the Azzurri dominate from the kick off and it’s hard to see Italy not prevailing at Wembley Stadium.
The Netherlands are in scintillating form and should have little difficulty in winning over the Czech Republic in Budapest, with very warm conditions predicted in the capital.
For the first of the two blockbuster games in the round of 16, I’m going for Belgium to wear down and eventually overcome Portugal in Seville. The influence of captain fantastic Ronaldo will not be enough to thwart their explosive opponents within normal time.
Spain finally got into top gear in their final group game and will be primed to face a much tougher opponent in Croatia who lifted to finish off Scotland. Another game that may not be settled in normal time, yet La Roja may just do enough in Copenhagen to book their quarter-finals spot.
Anything other than a decisive victory for France over Switzerland seems highly unlikely, even though the former is yet to set the tournament alight. Nevertheless it could be repeat of the successful campaign for Les Bleus at Russia 2018, with an unconvincing start in the group followed by a sequence of wonderful wins.
Looking at major tournaments history, the epic lashes between the two giants in 1966 and 1996 come to mind. A scoreline similar to the latter occasion at Wembley looks more likely. However for Euro 2020 my prediction is for England to prevail over Germany to help manager Gareth Southgate with some measure of redemption.
Sweden have steadily improved through the opening three games, while Ukraine was rather fortunate to progress from the group. Conditions in Glasgow will better suit the Blågult who should cruise to victory.
|Round of 16||Mike||Stuart||Texi||Pablo||The Crowd|
|WAL vs DEN||DEN||WAL||DEN||WAL||DEN|
|ITA vs AUT||ITA||ITA||ITA||ITA||ITA|
|NED vs CZE||NED||NED||NED||NED||NED|
|BEL vs POR||BEL||BEL||BEL||BEL||BEL|
|CRO vs ESP||ESP||ESP||ESP||ESP||?|
|FRA vs SUI||FRA||FRA||FRA||FRA||?|
|ENG vs GER||ENG||GER||ENG||ENG||?|
|SWE vs UKR||SWE||UKR||SWE||SWE||?|
|Group stage total||18||19||23||18||22|
|Round of 16||0||0||0||0||0|