While UEFA Euro 2020 has had its fair share of drama and intrigue so far, we’ve yet to have that result that severely changes the trajectory of the whole tournament. The first day of knockout fixtures failed to yield the same chaotic results that occurred in 2016.
That all changed on Sunday when we had our first major upset of this round as well as confirmation that a new champion will be crowned soon.
While the build-up to each match was fairly cut and dry, the twist and turns provided by the four teams in action were anything but. Here’s how the drama unfolded on the second day of the Round of 16:
Czech Republic 2, Netherlands 0
Despite the Dutch being the top scoring team during the group stage, both sides had an even number of attempts before Czech Republic striker Patrik Schick finally put one on net in the 28th minute that was comfortably saved by Maarten Stekelenburg. The Netherlands’ best look came right before halftime when Memphis Depay found Patrick van Aanholt in the box, but the left wing-back dragged his shot wide of the far post.
The turning point of the match came in two parts in the 52nd minute when Netherlands’ forward Donyell Malen burst past the Czech defense and was in on goal, but he was unable to round goalkeeper Tomáš Vaclík. A long ball was sent the other way towards Schick and Dutch center-back Matthijs de Ligt, who would slip and reach for the ball with his hand. After receiving a yellow card initially, de Ligt was shown a straight red after the referee was told to consult the on-field monitor by VAR.
The Czechs capitalized on the man advantage in the 68th minute when a corner to the back post was headed by Tomáš Kalas towards a waiting Tomáš Holeš at the opposite post and he was able to head it in to open the scoring.
After a few more chances, Czech Republic struck again in the 80th minute when Holeš streaked into the box before laying off to Schick, who slotted home his fourth goal of the Euros into the bottom left corner. The Dutch sustained little pressure at the end as being down a man was too much to overcome.
The Czechs advance to the quarterfinals for the first time since Euro 2012 where they will face another one of the surprise teams of this tournament in Denmark.
Belgium 1, Portugal 0
This clash between the reigning Euro champions and FIFA’s number one ranked team in the world started well with Portugal’s Diogo Jota blazing a shot wide after breaking into the box in the 6th minute. From there, both teams struggled for chances although Cristiano Ronaldo did a force a solid save from goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois from a free kick.
Belgium’s only shot on goal for the match proved decisive in the 42nd minute when Thomas Meunier found Thorgan Hazard outside the box on the left side and he let loose a cracking effort that beat goalkeeper Rui Patrício to the right side of the net.
Complications arose early in the second half for Belgium as they were forced to sub off Kevin De Bruyne just a couple minutes in due to injury. However, Portugal didn’t threaten until the 61st minute when substitute João Félix’s header at the back post was saved by Courtois.
Rúben Dias came close to equalizing in the 82nd minute, but he sent his header straight at Courtois. Raphael Guerreiro followed up soon after with a first-time effort from the top of the box that looked perfect, but instead struck the bottom of the right post and was eventually cleared.
Substitute André Silva was beaten to a headed pass by Ronaldo towards the back post by Courtois in the 88th minute, which proved to be the last concrete chance of the match.
Ronaldo was unable to take a hold of the top spot on the men’s all-time international goalscoring list for himself, but he leaves Euro 2020 as its top scorer at the moment with five goals. Belgium advance to their second straight Euro quarterfinals where they will face another top team in Italy.