Italy defeated England on Sunday in penalty kicks. Italy were the more deserving winners, but this was another cruel way for England to exit a tournament. Italy will be playing a well-rested Germany team in Warsaw on Thursday.
England vs. Italy in Kiev
How they got here: England won Group D, despite all the injuries and pressure. The 1-1 draw against France was useful because England beat Sweden 3-2 and Ukraine 1-0. Italy drew their first two matches by a score of 1-1 to Spain and Croatia. Italy finished second in Group C when they beat Ireland 2-0.
England player to watch: Wayne Rooney- England are a different side when Rooney is in the lineup. He scored the goal against Ukraine and he makes fellow strikers Danny Welbeck or Andy Carroll more effective. Italy is expected to be without Giorgio Chiellini so Rooney could play against a weaker Italian back line.
Italy player to watch: Andrea Pirlo- The creative playmaker will force England midfielders Steven Gerrard and Scott Parker to be more responsible defensively. This matchup in the center of the pitch could decide the outcome of the match.
England strategy: Some have said that this England team plays like Italy, and ironically even more Italian than the current Azzurri. England is a hard team to score on and make the most of chances in front of net. Instead of starting an offensive threat like Theo Walcott, England will play a safer option in James Milner who can back track on defense. That is the kind of game Roy Hodgson likes and if England wins, then fans won’t complain.
Italy strategy: Italy was terrific against Spain and really should’ve won against Croatia until they crumbled in the second half. Italy maybe played down to their competition against Ireland. The Italians will look to play very defensively without Chiellini, and hope Cassano and Balotelli can work well with Pirlo.
Prediction: England 1, Italy 0
Spain defeated France 2-0 on Saturday. Xabi Alonso scored both goals, one in each half, to put Spain in the semifinals where they will play Portugal on Wednesday.
Spain vs. France in Donetsk
How they got here: Spain won Group C in the waning minutes in their last group match. They started with a 1-1 draw against Italy when they didn’t start a natural striker. They manhandled Ireland 4-0 and scored very late to beat Croatia 1-0. France started well with a 1-1 draw against England and 2-0 win over Ukraine. France had a bit off a setback with a 2-0 defeat to Sweden to drop them to second place in Group D.
Spain player to watch: David Silva- The winger will be playing against club teammates Samir Nasri and Gael Clichy. When Silva is on form Spain plays better as a team. If he’s ineffective then the pressure is on Andreas Iniesta and Xavi to setup an inconsistent striker like Fernando Torres.
France player to watch: Yann M’Villa; The young central midfielder was healthy enough to start against Sweden. If he starts again, he has a chance to increase his transfer value and make a statement against Spain’s midfield. Arsenal is one of the teams that would love the services of the 21 year-old.
Spain strategy: Spain is always lauded for playing attractive soccer, but they were very sloppy against Croatia. Even in past major tournaments, they have played many 1-0 games and that’s when David Villa was in the lineup. Spain needs to give Torres some chances to make them a more dangerous threat against a shaky France defense.
France strategy: France is due for a bounce back game after a flat performance against Sweden. A good start might be important and scoring first would be vital. If France can force Spain to come from behind it will be hard to Spain to equalize.
Prediction: France 2, Spain 1
My story for Soccer 365 about the new German lineup that worked against Greece.
Germany vs. Greece in Gdansk
How they got here: Germany was the only team to obtain the maximum nine points in the group stage. They defeated Portugal, Netherlands and Denmark by one-goal margins. Greece went into their third game with only one point after a draw against Poland and loss to Czech Republic. Greece still had a chance to qualify with a win against Russia and the pulled off the upset to finish second in Group A.
Germany player to watch: Bastian Schweinsteiger- The holding midfielder has created a great duo with Sami Khedira to allow Mesut Ozil to be creative. Schweinsteiger will make sure Germany controls the possession against Greece and stop any Greek counterattacks.
Greece player to watch: Kyriakos Papadopoulos- The defender is playing against familiar players. Papadopoulos plays his club soccer for Schalke 04. A majority of Germany’s starting lineup played against Papadopoulos in the Bundesliga so he has the scouting report against Germany’s key players.
Germany strategy: Germany will play like they did in their 2-1 win over Denmark, but with a little more urgency. Germany can’t let Greece stay around because they could capitalize on one mistake.
Greece strategy: Unfortunately, Greece will be without inspirational captain Giorgos Karagounis because he accumulated two yellow cards in the three group matches. Greece will have to play the way they did against Russia and hope for the results they produced at Euro 2004.
Prediction: Germany 2, Greece 0
Cristiano Ronaldo’s header in the 79th minute was all Portugal needed to beat an inferior Czech Republic side 1-0. Portugal dominated the Czechs all match and had far more opportunities. Ronaldo hit the post twice and Petr Cech was strong in goal. Portugal moves on to the semifinals to play the winner of Spain-France.