The knockout stages of Euro 2020 are upon us with Saturday providing the first two last-16 games in Amsterdam and at London’s Wembley Stadium.
The Wales squad left their Rome base for Amsterdam on Thursday and a third country visited at Euro 2020.
If Wales do beat Denmark at the Johan Cruyff Arena, they will return to Baku – where they played their opening two matches – for a quarter-final against Holland or the Czech Republic.
Denmark will be playing their first game away from Copenhagen’s Parken Stadium when they take on Wales in their Euro 2020 last 16 tie on Saturday but there will still be a familiar feel in Amsterdam – a home away from home for Danish footballers.
The Danish national team has long been influenced by the Dutch masters at Ajax Amsterdam, and plenty of Danish players like Michael Laudrup, Morten Olsen, as a manager, and current striker Kasper Dolberg have thrived in the capital.
Italy face Austria in the other last-16 tie at Wembley later on Saturday. The Azzurri easily clinched first place in Group A, becoming the first team to advance to the round of 16 and one of the favourites to win the tournament.
Did you know?
In 2016, Italy were knocked out by Germany in the quarter-finals, losing 6-5 on penalties, after reaching the final in 2012, losing 4-0 to Spain.
Coached by former Manchester City boss Roberto Mancini, Italy won all three matches without conceding a goal and are unbeaten in their last 30 games.
Led by coach Franco Foda, Austria finished second behind the Netherlands in Group C with six points, following a 1-0 win over Ukraine in their final game on Monday.
Austria had never previously reached the knockout phase in the European Championship, exiting in the group stage in 2008, when they were co-hosts, and in 2016 when they finished bottom of their group without a win.
Moore: I’m an easy target for refs
Wales striker Kieffer Moore believes he is an easy target for referees at Euro 2020 because of his size.
The 6ft 5in Cardiff striker was on the bench for Wales’ final group game in Rome as he was on a booking, and manager Robert Page was aware another yellow card would rule Moore out of their last-16 tie against Denmark on Saturday.
Moore was eventually sent on with Welsh backs to the wall and an attacking outlet needed following Ethan Ampadu’s 55th-minute dismissal, but Page told the forward “to jump with no arms” against Italy.
“When referees look at my stature and my height, I’ve kind of made it to be an easy target,” Moore told Sky Sports News.
“If opponents go down, realistically I haven’t probably touched them, but they’ve thrown themselves to the floor and it looks like I have.
“It’s also about me taking myself out of those situations and look like I’m not doing that really.”
Moore has scored six goals in 20 games since making his Wales debut in September 2019.
The 28-year-old’s arrival on the international scene helped Wales turn around their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign and reach this summer’s delayed cross-continent tournament.
Moore also scored in the opening 1-1 draw against Switzerland, a match in which he was booked for catching Fabian Schar in the face with a stray elbow.
Skipper Gareth Bale implored Moore to avoid a booking when he came on for the final half-hour at the Stadio Olimpico.
Asked about modifying his jump, Moore said: “I did do that, but jumping without the arms is very hard.
“In a way, I had to get through to not get yellow carded. It’s all about adapting, if I can not get another yellow card I’ll be happy to keep trying to do that.”
‘Mood has changed in Welsh camp’
Sky Sports reporter Geraint Hughes:
“Wales finished off their preparations in Rome. They stayed in the Italian capital after that final Group A game on Sunday and they’ve used an Italian Olympic Committee as their base but they left on Thursday to head for Amsterdam.
“You already get the sense from the Welsh camp that the mood has changed. They’re happy, there’s a sense of humour to everything they’re doing and they’re very relaxed but I do get a sense that the game face is starting to come on now as the match with Denmark is getting ever-closer.
“They’ve used the days wisely with six days between games so there’s been a lot of recovery to help get the fatigue out of the bodies and out of the legs. They’ve been able to break into individual sessions and small groups as well before doing work with the entire squad and the first team.
“Soon they will settle into their hotel in Amsterdam and fulfil their media duties at the Johan Cruyff Arena but in terms of their fitness, Wales are in as good a place as they could possibly be. All 26 players are fit and no one seems to be having problems in terms of fatigue. Wales know they are the underdogs, they know Denmark are the favourites but they enjoy that.
“They know there’s going to be some emotion surrounding this game as well given what happened to Christian Eriksen, but their mantra is ‘you park that at the white line’. As you walk onto the pitch, you forget about it and their job is to go out and beat Denmark and hopefully go to a quarter-final in Baku.”
Wales vs Denmark: Ethan Ampadu is suspended after his sending-off in the 1-0 defeat against Group A winners Italy and Wales coach Robert Page is likely to revert to a flat back four after experimenting with a 3-4-3 line-up against the flying Italians.
Wales will once again rely on Aaron Ramsey and Gareth Bale for the creative spark they will need to break down the Danes, as well as the formidable long throw-ins of Connor Roberts.
For Denmark to be facing Wales in a knockout game two weeks after playmaker Christian Eriksen, who made his breakthrough at Ajax, suffered a cardiac arrest in their opener against Finland, is a huge achievement.
Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand is again likely to deploy 20-year-old winger Mikkel Damsgaard, who opened the scoring against Russia, in the playmaking role in place of Eriksen, but it will take another sterling collective effort if they are to advance.
Italy vs Austria: One worry Italy have is over the fitness of Giorgio Chiellini. He and Leonardo Bonucci are normally Mancini’s go-to centre-back partnership, with the club teammates possessing 214 Italy caps between them.
But there is plenty of experience – a key component of an Italian back line – in reserve. Francesco Acerbi, who played alongside Bonucci while Chiellini had a long injury lay-off in 2019-20, is capable of seamlessly stepping in.
Protected brilliantly by Jorginho in midfield, and with the ever-reliable Gianluigi Donnarumma behind them, Italy’s back line is set up to make any opposition struggle. Austria must hope for a rare off day if they are to have any chance of springing a surprise.
Christoph Baumgartner and Konrad Laimer are both doubts for Austria, who will rely on the likes of David Alaba, Marcel Sabitzer and Xaver Schlager to cause an upset.
Can Austria conquer clean sheet kings?
Italy stormed into the last 16 scoring more freely than in past European Championships, but it is their near-impenetrable defence that makes them favourites to beat Austria in Saturday’s knockout game and head deep into the tournament.
Mancini’s side won their first two games 3-0 – after never netting three before at the Euros – then also beat Wales 1-0 in their final group fixture despite resting senior players.
A solid Italian defence is nothing new. So-called “catenaccio” (doorbolt) back lines from the 1960s and 1970s made Italian club teams feared opponents and gave the nation a reputation for defence. “The perfect game would end 0-0,” Italian journalist Gianni Brera famously quipped.
Now the Italy defence is again one to be feared. In three Euro 2020 games, the Azzurri have faced only 12 shots, on or off target.
Further back, Italy have kept a clean sheet in each of their last 11 matches in all competitions, going 1,055 minutes – 17 hours and 35 minutes – without conceding since a Donny van de Beek goal for the Netherlands last October.
One more clean sheet will see them equal their record of 12 consecutive games without conceding, set between 1972 and 1974.
- None of the 10 previous meetings between Wales and Denmark in all competitions have finished level, with Wales winning four to Denmark’s six. This is the first meeting between the sides since November 2018, with Denmark winning 2-1 in a Nations League match.
- Denmark have won each of their last three competitive meetings with Wales in a run stretching back to June 1999. This is the first meeting between the sides in a major tournament.
- Wales have lost both of their previous matches in Amsterdam, losing against the Netherlands in September 1988 (0-1) and June 2014 (0-2).
- Italy are unbeaten in their last 13 meetings with Austria in all competitions (W10 D3) since a 1-2 friendly loss in December 1960. This is the first match between the sides since a 2-2 friendly draw in August 2008.
- Italy have won all four of their meetings with Austria at major international tournaments, with all four such games coming in the World Cup – 1-0 in 1934, 1-0 in 1978, 1-0 in 1990 and 2-1 in 1998.
- Seven of Italy’s 14 knockout stage games in the European Championship have been drawn (W4 L3). Of these seven draws, they’ve won two and lost three via a penalty shootout, won once via a coin toss and the other went to a replay which they eventually won.
Page: No emotion to be shown against Denmark
Robert Page says there will not be any emotion attached to their clash with Denmark and admits his Wales side will face “a very good outfit” in Amsterdam on Saturday.
Denmark endured a difficult group phase after Christian Eriksen suffered a cardiac arrest just before half-time in their opener against Finland at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen. The former Tottenham midfielder was taken to hospital but has now been discharged after a successful operation to fit a defibrillator implant.
Kasper Hjulmand’s team qualified for the knockout stages in dramatic fashion by beating Russia 4-1 to claim second spot in Group B and carry momentum into their showdown with Wales, who performed impressively against Switzerland and Turkey but fell to a 1-0 defeat against in-form Italy in Rome.
Caretaker boss Page sent his best wishes to Eriksen for a speedy recovery but is adamant that Wales are focused on the job in hand as they look to finish in the latter stages of the Euros for the second consecutive time.
He told Sky Sports News: “We haven’t got time to praise ourselves too much, there’s a job in hand again on Saturday, a tough game and we’re looking forward to the challenge.”
‘Denmark have been a delight’
Ron Walker on the Sky Sports Football Euros podcast:
“I think Denmark have become everyone’s second team since that afternoon when they played Finland. They probably shouldn’t have played that second half but you saw the outpouring of emotions when Yussuf Poulsen scored the opener against Belgium and they probably should’ve won that game and would’ve done had Kevin de Bruyne not played.
“It’s a different Denmark as I don’t think any of us would’ve described them as free-scoring but they really put Russia to the sword in that last game. With Wales in the last 16, I think they’ll be confident of continuing in this vein. You can’t really analyse the Finland game, and in their other two matches they’ve been a delight.”
Also at the Euros…
Italy and Austria will not be able to train at Wembley ahead of their Euro 2020 last-16 tie in order to protect the pitch.
Wembley hosted all of England’s Group D matches, and will see the Three Lions return to the national stadium for their showdown against Germany on June 29.
The two semi-finals are also scheduled to be played at the north London stadium ahead of the final on July 11.
The decision not to allow both Austria and Italy to hold a training session at Wembley was taken on Thursday morning in an attempt to preserve the quality of the pitch for the match.
The playing surface has suffered with the wet and fresh weather around the last two games.
The forecast over the next couple of days is of a similar outlook, which is likely to put the pitch under further strain – especially given the England against Germany game will follow less than 72 hours later.
The hits and misses of Euro 2020 so far | Most exciting player on show? | The last-16 ties previewed
Peter Smith is joined by Sky Sports football writers Ron Walker and Charlotte Marsh and Sky Sports Data Editor Adam Smith to pick out the teams and players who impressed during the group phase and the ones which have to step out in the knockouts – if they’ve not already gone home!
The panel also looks ahead to the last-16 ties, the key match-ups which could decide the eventual winner of the tournament, and explain why – with much nervousness and trepidation – England have a good chance of knocking out Germany…