Just like that, we’ve made it to the final week of UEFA Euro 2020.
While the quarterfinal stage of this tournament didn’t yield the same improbable upsets from the previous rounds, it did include a balance of top-quality play and moments that left us scratching our heads.
At the end of it all, we’re left with the final four teams who are now just two wins at Wembley Stadium away from being crowned champions of Europe. Here’s how they got there:
Spain 1 (3), Switzerland 1 (1) (FT-Pens)
Spain found themselves 1-0 up in just the 8th minute of the match after Jordi Alba’s first-time volley from a corner took a huge deflection off of Switzerland’s Denis Zakaria and sailed past a committed Yann Sommer into the net. Things turned bleaker for the Swiss in the 23rd minute when striker Breel Embolo was subbed off due to injury.
César Azpilicueta almost made it two in the 25th minute with a header from a corner, but Sommer was able to get up and catch the shot. Switzerland were unable to put a shot on target in the first half.
In the second half, after nearly equalizing on a shot by Steven Zuber at the near post, Switzerland tied the match a few minutes later in the 68th minute. A mix-up between two Spanish defenders on the edge of the right side of the box led to Remo Freuler collecting the loose ball and he squared it for Xherdan Shaqiri to slot into the bottom left corner.
Freuler’s night ended abruptly in the 77th minute when he was shown a straight red card by referee Michael Oliver, who judged that the midfielder caught Gerard Moreno high on a sliding challenge. Spain only managed one shot on target after the decision before regulation time concluded.
In the first period of extra time, Sommer was called into action on several occasions, including a big save on Moreno and a diving stop on a curling effort by Mikel Oyarzabal. The goalkeeper made three more saves in the second period to make sure the match went to a penalty kick shootout.
Having missed their first two penalties in open play at this tournament, Spain’s struggles continued when captain Sergio Busquets struck the left post with his attempt to start the shootout. Rodri also had his penalty kick saved a few rounds later.
However, despite the fact they had already won a match via shootout at this tournament, Switzerland were the worse team on this day. After Mario Gavranovic made the first attempt, the Swiss would see their next two shots saved by goalkeeper Unai Simón before Ruben Vargas blazed his kick over the bar.
Oyarzabal would step up to convert his kick into the bottom right corner and send Spain to their fifth Euro semifinals.
Italy 2, Belgium 1
Belgium started this match on the front foot, but they were fortunate not to go down 1-0 in the 13th minute. Italy’s Leonardo Bonucci had the ball in the net following a free kick, but VAR correctly disallowed the goal because he was offside.
After being taken off early due to injury in their previous match, Belgium’s Kevin De Bruyne started and almost put them ahead in the 22nd minute, but goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma made a spectacular diving save to his right. Belgium broke on another quick counterattack a few minutes later, but Romelu Lukaku’s low effort was also stopped by the Italian goalie.
Italy finally got it right in the 31st minute when they got the ball to Nicolò Barella in the box following a turnover. He was able to force his way in between three Belgian defenders before beating goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois with a shot to the bottom left corner.
They made it 2-0 just before halftime when Lorenzo Insigne picked the ball up at midfield, beat one defender on a run towards the top of the box, then let loose a thunderous effort that slightly curled into the right side of the net.
Belgium were given a lifeline a minute later in stoppage time when Jeremy Doku was brought down in the box and Lukaku stepped up to bury the penalty kick and halve the deficit.
Belgium’s best chance to equalize in the second half came in the 61st minute when De Bruyne squared a ball to the back post for Lukaku, but the striker was unable to get any power on his shot and it was blocked by Leonardo Spinazzola.
The left-back has been one of Italy’s best players this tournament, but he had to stretchered off the field in the 79th minute after he pulled up lame trying to chase a Belgium player. Still, Italy were able to hold on and advance to their sixth Euro semifinals, which will be a rematch of the 2012 final vs. Spain.
Denmark 2, Czech Republic 1
Either side would have favored themselves to advance from this matchup, but it was Denmark who struck first in 5th minute when Thomas Delaney was left unmarked at the penalty spot on a corner kick and he was able to direct his header into the far-left corner.
They almost had their second in the 13th minute when Mikkel Damsgaard was sprung into the right side of the box with a ball over the top, but his lifted effort lacked pace and was eventually collected by the Czech defense.
Outside of a couple of shots from Tomáš Holeš, the Czech Republic didn’t offer much in attack and they paid for it just before halftime. Joakim Mæhle hit a cross from the left flank with the outside of his right foot, curling it perfectly to striker Kasper Dolberg, who was able to head home from close range to make it 2-0.
It must have been a fiery halftime talk from manager Jaroslav Šilhavý as the Czech Republic forced goalkeeper Kasper Schmeichel into two great saves straight away before Patrik Schick scored his fifth goal of the tournament with a side-footed effort into the left corner in the 49th minute.
From that point, the Danes were able to tighten up defense while the likes of Yussuf Poulsen and Mæhle kept goalkeeper Tomáš Vaclík on his toes with strong efforts on net. A late volley from Antonín Barák was the closest the Czechs got to a equalizer.
Despite how they started at Euro 2020, Denmark advance to their fourth semifinal appearance at this tournament in their country’s history.
England 4, Ukraine 0
The confidence of the English media and supporters in their team was rewarded early on in the 4th minute when Raheem Sterling played in Harry Kane with a beautiful through ball and the striker was able to score for the second straight match with a shot towards the left corner.
Ukraine almost were able to take advantage of a turnover in the 17th minute, but Roman Yaremchuk would see his effort saved at the near post by goalkeeper Jordan Pickford. England controlled much of the possession but went into the break only up one.
England caught Ukraine napping to begin the second half when Harry Maguire leaped to meet a free kick into the box by his Manchester United teammate Luke Shaw and headed home to make it 2-0.
It was 3-0 a few minutes later when Shaw played another scrumptious cross into the box that Kane was able to head home from inside the six-yard box for his second goal of the match.
The Tottenham man almost got his hat trick in the 62nd minute on a beautifully hit volley, but goalkeeper Georgiy Bushchan got up to make the save. However, England would score on the ensuing corner, with Jordan Henderson scoring his first ever goal for his country on a header inside the six-yard box.
A long-range effort from Yevhen Makarenko was the best Ukraine could come up with, but they were no match for an English defense that kept their fifth straight clean sheet of the tournament. They advance to their third Euro semifinals, where they’ll return home to Wembley to face Denmark.
For more of my soccer coverage, check out “Atletico TV” on Facebook and the “Gateway to Soccer Show” on YouTube, as well my previous recaps here.