Euro 2020 Tactical View: Italy, England and Denmark to advance

England manager Gareth Southgate
England should ease through to the last four.

Alex Keble has four bets from the Euro 2020 quarter-final matches, predicting Italy will beat Belgium while Spain and Switzerland will entertain us...

"Although Gareth Southgate’s use of a conservative 3-4-3 was fully vindicated in the victory over Germany, England should switch to a more attacking 4-2-3-1 for their quarter-final."

Swiss crosses could create end-to-end game

Switzerland v Spain
Friday, 17:00
Live on ITV

The two survivors from the 14-goal thrillers on Monday might be about to continue the carnage, primarily because their respective strengths correlate with the other's weaknesses. For Spain, Luis Enrique's high defensive line is designed to prevent them from having to deal with crossing situations, which their narrow 4-3-3 is neither good at blocking nor good at dealing with the resulting aerial challenge.

Switzerland's main tactic is to get their wing-backs into dangerous areas and cross for Haris Seferovic, which they did successfully against France on the counter-attack. However, as they pour forward down the flanks Spain will expect to subsequently find joy through midfield, where Enrique enacts his aggressive vertical football by instructing Koke and Pedri to peel wide to receive progressive passes from Sergio Busquets.

That is not something Switzerland are good at coping with, having been hurt badly through central midfield against both Italy and France, conceding three times in both games. Their 3-4-1-2 is a little light on numbers in the middle and probably won't cope well with the pressure, creating a free-flowing start to the quarter-finals.

Italy to dominate midfield and grind Belgium down

Belgium v Italy
Friday, 20:00
Live on BBC One

Belgium looked leggy towards the end of their last 16 tie and, having been outshot 22-6 by Portugal, were lucky to go through. Fernando Santos turned the game by introducing Bruno Fernandes and Joao Felix, who between them began to control central midfield - exposing the problem with Roberto Martinez's two-man midfield of Axel Witsel and Youri Tielemans. It is an area of the pitch Belgium will struggle in once more.

Manuel Locatelli, Marco Verratti, and Jorginho should completely dominate the ball here, gradually grinding down Martinez's side, a problem only made worse by the absence of Kevin de Bruyne and Eden Hazard.

There is a lot of pressure on Romelu Lukaku, but he may well enjoy playing on the break against a slow Italian defence, plus Martinez might choose to switch to a 3-5-2 and bring Leander Dendoncker in to sure up midfield. Belgium are not without hope.

But Italy also have an advantage on the flanks. Throughout the tournament Belgium have looked vulnerable in spaces behind their advanced wing-backs, while Italy are increasingly dominant here. From the left, Leonardo Spinazzola is overlapping expertly and from the right Federico Chiesa surely deserves a start after his heroics against Austria. These two direct dribblers can get behind the wing-backs and secure the victory.

Like Dave Farrar elsewhere on these pages I am confident the Italians will advance from this tie.

Roberto Martinez - 1280.jpg

Denmark can nullify Czech threat

Czech Republic v Denmark
Saturday, 17:00
Live on ITV

Czech Republic have a clear tactical strategy at this tournament: to play a direct, long ball game with plenty of crosses into star player Patrik Schick. Three of the Czechs' five goals have been from set-pieces; Spain are the only side left at Euro 2020 who attempt more crosses than Czech Republic's 17 per match; and their 60 long balls per 90 is the second highest among the 24 nations.

Denmark have the personnel to stop this from working, giving them the platform to reach the last four. Their use of wing-backs in a 3-4-2-1 formation will present the Czechs with a new challenge at this tournament, and even if the Denmark wing-backs are unable to push up to block the crosses we can anticipate a powerful back three of Andreas Christensen, Simon Kjaer, and Jan Vestergaard winning their aerial duels.

When on the attack, Denmark will surely have too much for Czech Republic to cope. Their fluid front three is playing with great confidence and this surprisingly attacking team, able to pin their opponents for long periods, should use their psychological advantage to score an early goal and set the tempo.

Southgate needs to switch formation again

Ukraine v England
Saturday, 20:00
Live on BBC One

Although Gareth Southgate's use of a conservative 3-4-3 was fully vindicated in the victory over Germany, England should switch to a more attacking 4-2-3-1 for their quarter-final.

Ukraine are the weakest team left in the competition, reaching this stage thanks to a Sweden red card and a single group stage win over North Macedonia, and Andriy Shevchenko will undoubtedly sit in a very deep defensive blockade.

Consequently this will be more like the Scotland and Czech Republic games than the Germany one, meaning England need to work hard to play with a high tempo and probe for small spaces in the final third. It is the ideal game for Jack Grealish, who magnetises defenders towards him and therefore can pull the opponent out of their shell, and for Mason Mount - whose buzzing energy can shift Shevchenko's defence from side to side.

It also makes sense to bring Jordan Henderson in for one of the two central midfielders, then sub one for the other in the second half, since both Declan Rice and Kalvin Philips are a booking away from suspension. There is no reason not to trust Southgate, and surely he will recognise that a completely different tactical challenge demands reverting back to a four-man defence.

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