The first two quarter-finals resulted in wins for Germany and Portugal, while the two Group A sides, Czech Republic and Greece, were sent packing. Who will prevail in the other two matches, and progress to the semi-finals?
Spain (Group C, 1st) v France (Group D, 2nd)
The Spaniards have impressed so far, confounding the doubters that said their Barca-based players wouldn’t perform following their La Liga and Champions League heartbreaks. Despite not being able to overcome a defensively-rigid Italy side in their first match, they looked solid in their following games against Republic of Ireland and Croatia. Iniesta and Xavi have looked dangerous as usual, and Fernando Torres will have gained confidence following an inspired performance against the Irish. France, on the other hand, will have been disappointed to slip to second in Group D, despite being in the driving seat on the final day. They slipped to a 2-0 defeat against the already-eliminated Swedes, allowing England to snatch top spot, and a potentially easier tie against the Italians. They aren’t to be underestimated however, as the likes of Nasri and Benzema are undoubtedly capable of penetrating even the best defences, as they have shown in winning their respective domestic leagues last season. Spain have an array of consistent performers, whereas France have players who can make a difference on their day, but can remain anonymous just as often. It’ll be down to whether or not the French players step up to the plate which will determine the sort of game we’ll see tonight.
England (Group D, 1st) v Italy (Group C, 2nd)
The Roy Hodgson era has been fruitful so far for England fans – four wins and a draw against a strong French side has cultivated a widespread optimism throughout the country, which wasn’t present in the build-up to the tournament. The performances of Steven Gerrard, the newly appointed captain under Hodgson, have been hugely encouraging – he assisted a goal in each of England’s games, and is being praised as one of the stars of the tournament so far. Wayne Rooney marked his return from suspension with the crucial winning goal against Ukraine, and despite a fairly lacklustre performance, he made the difference. Italy will rely heavily on Andrea Pirlo, the creative midfielder has rolled back the years this summer, and shown that he still has the ability to play at the very highest level. The fiery, hot-headed pair of Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli will hope to rough up the English defence, and both are players who are capable of making the difference. This should be the toughest test for Hodgson’s men so far, and a victory would reward them with a tie against Germany.