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Five things we learned from the Euro 2024 quarter-finals

Five things we learned from the Euro 2024 quarter-finals, as England, Spain, France and the Netherlands booked their passage to the last four.

Unconvincing England show spirit to reach last four

England are into a third semi-final in four tournaments under Gareth Southgate and while it’s not been an easy watch, the Three Lions remain in contention. Against Switzerland, Southgate tweaked his team with a change in shape, a tactical approach that made England better off the ball, even if there was still a notable lack of chance creation.

Once again it was an individual moment that rescued England, as Bukayo Saka’s sharp finish forced extra-time after Breel Embolo’s opener for the Swiss. Having fallen behind just five minutes earlier, it was another moment of character from Southgate’s side to find their 80th-minute leveller, following on from Jude Bellingham’s last-gasp heroics in the last 16.

England have not been convincing but a refusal to be beaten bodes well for the rest of the tournament. Past teams have wilted under pressure but the Three Lions, so far, have shown impressive powers of recovery. A flawless five-from-five record in the shootout also indicates a team more confident than performances so far have suggested. Hope remains alive.

Spain start semi-finals as favourites

Spain entered this tournament as outsiders with France, England, Germany and Portugal all favoured ahead of La Roja, but as the semi-finals approach the Spanish are most people’s prediction to win Euro 2024.

Luis de la Fuente’s side have been almost flawless so far and edged out Germany in the battle of the teams of the tournament so far. Mikel Merino’s late winner in extra time sent Spain through, where France await in a seismic semi-final showdown.

Spain’s three-in-a-row tournament-winning Golden Generation has been and gone but the current side are aiming to make their own history. With an exciting change in style and game-changers in reserve, Spain have a real chance of a record-breaking fourth European Championship this summer.

France hoping old saying rings true

“Attack wins you games, defence wins you titles,” Sir Alex Ferguson once famously said and France will be hoping the former Manchester United manager’s mantra rings true this summer. Les Bleus entered Euro 2024 as favourites for success but the World Cup finalists have looked out-of-sorts so far.

Incredibly, Didier Deschamps’ side are into the semi-finals without a single France player scoring from open play. France have just three goals from five games, consisting of two own goals and a Kylian Mbappe penalty.

Fortunately, France have been solid in defence with just one goal conceded and none from open play, with Robert Lewandowski’s spot-kick the only effort to have passed Mike Maignan in goal.

The AC Milan goalkeeper kept France in the game against Portugal in the quarter-finals, before the post denied Joao Felix in the penalty shootout to decide the contest.

Spain are up next in what will be the toughest examination of France’s challenge.

Portugal must move on from Ronaldo

Portugal will feel this tournament was a missed opportunity. An exit in the quarter-finals, even to a team as talented as France, is underwhelming for this squad. Portugal, however, are counting the cost of being unable to move on from Cristiano Ronaldo.

The 39-year-old was the second-highest scorer in qualification but there’s a difference between rattling in goals against the likes of Luxembourg and Liechtenstein and doing so against the top teams at major tournaments. Against elite opposition, more than goals is required and when the goals don’t arrive, the shortcomings are even more evident.

While Didier Deschamps had the character to withdraw Kylian Mbappe after an off night for the France forward, Portugal persisted with their ageing icon.

It was a mistake. Ronaldo ends Euro 2024 having failed to score at a major tournament for the first time, despite 23 shots on goal. He hasn’t scored in the knockout stages of a major tournament since Euro 2016, while his insistence on taking set-pieces has frustrated, with one free-kick scored from 60 attempts at major tournaments.

It’s important to note Portugal did not lose because of Ronaldo but their refusal to acknowledge his limitations that have come with time has been costly. He played the second-most minutes of any outfield player, while Diogo Jota and Goncalo Ramos – two alternative and more mobile options – watched from the sidelines.

Portugal should be forever grateful to Ronaldo, who has done more for the national team than perhaps any other player, but time waits for no one. If Portugal are to come again at the World Cup in 2026 tough changes must be made.

Güler a gem among tournament of emerging stars

Euro 2024 has been a tournament for emerging names and Arda Güler exits with his reputation on the rise. The teenager was terrific for a Turkey team who entertained throughout, living up to his billing as one of Europe’s most exciting prospects.

Güler was outstanding even in defeat to the Netherlands in the last eight, with a wondrous weak-foot assist for Samet Akaydin to head home the opening goal and a fabulous free-kick that crashed off the woodwork. He ends the campaign with a goal and three assists, while his guile, self-belief and technique have been a pleasure to watch.

Turkey can take pride in their performance and optimism should be high with Güler in their ranks. Real Madrid and the Crescent-Stars have a gem.

Read – Euro 2024: Five players who impressed in the quarter-finals

See more – The most expensive Premier League transfers so far in summer 2024

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