Euro 2024 last 16: tie-by-tie analysis

Switzerland v Italy

Italy are unbeaten against Switzerland in 11 games stretching back to qualifying for the 1994 World Cup but they look vulnerable here. They were worryingly open against both Albania and Spain and the switch to a back three against Croatia only seemed to make them flatter going forward. In goal Gianluigi Donnarumma has had a fine tournament, but a lack of creativity and the absence of a top-class centre-forward are major issues.

Gianluigi Donnarumma has been in great form for Italy during the group stage. Photograph: Harry Langer/DeFodi Images/Shutterstock

For all the pre-tournament talk that they might be over the hill, Switzerland, by contrast, have been incisive and inventive, with their coach Murat Yakin having a clearly defined and different plan for each game. Breel Embolo is now fit enough to start and his hold-up play, supplemented by the pace of Dan Ndoye going beyond him, represents a major threat. The one caveat is that they were less effective when Scotland sat deep against them – which may offer Italy a game plan.

Verdict Narrow Switzerland win

Germany v Denmark

Imperious against Scotland and good enough against Hungary, Germany misfired sufficiently in their draw with Switzerland to cast doubt on the sustainability of their improvement under Julian Nagelsmann. Were they actually that good against Scotland, or were Scotland just terrible? The link-up between Jamal Musiala and Florian Wirtz has been effective, but there are doubts as to whether they’re best served with Kai Havertz dropping off or the more robust talents of Niclas Füllkrug at centre-forward.

Are Denmark good enough to trouble them? Probably not – although that’s what people thought before the final of Euro 92 which Denmark won 2-0. They flickered against Slovenia and England but are very reliant on Christian Eriksen for creativity. Well as he played in the opening game, the Manchester United midfielder struggles to last a full 90 minutes. But Denmark are solid enough, so if Germany aren’t quite at their sharpest, they could make life difficult.

Verdict Solid Germany win

England v Slovakia

Three days before the Brexit referendum, England drew 0-0 with Slovakia at Euro 2016. Now they face them at this Euros four days before the general election that is likely to oust a prime minister who only came to power because of the chaos that followed that vote. A lot has happened in the intervening eight years. Slovakia are not the side they were then. For a long time they were a by-word for mid-ranking low-block tedium but they have been transformed under the Calabrian former coffee salesman Francesco Calzona into a genuinely progressive side. Ivan Schranz coming in at the back post could be a major threat, particularly given England’s unresolved issues at left-back.

Cole Palmer was effective during his substitute appearance against Slovenia. Photograph: Visionhaus/Getty Images

There was – slight – improvement from England in the second half of the draw against Slovenia and where they have been effective in this tournament has been shutting (limited) opponents down. Whatever the development in Slovakian football, it’s hard to imagine a rip-roaring classic.

Verdict Grim England win

Spain v Georgia

Spain have probably been the best team of the tournament so far, Georgia the most fun. There was scepticism about Luis de la Fuente when he was appointed Spain manager but he seems to have achieved the remarkable feat of changing a football culture. Since winning the Euros in 2012, their third tournament in a row, Spanish football has remained technically brilliant, but too often their possession game seemed a little purposeless. In this tournament, though, thanks largely to the two wingers, Nico Williams and Lamine Yamal, they have been much more direct and, seemingly, much more dangerous – although they did somehow only beat Italy 1-0 despite overwhelming domination.

But, as they showed in the group stage, Georgia can pose a threat, and will relish the chance to attack the space behind Spain through the quick and skilful forwards Georges Mikautadze and Khvicha Kvaratskhelia. If they are to cause a shock, though, they may need another exceptional performance from their goalkeeper Giorgi Mamardashvili.

Verdict Thrilling Spain win

France v Belgium

There has been a sense since they were demolished by a Michel Platini hat-trick at Euro 84 that Belgium have had a psychological issue with their neighbours. They haven’t beaten them in a competitive game since and were oddly passive in losing to them in the World Cup semi-final in 2018. If they’re passive in Düsseldorf on Monday, though, nobody will think it odd. This Belgium just are passive – so much against Ukraine when they protected a point that took them through rather than chasing a win that would have earned a place in the notionally easier half of the draw that their fans booed them off.

Kylian Mbappé has yet to produce his brilliant best in Germany. Photograph: Jose Breton/NurPhoto/Shutterstock

Not that France have been anything special so far, a court in thrall to Kylian Mbappé who, for all his brilliance, causes tactical problems by his lack of involvement in defensive actions. Plus he’s diminished by playing in a mask to protect his broken nose.

Verdict Glum France win

Portugal v Slovenia

Portugal produced one indelible performance at the last World Cup, when their legions of brilliant attacking midfielders found a mesmerising rhythm and they hammered Switzerland 6-1. Their centre-forward scored a hat-trick. Since when Gonçalo Ramos has been sidelined, an ageing Cristiano Ronaldo has returned and Portugal have been gummed up, only partly by the pitch-invading hordes of selfie-hunters who have closed him down with an urgency entirely absent from England’s press.

Slovenia showed against England how good they are at sitting deep and frustrating an opponent, the central defensive pairing of Jaka Bijol and Vanja Drkusic ensuring the injury to Miha Blazic has gone largely unnoticed. And as they showed against both Denmark and Serbia, they can mount a threat on the break, and aren’t afraid to unleash their full-backs, Zan Karnicnik and Erik Janza; there will be defensive work to do for Bernardo Silva and Rafael Leão. Much will depend on whether Bruno Fernandes can find space.

Verdict Plodding Portugal win

Romania v Netherlands

No group winner got fewer points than Romania, and only England of the group winners were so unconvincing. Romania at least had their 3-0 win over Ukraine but a stunning long-range strike and a goalkeeping error are not necessarily something to be relied upon. The vital penalty against Slovakia was dubious as well.

Netherlands’ fans have brought their colour and passion to Euro 2024. Photograph: Boris Streubel/Uefa/Getty Images

The Netherlands have won lost only one of 13 previous meetings with Romania and should maintain that record, although they also looked distinctly fallible in the group stage, at least when asked to take the game to the opposition as they will be here. They were better against France when they could use the pace of their forward line in transition, but Virgil van Dijk has been unusually uncertain and Ronald Koeman clearly still has major questions about the right flank. In midfield, Tijjani Reijnders does not yet look the keystone Koeman would apparently like him to be.

Verdict Scratchy Netherlands win

Austria v Turkey

Austria and Turkey were two of the revelations of the group stage. Both won two games and played rapid, engaging football. They played it in different ways, though: Turkey were remarkably stretched in all three games, which is one of the reasons all three were so end to end; there was little sense of control. So while Hakan Calhanoglu and Arda Guler are certainly capable of doing something brilliant, the suspicion is that the greater organisation of Austria will prevail, as it did in a friendly in March when they beat them 6-1.

Romano Schmid celebrates after scoring for Austria against the Netherlands. Photograph: Alex Livesey/Getty Images

This tournament so far has been Ralf Rangnick’s redemption. He may not be temperamentally suited to big club jobs, but the football side of the Red Bull project is his brainchild and he is reaping the benefits with a national team, many of whom have imbibed the philosophy from an early age. Deft squad rotation should also help.

Verdict Emphatic Austria win

The Guardian