Lewis Ambrose

With the help of football writer @LGAmbrose, the Cloudbet Blog takes a look at the semi-finals. Italy and Spain both have storied recent histories in the tournament, while Denmark are the long-shots as England look for their first major final since 1966.

Italy vs Spain: Midfield battle and Spinazzola injury key

A replay of the 2012 final at Wembley, Italy are favourites this time as they meet Spain at Wembley.

These two sides are drenched in Euros history; the 2020 final will be the sixth of this century and the fourth - after 2000, 2008 and 2012 - to feature at least one of these two sides. Italy lost to France in 2000 and Spain in 2012, a back-to-back Spanish win having beaten Germany in 2008. 

Yet a lot has changed since that final showdown between these two great footballing nations. Spain’s midfield was dominant back then, lining up with six natural central-midfielders. Italy have taken inspiration from that humbling defeat and now dominate possession themselves. The key to their success this summer has been the brilliance of Jorginho, Marco Verratti and Nicolo Barella - the midfield trio always in control. Only two teams - Spain and Germany - have had a better pass completion at Euro 2020 so far.

This will truly be a midfield battle, but the key to the game lies elsewhere. Can Italy’s ageing backline deal with smart movement in behind, if and when Spain manage to find space? Alvaro Morata will be key in linking play and competing with the centre-backs, with Pedri and Ferran Torres able to threaten in behind.

As for Italy, look out for Barella and Domenico Berardi on the right flank. Italy have depended heavily on the superb relationship between Leonardo Spinazzola and Lorenzo Insigne on the left this tournament, but the former tore his Achilles in the quarter-final defeat of Belgium.

In his absence, the right side of the Italy attack will be more important and could have more space to exploit when Jordi Alba ventures forward from left back for Spain. Berardi (or Federico Chiesa, who started against Belgium) could have more space than any other Italian and their combinations with Barella, who scored the opener against Belgium, will be vital if Italy are to make their way to another title shot.

Italy to win: 2.51
Spain to win: 3.16
Draw (90 mins): 3.26

England vs Denmark: England have to find alternatives

England are back at Wembley, which only serves to strengthen their position as favourites against the most unfancied of the semi-finalists. Gareth Southgate’s men are still yet to concede a goal this tournament, with five clean sheets being the best England run in any tournament in history.

However, they now face a Denmark side that has managed 1.82 xG per 90 minutes so far this the tournament. Only Italy and Spain - the two other semi-finalists - have taken more shots per 90 minutes than the Danes this summer.

England have met one other truly decent side on their journey so far, and overcame Germany 2-0 in a game that saw both sides play cautious, risk averse football. That’s the sort of match that suited England well, playing into the hands of their strong defence before their top class forwards could make the difference late on.

This one is likely to be different, with Denmark showing a willingness to play on the front foot in every game so far - even against heavyweights Belgium in the group stage. England will likely try to match the Danes, and can take some solace in the fact that their two knockout games so far have been against teams who, like Denmark, have lined up with three-man backlines.

Like Germany, Denmark’s biggest outlet is their left wing-back, with Joakim Mæhle providing two goals and an assist at the tournament so far. His threat is likely to mean Bukayo Saka or Phil Foden comes back into the side to replace Jadon Sancho, who finally made his first Euros start in the win over Ukraine. Meanwhile, the England centre-backs will have to keep a keen eye on Kasper Dolberg, who didn’t start until the knockout rounds but now has three goals in two games.

Denmark are stronger from set-pieces than Ukraine, so that may not be such a great avenue of attack for England, but Jannik Vestergaard could be a weak point at centre-back as Mæhle ventures forward outside him. Whoever plays on the right for England will have to balance their jobs well but, if they get into space, they will have the pleasure of finding player of the tournament contender Raheem Sterling and a now-in-form Harry Kane in the middle.

Those two will again be the dangermen as England find themselves just 90 minutes from their first major tournament final since 1966.

England to win: 1.72
Denmark to win: 5.65
Draw (90 mins): 3.71

In the overall outright winners market England are now favourites for the title at 2.58, followed by Italy (3.19), Spain (4.20) and Denmark (10.00). Cristiano Ronaldo remains firm favourite for the Golden Boot with his five goals (1.22), although Harry Kane (8.00) and Raheem Sterling (9.00) are currently both on three, with potentially two games to catch him. Kasper Dolberg is next at 36.0.

Jul 6, 2021

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