Romelu Lukaku marked his 100th cap with a goal as Belgium swatted aside the Czech Republic 3-0 to move a step closer to an automatic place at the World Cup.

Chelsea striker Lukaku and former Blues forward Eden Hazard rampaged almost at will, with both getting on the scoresheet in a comfortable qualifying win for the Group E leaders at the King Baudouin Stadium in Brussels.

The Belgians remain top of the FIFA world rankings despite their quarter-final defeat to eventual winners Italy at Euro 2020, and this was a reminder of how they got there.

A two-goal cushion by half-time meant they were largely on cruise control afterwards, with Alexis Saelemaekers grabbing their third goal midway through the second period.

Adam Hlozek saw an early firecracker of a shot deflect wide for a corner off Jason Denayer, before Belgium's big guns did their damage.

The Czechs were caught out by Lukaku in the eighth minute as he ran in behind their defence to meet a precise pass from Hans Vanaken and finish coolly with his left foot into the bottom-right corner.

That was his 67th international goal and it was hardly a secret he would present the biggest threat to the Czech goal. Before half-time he had headed another chance over, thrashed a powerful shot that Tomas Vaclik parried away well, and scooped an 18-yard strike 10 yards over the crossbar.

Hazard had laid on each of those chances, and in the 41st minute the Real Madrid forward got the second goal himself, with a pass from Youri Tielemans cleverly helped on with a backheel by Vanaken into Hazard's path, and he toed the ball low beyond Vaclik.

A third goal arrived in the 65th minute as substitute Saelemaekers applied the finishing touches after sensational flicks from Hazard and Lukaku freed him to shoot.

That came moments after Hlozek almost cut the deficit with a thumping shot that Thibaut Courtois tipped behind, and the third goal truly killed the contest.

An over-eager Lukaku was booked for hacking down Filip Kasa while chasing giddily after the ball, before he was roared off the pitch 10 minutes from time, replaced by Michy Batshuayi for the closing stages.

The Czech Republic were no match for the United States as Jayson Tatum and Kevin Durant starred in a 119-84 romp.

Team USA's emphatic victory sealed their place in the quarter-finals as the second-placed side in Group A and ensured they will not face one of the pool winners.

Durant put up 23 points and six assists, overturning an early deficit, while Tatum led the team with 27 points, including five three-pointers.

Team USA's 20 threes represented the fourth time they have managed as many in an Olympic game,  also doing so against Argentina in 2012 (20), Lithuania in 2004 (21) and Nigeria in 2012 (29).

Due to the margin of defeat, the Czechs – who threatened an upset before falling away dramatically – will not progress into the next round as one of the best third-placed sides.

ROTATION GAME

France were able to rest some star names as they progressed. Les Bleus had won their opening two games and completed a clean sweep in Group A with a 79-62 victory over Iran.

Only one player – Timothe Luwawu Cabarrot – played more than 20 minutes, with star men Evan Fournier and Rudy Gobert given limited game time.

Nando De Colo enjoyed a highly efficient cameo in his 15 minutes on court, scoring 10 points on 100 per cent shooting while adding five rebounds and five assists.

Iran talisman Hamed Haddadi finished off his Olympic campaign with an 18-point showing, but it was not enough to keep his team in the tournament.

France have already beaten the United States, but Fournier dismissed the suggestion they are gold medal favourites.

"To be honest, I'm not even focused on the gold medal, just the quarter-finals," he said. "Any team that we are going to play there will have its strengths and weaknesses, but I can't tell you who I would prefer there because we don't even know who's going to be there."

AUSTRALIA CLAIM TOP SPOT

Patty Mills scored five threes in a haul of 24 points as he led Australia to an 89-76 victory over Germany.

The Boomers needed victory to secure first place in Group B and they did so with a 13-point margin to ensure they will be seeded in the quarter-final draw on Sunday.

Despite defeat, Germany will go through as one of the best third-placed teams.

Mills is heading into unrestricted free agency in the NBA, but his sole focus is on propelling Australia towards a medal.

"This is a lifetime of work in a matter of a couple of weeks. I'm making sure there are no distractions for me or my team-mates," he said.

MANNION SEALS FOURTH-QUARTER FIGHTBACK

Italy clinched a spot in the last eight by overturning an eight-point deficit at the start of the fourth quarter to beat Nigeria 80-71 in Group B.

Nico Mannion scored 14 points in 16 minutes, including a vital late effort from deep to help seal Italy's comeback success as Nigeria ended winless following a 24-8 fourth quarter.

"I think everybody is surprised with the way he's playing, he's showing everybody that he's a great player. Also, he's only 20 years old," Achille Polonara said of Golden State Warriors guard Mannion.

"I hope that he can help us like this in the next game, too. He's a great guy, he's very happy to stay with us, and we're very happy to have him."

The United States saw a 25-game winning streak in men's basketball at the Olympics come to an end as they were beaten by France in their first outing at Tokyo 2020.

Team USA arrived in Japan looking to strike gold for a fourth straight Games, yet their build-up had been anything but straightforward. Exhibition defeats to Australia and Nigeria raised concerns before travelling, while COVID-19 protocols ruled out Bradley Beal and Kevin Love was replaced at late notice by JaVale McGee.

Still, a squad including Kevin Durant, Damian Lillard and Jayson Tatum – as well as Khris Middleton and Jrue Holiday from the Milwaukee Bucks, the newly crowned NBA champions – saw the reigning champions listed as favourites.

France, though, caused an early upset at the start of the tournament. Evan Fournier starred with 28 points to help his team triumph 83-76 at the Saitama Super Arena.

There were wins for Australia and Italy too on Sunday, as well as a victory for the Czech Republic.

 

Big names come up short in shock defeat

Team USA had rounded out their build-up to the Games by beating Spain, yet there will be concerning signs for head coach Gregg Popovich following a flat performance against France.

They were successful with just 41 per cent of their two-point attempts and landed only 10 of the 32 shots put up from beyond the arc. Despite the shooting issues they still led 45-37 at half-time, only for the game to turn in a third quarter where they mustered a paltry 11 points.

Durant finished up with 10 points on 4-of-12 shooting, while Lillard had 11. The latter's slip that caused a turnover in the closing seconds when down by four rather summed up a disjointed performance from the entire roster, leading to a first loss at the Olympics since going down to Argentina at Athens 2004.

Devin Booker, who had helped the Phoenix Suns reach the NBA Finals, landed only one of his six attempts from the field, with Holiday (18 points) finishing as the USA's leading scorer having only joined up with the team on the day of the game.

Also in Group A, the Czech Republic recorded an 84-78 victory over Iran.

Ingles impressed, but Nigeria come up short

Nigeria had defeated both Argentina and the United States ahead of the Games, raising hopes of making an impact in Japan.

However, able to knock down just 29 per cent of their attempts from deep, they struggled to keep pace with Australia, scoring only 27 points in the entire second half as they went down 84-67.

Still, Joe Ingles – who had 11 points for Australia – praised the Nigerians for their display, particularly on defense as they forced 21 turnovers. Patty Mills was the leading scorer in the game, finishing with 25.

"You have to give a lot of credit to Nigeria, with how they played and the style they play," Ingles said. "They are up and in, they are athletic and get up the floor, and they obviously have a great coach [in Mike Brown].

"I think a lot of people underestimate the team and the country. They are a really good basketball team."

Meanwhile, Italy opened their Group B campaign with a 92-82 victory over Germany. Simone Fontecchio led the way with 20 points, including landing all five of his three-point attempts.

Patrik Schick's sensational long-range strike for the Czech Republic against Scotland has been voted Euro 2020's Goal of the Tournament.

The Bayer Leverkusen forward scored twice in the 2-0 win at Hampden Park on matchday one in the group stage, the second of those goals from just inside the Scotland half.

The goal was measured at 49.7 yards, making it the furthest distance a goal has been scored at the European Championship since such data was first recorded in 1980.

Schick spotted opposition goalkeeper David Marshall off his line and left the back-pedalling Scotsman red faced to overtake Torsten Frings' previous record of 38.6 yards for Germany against the Netherlands at Euro 2004.

 

Speaking after the match on June 14, Schick confirmed he had spotted Marshall off his line earlier in the contest and decided to have a go from range.

"I knew he liked to stay very high, so when the ball came, I quickly checked where he was standing, and it was a nice goal," he told BBC Sport. 

"I saw the keeper off his line. I checked already in the first half and thought maybe this situation will come."

The goal was voted the best from a shortlist of 10 compiled by UEFA's Technical Observer team, with nearly 800,000 votes being cast by the public.

Schick finished level with Cristiano Ronaldo as Euro 2020's top scorer with five goals in five games, but the Portugal superstar was awarded the Golden Boot as he also had one assist.

The 25-year-old's return of 81 minutes per goal was the third best of any player to have scored more than once in the tournament, behind Denmark's Kasper Dolberg (75.33) and Ronaldo (72).

Italy ended their 53-year wait for a second European Championship crown with victory over England in the Euro 2020 final at Wembley.

Leonardo Bonucci cancelled out an early Luke Shaw goal to take the game to extra time and then penalties, which the Azzurri edged 3-2 to inflict heartbreak on hosts England.

Italy's triumph was deserved on the basis of the qualifying campaign and the tournament itself; Roberto Mancini's side have now gone 34 games unbeaten in all competitions.

England can also be proud of their run, and it is perhaps no surprise that the two finalists dominate Stats Perform's best XI of the tournament.

Portugal forward Cristiano Ronaldo is also included in our Opta data-driven side, along with players from Switzerland, Spain, the Netherlands and the Czech Republic.

 

Goalkeeper: Yann Sommer (Switzerland)

Gianluigi Donnarumma may have been named UEFA's Player of the Tournament for his penalty shoot-out heroics against Spain and Italy, but Sommer gets the nod after enjoying an incredible tournament.

The Swiss goalkeeper saved a Kylian Mbappe penalty in his side's shoot-out win against France in the last 16 and made a tournament-high 21 saves in total, 10 of those coming in the eventual defeat to Spain on penalties in the quarter-finals.

 

Right-back: Denzel Dumfries (Netherlands)

Dumfries' reputation was certainly enhanced during Euro 2020, even if the Netherlands were sent packing by the Czech Republic at the last-16 stage.

He became just the second ever Netherlands player, after Ruud van Nistelrooy, to score in his first two European Championship appearances, while also helping his side to a couple of clean sheets in his four outings.

Centre-back: Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)

Juventus defender Bonucci was a rock at the heart of Italy's defence, particularly in the quarter-finals when frustrating Belgium's plethora of attackers.

No defender made more interceptions than the 34-year-old (12, level with Ukraine's Mykola Matvienko), and it was his bundled finish that drew his country level against England in the final.

Centre-back: John Stones (England)

England conceded just two goals all tournament, with only one of those coming in open play. A large part of that was down to ever-present defender Stones, who carried his club form with Manchester City onto the international stage.

Stones won 20 aerial challenges – the joint-second most of any defender in the competition, one behind Harry Maguire – and his 447 successful passes placed him behind only Jordi Alba (458) and club-mate Aymeric Laporte (644).

Left-back: Luke Shaw (England)

Shaw was left out for England's opening game against Croatia, but the full-back soon made himself a consistent presence. He was even compared to the great Roberto Carlos after starring with two assists against Ukraine in the quarter-finals.

The Manchester United defender provided three assists in total and netted the fastest-ever goal in a European Championship final with his volley against Italy. Those four goal involvements were bettered only by Patrik Schick (five) and Ronaldo (six).

 

Central midfield: Marco Verratti (Italy)

The Paris Saint-Germain midfielder was a major fitness doubt for the tournament and sat out Italy's first two matches, but boy did he make an impact in the following five games.

Since his first game against Wales on June 20, all-rounder Verratti ranked first among all midfielders at Euro 2020 for chances created (14), passes completed (388), progressive carries (59), tackles (18) and recoveries of possession (37).

Central midfield: Pedri (Spain)

A number of young players enjoyed a breakthrough tournament at this edition of the Euros, arguably none more so than Barcelona superstar in the making Pedri, who made more passes in the opposing half (348) than any other player at the Euros.

He became the second European player to start as many as five games at the age of 18 or below in major tournament history, after Northern Ireland's Norman Whiteside. Proving age is just a number, Pedri completed all 55 of his passes in regular time in the semi-final loss to Italy.

Right wing: Federico Chiesa (Italy)

Versatile wide player Chiesa was always going to be one to watch at the Euros, having stepped up on the big occasions for Juventus last season with goals in key matches, including their Coppa Italia triumph against Atalanta.

He scored Italy's extra-time opener in their last-16 win against Austria and put his side ahead against Spain in the semi-finals. He was not afraid to shoot – only three others did so on more occasions – and was arguably Italy's most dangerous player in the final.

Attacking midfield: Patrik Schick (Czech Republic)

Schick not only scored the joint-most goals, his five strikes putting him level with Ronaldo, but he was responsible for surely the most memorable one of the lot - a 49.7-yard lob against Scotland, the furthest ever distance a goal has been scored at a European Championships.

The Bayer Leverkusen forward found the net in all but one of his side's games, with three of his goals coming from open play, compared to just two for Golden Boot winner Ronaldo.

 

Left wing: Raheem Sterling (England)

England's run to the final would not have been possible if not for the fine form of Sterling, the Manchester City winger responsible for his side's first three goals in the competition.

That includes winning strikes against Croatia and the Czech Republic in the group stage, followed by the opener against Germany in the last 16, before assisting Kane's early goal against Ukraine. Even when not scoring he was a real threat, leading the way with 20 dribbles completed – four more than next player on the list in Frenkie de Jong.

Centre-forward: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

Even though it was far from a vintage tournament for Ronaldo and dethroned champions Portugal, the Juventus superstar still claimed the Golden Boot accolade thanks to having one assist more than fellow five-goal forward Schick.

Ronaldo's 72 minutes per goal was the best return of any player to have played at least three times in the tournament. His haul also moved him level with Iran great Ali Daei as the all-time leading goalscorer in men's international football with 109, a record that he will get a chance to break later this year.

 

Luka Doncic posted a triple-double to lead Slovenia to their first Olympics berth in men's basketball as European nations claimed the final four spots in the Tokyo 2020 field. 

Dallas Mavericks star Doncic had 31 points, 13 assists and 11 rebounds as Slovenia defeated hosts Lithuania 96-85 in Kaunas on Sunday. 

In other qualifying tournament finals, Italy stunned Serbia 102-95, Germany defeated Brazil 75-64 and the Czech Republic downed Greece 97-72. 

With those countries headed to Tokyo later this month, the field is now set. 

Group A will consist of defending champions the United States, France, Iran and the Czech Republic, with Australia, Nigeria, Germany and Italy in Group B.

In Group C, hosts Japan will contend with Argentina, Spain and Slovenia. 

Doncic and Slovenia face a difficult group, as Spain won the bronze medal at Rio 2016 after a close loss to the USA in the semi-finals, but the 22-year-old was ecstatic after qualifying. 

"I don't care about the MVP," Doncic said. "We won here. We're going to the Olympics, the first time in our country.

"It's amazing. I think every kid dreams about being in the Olympics. I did too. So, here we are. We fought really, really hard, and I think we deserve to be here."

Italy's defeat of short-handed Serbia, who were missing NBA MVP Nikola Jokic, was the biggest upset of the final qualifying round. 

Serbia were beaten finalists against Team USA in the Rio 2016 gold medal game, while Italy are in the Olympics for the first time since taking silver in Athens in 2004. 

 

Denmark and England have joined Italy and Spain in the semi-finals of Euro 2020, with the Czech Republic and Ukraine sent packing following their respective defeats.

England seemed to back up pre-tournament suggestions of them being among the favourites when they dumped Germany out in the last 16, and they picked up where they left off to make light work of Ukraine.

It was a slightly trickier occasion for Denmark in Baku earlier in the day, though ultimately the efforts of Patrik Schick weren't enough for the Czechs as they failed to emulate the 2004 vintage that reached the last four.

Following the conclusion of the quarter-finals, Stats Perform looks at the key data takeaways from Saturday's action.

 

Ukraine 0-4 England: Record-breaking Three Lions ruthless in big win

The odds were stacked against Ukraine ahead of this clash in Rome, but even the most ardent England fans probably wouldn't have predicted such a comprehensive win.

England quickly had the advantage as Raheem Sterling sliced open the defence and fed Harry Kane to open the scoring with three minutes and 32 seconds played, their earliest Euros goal since 2004 (2:25).

Ukraine may have taken some encouragement from the fact England's previous record when scoring in the first four minutes of a Euros game equated to no wins from five matches, but the game was effectively put beyond them within a four minutes of the restart – Harry Maguire and Kane nodding home Luke Shaw deliveries.

 

The Manchester United full-back reached three assists for the tournament in the process, tying an England record for a single European Championship (David Beckham, Euro 2000), while Kane's second of the game means he is level with Alan Shearer on nine major-tournament goals for the Three Lions, behind only Gary Lineker (10).

Jordan Henderson then completed the scoring off the bench with his first senior goal on his 62nd appearance, the longest ever wait by a player before breaking their duck for the Three Lions.

Ukraine's inability to breach the England defence meant the Three Lions have now kept seven successive clean sheets for the first time in their history.

But most impressively of all, this was England's biggest-ever win at the Euros and largest victory in the knockouts of any major tournament.

 

Czech Republic 1-2 Denmark: Schick ties with Ronaldo but Danes seal historic semi-final

Given their run in Euro 2020 has come against the backdrop of Christian Eriksen's health emergency on matchday one, it's little wonder Denmark have seemingly become the neutrals' favourites.

They moved a step close to emulating their remarkable Euro 92 success as they edged past the Czech Republic. Their 29-year gap between Euros semi-finals is the longest ever by a single nation in the competitions.

They prevailed despite the efforts of Patrik Schick. The striker got the Czechs back into the encounter with a tidy second-half finish that made him only the fourth player to score five goals in a single major tournament for Czech Republic/Czechoslovakia, also drawing him level with Cristiano Ronaldo in the race for the golden boot.

 

Earlier, though, Denmark had enjoyed a great start as Thomas Delaney headed in Denmark's second-earliest Euros goal (4:52) to level the country's all-time record for goals (10) at a single major tournament.

That record was then broken just before the break. Kasper Dolberg became Denmark's joint-top scorer in Euros history (three) with the effort that proved decisive, though Joakim Maehle's assist got most of the attention.

His outside-of-the-boot cross took him to three goal involvements (two goals, one assist) in his past three Denmark games, more than in his other 12.

Denmark certainly didn't have it all their own way, with the Czechs' 16 shots more than they managed in any other Euro 2020 game, but Kasper Hjulmand's men held firm to secure their passage to Wembley.

 

 

Denmark's squad are constantly thinking of Christian Eriksen as their Euro 2020 adventure continues, so says Kasper Hjulmand.

The Danes beat the Czech Republic 2-1 on Saturday to progress to their fourth European Championship semi-final – and their first since they won the tournament in 1992.

Hjulmand's side, whose tally of 11 goals in the competition trails only Spain, will face Ukraine or England at Wembley on Wednesday after Thomas Delaney and Kasper Dolberg saw them through in Baku.

Denmark – the first team to qualify from the group stage despite losing their first two games – have become the story of the tournament following Eriksen's cardiac arrest on the pitch in Copenhagen in their opener against Finland.

 

Eriksen has subsequently recovered and is in regular contact with his team-mates, who have gone from strength to strength, garnering a wave of support not just at home, but across the continent.

"I think the whole world of football understood that second, and the days after, the fundamental things in life and in football, the fundamental values of football came through right at that moment," Hjulmand told a news conference.

"There are so many other agendas in football, but we all remembered why we started to play football, what values football is based on and we had a reminder of this.

"I am still thinking of Christian every single day. He should have been here.

"We are happy that he survived, we carry him all the way to this match and all the way to Wembley. I think about him all of the time.

"We all understood maybe that the values of football came through – and maybe we are a symbol of it. I could not be more happy than that.

"We are just happy and proud we can maybe just remind ourselves why we love football and what football can do in the world."

 

Denmark's first-half display ultimately did the damage against the Czech Republic, who dragged one back through Patrik Schick early in the second half.

Schick joined Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the Euro 2020 scoring charts, but will not get the chance to add to his tally as Denmark held firm.

Delaney got things started for before Dolberg joined a host of Denmark legends on three goals at European Championships, and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder added of Eriksen: "It is still something we are struggling with, but making him proud makes me happy."

Maybe it's wishful thinking, but if Denmark could pick a moment to remember from their Euro 2020 campaign, surely this would be near the top of the list.

Toe-poke, trivela, call it what you will – Joakim Maehle's outside-of-the-foot cross for the second goal against the Czech Republic was one of the finest pieces of skill seen at these finals.

With enough pace to elude defenders but not the arriving Kasper Dolberg, curling away from Czech heads and onto the striker's foot, it was impudent expertise of the highest order.

It was also entirely in keeping with Maehle's standard of performances at this tournament. This was no fluke or Hail Mary; this was calculated brilliance by a player at the top of his game.

Maehle's form has been a bit of a subplot to Denmark's amazing run to the semi-finals. The team spirit and the tactical nous of Kasper Hjulmand have been praised at almost every turn since that awful moment when Christian Eriksen's life was in danger during their opening match with Finland. But there are individual stars to shout about, too, and Maehle most of all.

After netting the fourth goal in the decisive group win over Russia, Maehle struck a superb third in the 4-0 defeat of Wales in the previous round. Before the quarter-finals, no defender had scored more goals, taken more shots (nine) or completed more dribbles (11) than the Atalanta wing-back.

Calling him a 'defender' might sound a stretch – playing his club football at Atalanta, he is certainly prized as much for his work in the opponents' half as his own. Yet defend he does, when the need arises: against Wales, no Denmark player made more tackles (two) or interceptions (three), while the Czech Republic's Lukas Masopust was hauled off at half-time of Saturday's quarter-final after touching the ball just 15 times, his playground on the right-hand side locked down by Denmark's marauding left-back.

 

By the end of their 2-1 win, a result that made Denmark the first team to reach the semi-finals of the Euros after losing twice in the group stage, Maehle had misplaced just three passes in total and completed 91 per cent in the Czech Republic half, the most of any starting player for Hjulmand's side. He should have had a second goal, too, Tomas Vaclik saving well at his near post to deny Maehle from his latest surge into the box.

Denmark can now look forward to a semi-final, their first at a major tournament since that shock trophy win in 1992. They have scored 11 times at these finals, their best return at either the World Cup or European Championship. Maehle has been directly involved in three of them, and each one has been a real moment of magic.

What happened to Eriksen has not been forgotten, and nor should it. The actions of the medical staff and the dignity of Denmark's players, coaches and fans will deserve praise long after this tournament is over.

But mostly, Euro 2020 must be about the football: about hopes and dreams, surprise results, and outstanding performances. In that regard, Maehle has delivered more than most.

Patrik Schick's fifth goal at Euro 2020 was not enough to inspire a comeback as Denmark beat the Czech Republic 2-1 to take their place in the semi-finals.

Schick joined Cristiano Ronaldo at the top of the scoring charts with his fifth goal of the tournament early in the second half in Baku.

Yet he will have no further opportunity to add to his tally, as a fantastic first-half performance, which included goals from Thomas Delaney and Kasper Dolberg, ensured Denmark reached the last four of a Euros for the first time since they won the 1992 edition.

Kasper Hjulmand's team, whose tally of 11 goals trails only fellow semi-finalists Spain, will face either England or Ukraine on Wednesday.

 

Approximately 1,500 Danish supporters were able to make the trip to Baku, and they were celebrating within five minutes.

Jens Stryger Larsen's corner – which should not have been awarded – found Delaney unmarked, and the Borussia Dortmund midfielder made no mistake with a brilliant header.

On his 21st birthday, Mikkel Damsgaard just failed to squeeze a finish beyond Tomas Vaclik from a tight angle, before Stryger Larsen and Delaney combined for another chance – the latter scuffing wide.

Dolberg made no such mistake three minutes before half-time, however, as he cushioned home from Joakim Maehle's exquisite, outside-of-the-foot cross from the left.

Antonin Barak drew a fine save out of Kasper Schmeichel following the restart, with Simon Kjaer then getting a vital block on Schick's overhead kick.

Yet the Czech Republic's pressure told in the 49th minute – Schick placing a measured first-time finish into the bottom-left corner after being found by Vladimir Coufal.

Tomas Soucek made a brave block to deny Yussuf Poulsen just after the hour, though the Czechs were dealt a blow when Ondrej Celustka succumbed to injury.

Poulsen was let off the hook for another miss when Kjaer cleared in front of a gaping goal soon after, and with Schick going off with an apparent injury late on, Denmark held firm to book their spot at Wembley.

Czech players know a thing or two about unforgettable Euros goals.

In 1976, Czechoslovakia became European Champions after Antonin Panenka unveiled his audacious dinked penalty – imitations of which still bear his name to this day.

Karel Poborsky's sensational scoop sunk Portugal as the Czech Republic charted an unlikely course to the final of Euro 96.

Such heroics secured Poborsky a dream move to Manchester United and a handful of Premier League clubs have reportedly had their attention piqued by Patrik Schick's exploits at Euro 2020.

Schick's sensational goal from halfway, part of a brace in the 2-0 win over Scotland at Hampden Park, will remain one of this tournament's enduring moments, but it was no flash in the pan.

The Bayer Leverkusen striker slotted home to seal an assured last-16 win over the 10-man Netherlands, moving on to four for the competition.

With Cristiano Ronaldo (five), Emil Forsberg, Karim Benzema and Romelu Lukaku (all four) having packed their bags, Schick has a chance to further boost his Golden Boot prospects in Saturday's Baku quarter-final against Denmark.

It would see him emulate another of his country's footballing heroes, the Euro 2004 top scorer Milan Baros, and burnish a reputation that has taken a battering over recent years.

From Samp star to Roman ruin

In 2017, Schick was on the brink of the sort of dream move Poborsky secured two decades earlier.

A stunning breakout season at Sampdoria in 2016-17, where he scored 13 goals in 35 appearances in all competitions – only 15 of which were starts - captured the attention of Juventus.

The clubs agreed a fee in the region of €25million and Schick was even pictured on Juve's website in club training kit for a medical, but that was where the problems started.

 

Juventus pulled out of the deal, amid speculation that tests had uncovered cardiac problems. This was dismissed as "a farce" by Sampdoria owner Massimo Ferrero and, after Roma stepped in to take Schick off their hands, further examinations gave the forward the all-clear.

However, Juve's loss did not become Roma's gain as Schick failed to reproduce his Sampdoria form.

"Do I wonder what might have been? No, I've already closed it out," he told Czech newspaper Lidovky in June 2018, but his output on the field in his debut season at the Stadio Olimpico told a different story.

Schick scored just three goals in all competitions as he struggled to dislodge first-choice striker Edin Dzeko and was often shunted out to the right wing. His shot conversion rate plummeted from 28.9 per cent at Samp during the previous campaign to 8.1 in 2017-18.

A similarly fallow 2018-19 followed (five goals in 32 appearances) and Schick needed a fresh start.

Rebuilding in the Bundesliga

RB Leipzig took Schick on a season-long loan and across all competitions in 2019-20, as the Bundesliga club reached the semi-finals of the Champions League, he scored 10 times in 28 appearances (18 starts).

It was a solid if unspectacular return, but a huge step in the right direction and one that meant Roma were able to make their money back as Schick joined Bayer Leverkusen on a five-year deal ahead of last season.

His rehabilitation continued impressively at the BayArena, hitting 13 goals for the first time since he came to prominence at Sampdoria four seasons earlier.

According to Opta, Schick's big chance conversion rate was up to 40.9 per cent, having dwindled at 33.3 in his post-Samp years. A total of 32 chances created for team-mates was his best in the top-five leagues.

 

It laid the foundation for a stunning Euro 2020 so far, where the variety of Schick's goals has caught the eye.

His showstopper against Scotland was preceded by a fine, towering header. He kept his nerve from the penalty spot against Croatia before coolly converting after Tomas Holes' run scattered a tiring Netherlands.

Going for gold

This body of work leaves Schick in contention for his own piece of history. He is one shy of Baros' five-goal haul, which included a quarter-final brace against Denmark that he would dearly love to emulate.

Indeed, in Euros 80, 92, and 2012, Schick's haul would already have been enough to take home the Golden Boot, with the joint-top scorers in each of those tournaments scoring three apiece.

He and everyone else at Euro 2020 remains some way short of Michel Platini's nine goals as France tasted glory on home soil in 1984 – a feat made all the more remarkable by the fact the championship was only a five-game tournament back then.

A more realistic target for Schick and this year's frontrunners is Antoine Griezmann, who scored six in seven matches as France plotted a path to the final of Euro 2016, the first time the present 24-team format was used.

Schick averages 1.1 goals per 90 minutes after spending 326 minutes on the field in total. This marks a slightly better frequency than Griezmann (0.97) four years ago. Indeed, only Marco van Basten (1.16 - five goals in 389 minutes at Euro 88), Baros (1.17) and Platini (1.69) have a better scoring rate. If we dismiss Platini as something of a freakish outlier, Schick is on Golden Boot form.

 

A challenge at this business end of the competition for those not playing in teams likely to dominate the action is how many shots their main goal threats are able to get away.

Schick averages 3.59 shots per 90 minutes (13 overall), remarkably similar to Baros' 3.52 (15 shots) in 2004. By comparison, Platini (4.88) and Griezmann (4.55) were able to fire off goal attempts with far greater frequency.

Ronaldo had 37 shots for three goals (6.94) during Portugal's 2012 campaign, while David Villa – in a Spain team hardly noted for indiscriminately peppering the opposition goal – averaged 4.57 per 90 en route to glory at Euro 2012.

Such a volume of opportunities are unlikely to fall Schick's way on Saturday. But whether they come aerially, in the penalty area or from distance, a player in prime form at the perfect time after a long road back to his best looks ready to capitalise.

Denmark will be hoping to end something of a quarter-final hoodoo when they tussle with the Czech Republic, who beat them in their most recent last-eight match back in Euro 2004.

Since winning Euro 92, Denmark have only reached the quarter-final stage of a major international tournament on two occasions, losing to 3-2 to Brazil in the 1998 World Cup and then 3-0 to the Czechs six years later.

The Danes will fancy themselves to at least ask questions of the Czech Republic on Saturday though, given they became the first team in Euros history to score four or more in successive games last time out.

While they took a little time to get up to speed, converting just two per cent of their first 44 shots, they have scored 26 per cent of their 31 attempts since.

 

But even when they were wasteful in front of goal, they still posed a threat, as highlighted by the fact their 18.8 shots and 7.3 shots on target per game are their highest averages on record at a major tournament.

That attack-minded approach coupled with their response to Christian Eriksen's ordeal on matchday one have seen Denmark have become the neutrals' favourite.

And while the Inter man has since left hospital following his cardiac arrest, Denmark coach Kasper Hjulmand recognises that Eriksen will be on the players' minds again.

"Christian is the heart of the team," Hjulmand told reporters on Friday. "We will play for him tomorrow.

"We will not be afraid, you cannot play football if you are afraid. I want my players to go down to the pitch feeling free, with courage, showing the best."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Czech Republic – Tomas Vaclik

As highlighted, Denmark have been particularly potent in attack in Euro 2020, particularly in the past two games. As such, the Czech Republic goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik can expect to be kept busy. Nevertheless, the free agent has impressed so far, his 1.9 goals prevented being the most of any goalkeeper still in the competition.

 

Denmark – Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg

Tottenham midfielder Hojbjerg only created 14 chances in the Premier League last season, so the fact he's already on six and three assists in Euro 2020 will probably come as a shock to Spurs fans. Granted, he seems to have benefited from particularly good finishing by team-mates as his expected assists (xA) is only 0.7, yet only four players made more key passes before the quarter-finals.

Similarly, he has been involved in 30 shot-ending sequences, the most of anyone in the tournament before Friday, showing how he has also been essential to the Danes' build-up play.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Mikkel Damsgaard has been directly involved in seven goals in his six appearances for Denmark in all competitions, scoring three and assisting four. He also created more chances than any other Danish player in their 4-0 victory against Wales in the last round (three).

- Patrik Schick has scored 15 goals in 30 appearances for the Czech Republic, netting four in four games at Euro 2020 so far. Only five players have scored five times or more in their maiden European Championship, most recently Antoine Griezmann in 2016 for France (six), while one of the other previous five was Schick's compatriot Milan Baros at Euro 2004 (five).

- Schick has scored three left-footed goals at Euro 2020, the most of any player. In European Championship history, the only player to score more than three left-footed goals in a single tournament was Griezmann at Euro 2016 (four).

- This is the Czech Republic's fourth European Championship quarter-final, progressing from two of the previous three (1996 vs Portugal, 2004 vs Denmark) but failing the last time they reached this stage in 2012, losing 1-0 to Portugal.

- Denmark have nine goals so far at Euro 2020, only scoring more in a major tournament in the 1986 World Cup (10).

Belgium and the Czech Republic booked their spots in the last eight of Euro 2020 on Sunday. 

The Red Devils' starting XI against Portugal had an average age of 30 years and 148 days – the oldest named by any of the remaining teams in the competition – and that experience seemingly paid off as they produced a stubborn display to edge past Cristiano Ronaldo and Co. 1-0. 

In the other game, the Czech Republic took full advantage of Matthijs de Ligt's red card early in the second half to seal a shock 2-0 win over the Netherlands. 

Stats Perform looks at the best stats from another absorbing day of action in Euro 2020.

Belgium 1-0 Portugal: Hazard strike seals Red Devils' progress

The Red Devils booked their place in the last eight with their first victory over Portugal since September 1989 (3-0 in a World Cup qualifier), ending a run of five meetings without a win against them.

The winning goal came from Thorgan Hazard in the first half, the Borussia Dortmund man scoring in consecutive games for his country for the first time.

He has also now scored four international goals since his brother, Eden, last scored for the national team, highlighting the older sibling's recent difficulties.

That goal ensured Roberto Martinez's side equalled their longest winning streak at major tournaments, sealing five victories in a row for the second time. Indeed, the Red Devils have won 10 of their 11 games across the World Cup and European Championship since Martinez took charge.

Portugal, meanwhile, will go away and lick their wounds after being eliminated with just one victory from their four games (D1 L2), their fewest in a single European Championship since their first appearance in 1984, when they also won one of four (D2 L1).

It should perhaps come as little surprise they were unable to bounce back from Hazard's goal. Since Euro 2004, they have only fought back to win in one of their 10 games in the competition when they have conceded the opening goal (D3 L6).

Netherlands 0-2 Czech Republic: De Ligt's dismissal proves costly

Frank de Boer's men became the first side to win 100 per cent of their group stage games before losing in 90 minutes in the first knockout round at a European Championship.

They can scarcely have any complaints either, given they failed to have a single shot on target in a European Championship and World Cup game for the first time since Opta records begin (1980). 

Their hopes suffered a blow in the 55th minute when De Ligt became the first player to be sent off at the European Championship for the Netherlands since John Heitinga in 2004 (also versus the Czech Republic). De Ligt (21y 319d) is now the fourth-youngest player to receive a red card in the tournament.

 

The Czech Republic took full advantage of his dismissal, winning their first game in the knockout stages of a major competition since Euro 2004 thanks to goals from Tomas Holes and Patrik Schick. 

Holes became the first Czech player to both score and assist in a single match at the European Championship since Jan Koller and Milan Baros also did so against the Netherlands at Euro 2004.

Schick's goal, meanwhile, was his fourth in four games at Euro 2020, with only Baros (five) now having scored more major tournament goals for the Czech Republic.

Matthijs de Ligt accepted responsibility for the Netherlands' Euro 2020 exit after he was sent off in the 2-0 last-16 defeat to the Czech Republic.

The Juventus defender was dismissed 10 minutes into the second half after a VAR review for a deliberate handball that denied Patrik Schick a clear goalscoring opportunity.

Goals from Tomas Holes and Schick, his fourth of the tournament, secured a memorable win for Jaroslav Silhavy's side as they secured a quarter-final clash with Denmark in Baku.

The Netherlands were far from the free-flowing side that eased through the group phase, Frank de Boer's men becoming the first Dutch side since at least 1980 to go through a Euros or World Cup game without managing a shot on target.

Yet De Ligt felt his error when judging a bouncing ball, and the handball that followed, was the main reason for their defeat.

"Of course, it feels bad. We basically lost the match because of what I did. In hindsight, I shouldn't have let the ball bounce," he told NOS.

"Ultimately, that moment changed the game. I saw how the team fought in the final minutes and I'm very proud of that, but I do feel responsible.

"We had some chances in the first half. No shots on target, but chances. I didn't really feel like they were much better.

"Of course, this hits hard. Playing in a tournament is always a golden opportunity. If you're then knocked out like that, it's even more painful."

 

Midfielder Frenkie de Jong was surprised at his side's insipid display, particularly after their exploits over the first three matchdays.

"It was almost as if we were tired, although I have no idea why," said the Barcelona man. "We really wanted to win it. For some of the boys, this was the biggest game of their careers so far.

"It's not that we weren't prepared tactically. We were focused, and we certainly didn't underestimate them. We just couldn't get our game going. Sometimes you have days like that."

Georginio Wijnaldum struggled to explain the Netherlands' "off-day" against the Czech Republic as their Euro 2020 campaign ended at the last-16 stage.

Frank de Boer's side were the favourites to reach the quarter-finals after three wins from three games in the group stage, but they succumbed to a 2-0 defeat in Budapest as a red card to Matthijs de Ligt proved costly.

The Juventus man was sent off for a deliberate handball and the Czech Republic capitalised on their advantage, Tomas Holes and Patrik Schick scoring the goals to send them through.

The Netherlands failed to attempt a shot on target for the first time in a European Championship or World Cup match for the first time since at least 1980 as they struggled to replicate the attacking flair they showed previously in the tournament.

Captain Wijnaldum was an isolated figure throughout in the number 10 role, completing just 10 passes in the contest, the fewest of any Oranje outfield player in a Euros knockout match for at least the past 41 years.

Wijnaldum pointed to a good chance for Donyell Malen, which was missed barely 30 seconds before De Ligt's red card, as a key point in the contest but admitted his side deserved little for their performance.

"In the second half, we had a good chance and you have to finish that," he told NOS.

"The goals we gave away, the chances we didn't take... all that goes through your head. After the red card, we found it difficult to put them under pressure. Things just got more difficult for us.

"The whole match was tough going. Somehow we couldn't deal with the way they pressurised us. We couldn't create spaces. We fashioned a few chances in the first half, but not enough.

"Before the tournament, there was a lot of criticism around our way of playing, and we turned that around. Today was an off-day. I can hardly explain it. It's very difficult, but it's the reality."

The Czech Republic will face Denmark in the quarter-finals next Saturday.

 

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