Roberto Mancini has urged his Italy players to "have fun" as they bid to set two national records in their Euro 2020 last-16 clash with Austria at Wembley Stadium on Saturday. 

The Azzurri shone in the group stage, scoring seven goals – the most they have scored across their first three games of a major tournament since 1998 – in wins over Turkey, Switzerland and Wales.

Mancini's team have won 11 games in a row without conceding a goal, their clean sheet streak lasting 17 hours and 35 minutes since Donny van de Beek scored for the Netherlands in October 2020.

One more clean sheet will see them equal their record for consecutive games without conceding (12), set between 1972 and 1974, while also surpassing the previous total of minutes (1,143) without letting a goal in.

Their run of 30 games without a defeat, meanwhile, also matches a record set under Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.

A quarter-final tie against Belgium or holders Portugal in Munich awaits should they overcome Austria, and Mancini wants his side to enjoy the occasion at one of the world's most iconic stadiums. 

"I've enjoyed my time as Italy coach and I would like to continue doing it. I thank the players, as they allowed me to have fun with this experience too," Mancini told a media conference. 

"Playing at Wembley should always be a pleasure. There are players in this squad who have never experienced it and they ought to relish this opportunity in a beautiful stadium.

"When you play football, it's because you want to do it in stadiums like this. I think this team needs to keep feeding the joy and at the same time respect a temple of football like this. I am sure the lads will play well tomorrow."

Austria have not beaten the Azzurri in their last 13 meetings, a run dating back to December 1960.

Mancini, though, has warned his players to expect a tough game against a side who are making an appearance in the knockout stages of a major competition for the first time since the 1954 World Cup. 

"We need a great performance, as Austria have quality," he added. "They are aggressive and we cannot get anything wrong.

"That's the beauty of these tournaments, you have to win and there's no other option. We have to continue playing our football, hopefully for another four games at Euro 2020."

Austria captain David Alaba, meanwhile, said it is a "dream come true" for his country to take on Italy in the knockout stages.

Alaba – who joined Real Madrid on a free transfer in May after leaving Bayern Munich – created nine chances in the group stage, at least four more than any other Austria player. 

"It is a special game and we want to do well," he said.

"I've won at Wembley, so I have very good memories of this stadium. I expect a wonderful game and I remember the atmosphere from the Champions League final, but tomorrow will be special for Austria and we can't wait to get out there.

"I don't need to tell the lads how to treat certain situations. Some might ask me for advice, but we have others who have played at this level and I am not concerned.

"This is a dream come true for Austria to play a round of 16 match in a Euros against Italy."

England midfielder Declan Rice is "relishing" the opportunity to face Germany duo Toni Kroos and Thomas Muller in a mouth-watering Euro 2020 last-16 clash on Tuesday. 

Gareth Southgate's side came top of their group, taking seven points from games against Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic without conceding a goal, ensuring they will begin the knockout rounds at Wembley Stadium.

There, they will face Germany for the third time at a European Championship and the first in a knockout match since the Three Lions lost on penalties in the semi-finals of Euro 96.

West Ham midfielder Rice has started all three of England’s games so far and is likely to be in from the start against two players who he has expressed admiration for in the past. 

After Bayern Munich's 2020 Champions League final triumph over Paris Saint-Germain last year, Rice tweeted: "Muller has to be up there as one of the most underrated players of all time! Serious footballer."

He followed this up in April with a tweet about Kroos after Real Madrid's 3-1 Champions League victory over Liverpool, saying: "Watching Toni Kroos is very special." Los Blancos midfielder Kroos replied: "Thanks mate."

Kroos has been exemplary for the 2014 world champions so far in this tournament. No player has completed more passes at the finals than the 31-year-old (280), with 217 of those occurring in the opposition half – by far the best return at the tournament.

Speaking at a media conference on Friday, Rice described Kroos as "world class" and said he cannot wait to go toe-to-toe with him.

 

"I can't remember what my tweet actually was but I woke up to him saying 'thanks mate'," he told a media conference. "It was a good moment to be fair and the lads at West Ham were giving me a bit [of stick] for it.

"If you go back to the tweets, I have always said I am a fan.

"When there are big games on and you are watching, you appreciate top footballers. Obviously that night I felt the need to say [what I did] about Muller and Kroos.

"I am relishing to go out there and put myself up against the best. It is England v Germany, round of 16, at Wembley, it is going to be proper, so I need to go out there and give a solid performance myself and as a team.

"Kroos is world class, other midfielders like me want to test ourselves. But we need to impose ourselves on the game and be physical and stop him spraying it around the pitch."

Tuesday's game will be the third meeting between England and Germany at the European Championship. Germany won 6-5 on penalties following a 1-1 draw in the 1996 semi-final, before England won 1-0 in the group stages at Euro 2000.

England will be hoping to improve on a poor record in the knockout games in this competition, having never won one in 90 minutes (D4 L2). Four games have gone to penalties, with England only progressing once via this method, against Spain at Wembley in 1996.

Romelu Lukaku needs no inspiration as Belgium prepare to face Portugal in Euro 2020, though a personal battle with Cristiano Ronaldo serves as extra motivation.

Ronaldo edged out Lukaku in the Serie A scoring charts in 2020-21, with the 36-year-old Juventus star netting 29 times in comparison to the Inter striker's tally of 24 league goals.

While Ronaldo won that tussle, Lukaku led Inter to their first Serie A crown in 11 years.

The duo will now meet up on the international stage, Belgium facing off against Portugal in Seville on Sunday with a quarter-final spot on the line.

"On the personal level, yes," Lukaku told a news conference when asked if going up against Ronaldo in Serie A had improved him as a player.

"As a team it was just important to win the championship. We've done it. It was exceptional, the way we were in all the big matches, we won a lot, it was a great season for us. We hope to do it next year."

Lukaku added: "I would like to have his dribble and the way he kicks the ball. He would like to have my power!"

The Belgium star is on three goals so far in Euro 2020, but Ronaldo leads the way with five, albeit three of those strikes have come from the spot.

Ronaldo scored twice from 12 yards against France last time out, matching Ali Daei's record of 109 international goals in the process.

He is now the top-scoring European player at major tournaments, with his brace against France moving him beyond Miroslav Klose (19) to 21 goals. Indeed, that was Ronaldo's second double at Euro 2020 – no player has ever registered three in a single tournament at the European Championships.

"Those are impressive numbers. If there is anybody who can achieve those numbers it’s him, hats off to him, to do that over and over," Lukaku continued.

"How old is he – 36? [Juve] went out in the Champions League against Porto. The way he got criticism, I was like 'wow; it's unbelievable'.

"Then the next game he scored a hat-trick. It's motivational when you have somebody in your own league who can do it in that age, then you think why couldn't I get to that level, or as close as possible? He's a player you can count on, he wins – that's impressive."

 

Though not as sensational as Ronaldo's, Lukaku also has an international record to boast about. The former Manchester United man has scored 23 goals in 21 appearances in all competitions for Belgium, while also providing four assists in this run, and he believes he has proven his worth as one of the best forwards in the game.

"I wanted to step to the next level, to get better," Lukaku explained.

"People always would talk about [Harry] Kane, [Robert] Lewandowski, [Karim] Benzema, and say it was world-class level, with me it was always 'good form'.

"In the last two years I've shown that it's not just good form, I belong with that group. The thing I really want to do is start winning. The fact we won with Inter has given me more motivation to further improve. The final goal would be to win with the national team. That would be the ultimate recognition for the players here and pride for Belgium.

"I need that, the line between provocation, some people go over it. I go to the line and then I know that's the limit and then I just want to win – that's my goal.

"I think I've gotten to the next level. I keep going up. Everything's possible. It's a matter of work, finding the little things that make you better. I know I've progressed a lot, that's for sure. But I'm always looking for that little extra."

Italy are in the hunt for two national records on Saturday, as they aim to overcome Austria in the Euro 2020 round of 16 at Wembley.

The Azzurri flew through the group stages, scoring seven goals – the most they have scored across their first three games of a major tournament since 1998 – in victories over Turkey, Switzerland and Wales.

Roberto Mancini's team have won 11 games in a row without conceding a goal. Their clean sheet streak has lasted 17 hours and 35 minutes since Donny van de Beek scored for the Netherlands in October 2020.

One more clean sheet will see them equal their record for consecutive games without conceding (12), set between 1972 and 1974, while also surpassing the previous total of minutes (1,143) without letting a goal in.

Their run of 30 games without a defeat also matches a record set under Vittorio Pozzo between 1935 and 1939.

With a quarter-final tie against Belgium or holders Portugal in Munich up for grabs, Italy must first defeat Austria, who have not beaten the Azzurri in their last 13 meetings, a run dating back to December 1960.

Italy have also won four of their meetings with Austria at major tournaments.. However, they have won only two of their 13 matches played in London.

"Austria are a physical side, they keep the tempo high, but we're prepared, we are Italy and we go out there to win," defender Giovanni Di Lorenzo said in a pre-match news conference.

"I don't feel anxiety in the group, just the concentration and eagerness to get out there and play. The knockout stages begin here, this is the meat of the competition and we can't wait."

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Italy – Marco Verratti

Mancini has been happy to rotate his squad, with 25 of 26 players – including back-up goalkeeper Salvatore Sirigu – having appeared so far in the tournament.

Manuel Locatelli impressed in the opening two matches, but Marco Verratti turned in a star performance against Wales. The Paris Saint-Germain playmaker created a game-high five chances, led the way for passes completed (103 from 110 attempted), touches (136) and tackles (four), and Mancini has a decision to make in midfield.

Austria – David Alaba

Franco Foda's use of David Alaba has seemed strange at times in Euro 2020. Having been deployed in midfield for much of his international career, Alaba was utilised in a three-man defence in wins over North Macedonia and Ukraine, though played at the heart of the back three in a defeat to the Netherlands.

Regardless of his position, Alaba still created nine chances in the group stage, at least four more than any other Austria player. Four of these came in Austria’s 1-0 win against Ukraine last time out.

 

KEY OPTA FACTS

- Seven of Italy's 14 knockout stage games in the European Championship have been drawn (W4 L3). Of these seven draws, they have won two and lost three by a penalty shootout, won once on a coin toss and the other went to a replay which they eventually won.
- This is Austria's maiden appearance in the knockout stages of the European Championship, and their first in the knockout stage of any major tournament since the 1954 World Cup, when they reached the semi-final.
- Italy have won two of their 13 matches that were held in London (D5 L6), and are winless in five matches there (D3 L2) since beating England 1-0 in 1997 in a World Cup qualifier at Wembley, with Gianfranco Zola scoring the only goal.
- Austria have lost four of their six games in London in all competitions (W1 D1), with this their first visit to the English capital since a 7-0 friendly defeat in September 1973 (vs England). 
- Italy had 60 shots across their three games in the group stages, with their average of 20 shots-per-game their highest on record in a single edition of the European Championship (since 1980).

Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey took the glory, but Wales would not be through to face Denmark in the Euro 2020 last-16 stage on Saturday without the saves of Danny Ward.

On Saturday, Ward will line up for Robert Page's side, with the man who is keeping him out of the Leicester City team, Kasper Schmeichel, in the Denmark goal.

The 28-year-old Wales shot-stopper made 13 saves across his team's three group games, which is a total that was only bettered by Finland's Lukas Hradecky (15) and Turkey's Ugurcan Cakir (18).

He made on average 6.5 saves per goal conceded, the best record of all goalkeepers who were beaten at least once (Gianluigi Donnarumma and Jordan Pickford both kept three clean sheets), with Wales shipping just twice in three games.

That tight defensive record came despite Wales having an expected goals against (xGA) total of 5.47, and it meant Wales had the largest differential (3.47) between their goals-against tally and their xGA. Opta tallies expected goals figures on a formula that looks at variables including the type of assist, angle of the shot and its distance.

Bale and Ramsey unpicked Turkey to impressive effect in the second group game, but Ward's overall importance cannot be overestimated.

Now Ward and Schmeichel will be on show in Amsterdam in the opening knockout game, with Leicester boss Brendan Rodgers sure to be taking an interest.

Ward said this week: "Kasper's a good goalie and Denmark are a good team. It's going to be tough, you have to respect people, but we've got to believe in what we want to do. We fancy ourselves against anyone."

Bale, stuck in a 14-game goal drought for his country, may fancy facing Schmeichel, having scored twice against him when Tottenham beat Leicester 4-2 on the final day of the Premier League season.

Denmark have come through a testing first fortnight in the tournament, enduring the horror of seeing Christian Eriksen suffer a cardiac arrest in their opening game against Finland.

Eriksen's steady recovery – to the point where he has been able to leave hospital – has been uplifting, and coach Kasper Hjulmand is now able to focus firmly on matters on the pitch, with an emotional 4-1 win over Russia seeing the Danes through to this stage.

Hjulmand says too much emphasis has been placed on who starts games for the Danes, insisting their squad depth is a major plus point.

"We have been so strong in the second half in many matches," Hjulmand told UEFA.com. "We have been so strong in the last 20 minutes of every match. And it's just as important who is on the field when the match ends as who starts."

 

PLAYERS TO WATCH

Wales - Aaron Ramsey

Driving runs from midfield behind opposition lines are such a strength of Ramsey's game, and Denmark will be wary of the Juventus man. Indeed, he has had 16 of Wales' 97 shot attempts across their Euro 2016 and Euro 2020 campaigns to date, beaten only by Bale's 33.

Denmark - Mikkel Damsgaard

The Sampdoria youngster shot into the spotlight with his supreme strike against Russia. Damsgaard has been directly involved in six goals in his five appearances for Denmark in all competitions, scoring three and assisting three. The goal against Russia made him Denmark's youngest goalscorer in a World Cup or European Championship, at the age of 20 years and 353 days.

KEY OPTA FACTS

– None of the 10 previous meetings between Wales and Denmark in all competitions have finished level, with Wales winning four to Denmark’s six. This is the first meeting between the sides since November 2018, with Denmark winning 2-1 in a Nations League match on that occasion.
– Denmark have won each of their last three competitive meetings with Wales in a run stretching back to June 1999. This is the first meeting between the sides in a major tournament.
– Denmark became the first team in European Championship history to reach the knockout stages of the competition having lost their first two group games.
– Wales have only lost two of their last 16 competitive matches in all competitions, although those two defeats have arrived in their last five games, including last time out against Italy. They have not suffered consecutive competitive defeats since June 2019.
– Denmark recorded 59 shots in the group stages, with the average of 19.7 shots per game their highest on record in a major tournament (Euros and World Cup).
– Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has three assists in his three games so far at Euro 2020, with no Denmark player recording more at a single edition of a World Cup or European Championship before.

Manchester United and England forward Marcus Rashford may undergo shoulder surgery after Euro 2020.

Rashford has been playing through the pain barrier since suffering a muscle tear of his left shoulder against Arsenal last November.

The 23-year-old, who scored 21 goals and provided 15 assists in all competitions for the Red Devils last season, could go under the knife ahead of the 2021-22 campaign.

Rashford said: "It's either an operation or I don't get an operation. 

"I'm not 100 per cent sure if I need it yet, so I'll just take it as it comes. I'll finish strong here [in the European Championship] and I've got a few weeks off to just relax and decide what I'm going to do."

He added: "The doctors have not said yet. The reason I don't know is that when the season was going, and before I came here, I knew there was no chance I was going to be getting the operation, so I did not know how long the operation would put me out for.

"I am fully concentrated on here. When the tournament is finished, then I will ask the question."

Rashford has been limited to three substitute appearances in Euro 2020 so far and knows he has much more to offer ahead of a last-16 showdown with Germany at Wembley next Tuesday.

"Obviously I am not performing at my best and what I know I can perform to," Rashford said.

"Whatever that is down to, it doesn't really matter because it has been going on since early on in the season. I managed to get through the season with United.

"I think I had 36 goal involvements so I can't look back at the year and say 'mmm, I should have taken time off to do this and do that'.

"That's just not the way I look at things. I just want to be available for every game."

Toby Alderweireld said star-studded Belgium have an "unbelievable" desire to win Euro 2020 as they prepare to face defending champions Portugal in the round of 16.

Belgium and Cristiano Ronaldo's Portugal will go head-to-head in Seville for a place in the quarter-finals on Sunday.

Number one in the world rankings, Belgium have never won a major tournament, having finished runners-up at the European Championship in 1980, while the Red Devils finished third at the 2018 World Cup.

Belgium have reached the knockout stages in each of their last five appearances at a major tournament (Euros and World Cup), progressing to the semi-final in their previous one at Russia 2018. Their defeat to eventual winners France three years ago is the only one of their last 10 games at major tournaments that they have failed to win (W9).

Boasting a golden generation, including Romelu Lukaku, Kevin De Bruyne, Eden Hazard, Youri Tielemans and Thibaut Courtois, veteran defender Alderweireld is bullish about Belgium's chances.

"I want to see it differently," Alderweireld replied when asked if Portugal have an advantage given their 2016 success. "I can't talk about how they feel or how they think, the only thing I can say is that we are very hungry.

"The desire is unbelievable with us to achieve big things for our country and for this team. So we will do everything in our powers to beat them."

On whether this Belgium generation can be the one to deliver a trophy, Tottenham's Alderweireld said: "We will do everything in our powers to become that generation. I think we have already shown that we can beat any team if we have a good day.

"But we know it is going to be a tough opponent, but we believe in our ideas and in our quality."

Belgium will come up against superstar Ronaldo, who equalled Ali Daei for the most international goals in men's football with his 109th following a two-goal haul in Portugal's 2-2 draw against France.

But Alderweireld and Belgium are wary of more than just Ronaldo, the 32-year-old adding: "I think they are a very difficult team to beat. They have a lot of quality, the team is very compact, they know how to play big games in big tournaments.

"A lot of experience as well, so I think we have to be top to beat them. Of course everyone talks about Cristiano Ronaldo, we know he is one of the best in the world. But not only him, I think they have a lot of quality around him as well who create chances for him, So again we have to be top to beat them."

Belgium have only failed to score in two of their last 58 games under head coach Roberto Martinez, averaging exactly three goals per game in this stretch of fixtures (174 in total).

The two games they have been shut out came in the 2018 World Cup semi-final against France (0-1), and in their most recent meeting with Portugal – a 0-0 draw in June 2018.

Belgium's victory over Finland last time out marked their ninth win at the World Cup and Euros combined under Martinez, with the Spaniard now holding the outright managerial record for major tournament wins with the Red Devils.

Jordan Henderson thinks England's hopes of beating Germany in the Euro 2020 last 16 could rest on keeping the ball away from Toni Kroos as much as possible.

Gareth Southgate's side came top of their group, taking seven points from games against Croatia, Scotland and the Czech Republic without conceding a goal, ensuring they will begin the knockout rounds at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday.

There, they will face Germany for the third time at a European Championship and the first in a knockout match since the Three Lions lost on penalties in the semi-finals of Euro 96.

Joachim Low's side scraped through a challenging Group F, Leon Goretzka's late equaliser against Hungary on matchday three ensuring they finished behind France and above Portugal thanks to their superior head-to-head record.

While England's route through the groups was somewhat sedate, with two 1-0 wins and a goalless draw with Scotland, Germany won a six-goal thriller with Portugal before battling to a 2-2 draw with Hungary after falling 1-0 to France.

Amid their inconsistencies, midfielder Kroos has been exemplary for the 2014 world champions. No player has completed more passes at these finals than the Real Madrid man (280), with 217 of those occurring in the opposition half – by far the best return at the tournament.

 

Given Germany have averaged 64.7 per cent of the possession in their games, a figure lower only than Spain (76.1), Henderson is eager to disrupt Kroos' rhythm as much as possible by retaining the ball and getting it into England's forwards.

"They're a top team. You go through every position on the pitch and they've got world-class players everywhere, so it's always going to be a tough game," he said on Thursday.

"With the ball, it's extremely important to keep it, especially against Germany, who are a fantastic team who've got very good technical players who can dominate games with the ball. We need to be defensively solid, like we have been, because they've got players like Kroos that can hurt you.

"He's a world-class player who can really hurt you with time and space, so we need to make sure that, without the ball, we're really solid.

"When we get it, we need to be calm and composed, but also positive with the play, getting the ball forward and trying to create as many chances as we can because we've got some fantastic forward players who can hurt any opposition. If we can get the ball into them and let them do their thing, I think we can be in for a real good night."

Penalties dominate much of the pre-match talk, not least because Germany beat England on home soil on spot-kicks 25 years ago, with current boss Gareth Southgate missing the crucial attempt.

Henderson was in the headlines during the warm-up for this tournament, the Liverpool man taking the ball from Dominic Calvert-Lewin before seeing his penalty saved during the 1-0 friendly win over Romania in Middlesbrough.

"It was blown out of proportion, to be honest, after the game," Henderson said. "Nothing to be said internally. I was obviously disappointed to miss but I was more disappointed for Dom as well because he could have had another goal for England."

Jordan Henderson called for England to ensure they have "no regrets" when the final whistle blows on their Euro 2020 last-16 clash with Germany.

The Three Lions' reward for winning their group is a knockout game against their old rivals at Wembley Stadium on Tuesday with a place in the quarter-finals at stake.

Unsurprisingly, the draw has prompted fans to reminisce about past meetings between the sides, including the 1966 World Cup final and the last 16 of the same tournament in 2010.

But while Henderson acknowledged the "special" nature of the fixture, he wants England to do more than just relish the occasion.

He said: "It's a special game for the players, for fans, for everyone, for the neutrals watching. It's a big game and that's what you want to be playing in these tournaments, so it’s very exciting. 

"Everybody will be looking forward to it and, for the players, we have to stay focused and make sure we give everything on the pitch and have no regrets.

"It's exciting, it's a huge game and one that we’ll be looking forward to. We knew whatever team we faced it was going to be a big challenge and Germany will certainly be that, so we need to prepare well, be ready for next week and give everything.

"They are still a very good side. Look at the players they've got, quality all over the pitch. It's going to be a very tough test.

"In games like this, it's not necessarily about form, it's about whoever is better on the night; whoeever puts the better performance in is going to have more chance of winning and we need to make sure we're 100 per cent ready, and I’m sure we will be."

 

The sides' previous meeting in the knockout stages of a European Championship came when the tournament was hosted by England in 1996.

On that occasion, Germany progressed to the final courtesy of a penalty shootout that featured a miss from now Three Lions boss Gareth Southgate.

Henderson insisted that tournament disappointment has not been discussed by the current squad but revealed that penalty practice is taking place in preparation for a shootout.

He added: "No, we haven't spoken about it and I’m not sure we will, either. A lot of talk will be on penalties but, for us, being in a penalty shootout not so long ago and we practice penalties all the time, it's just part and parcel of football in tournaments.

"We try to do it seriously because you want to practice properly, the whole process. It’s important you do it properly and you are clear in your mind if you do need to take a penalty.

"Overcoming a penalty shoot-out in the World Cup was a big thing mentally for everyone, so I do think we’ve improved with that over the last few years. 

"That's going to be a big thing on Tuesday. In football or in any sport, mental strength is a huge part of it. I feel we've got a lot of players in the squad who are very mentally strong and that's going to be important."

With the group stage of Euro 2020 now over, we can get down to the important business: arguing over who have been the best players until now.

The first three matchdays produced some enthralling spectacles, a handful of shocks and one or two rather forgettable encounters of which there is no need to speak any more.

We have seen some rather obvious star turns, such as a certain Portugal striker equalling the record for international goals in men's football, while other standout performers have flown a little more under the radar.

Here, using Opta data for added insight, Stats Perform presents the Euro 2020 team of the group stage. Please do read on for a few explanations before starting on those angry comments...

 

 

GK: DANNY WARD

Wales battled their way into the knockout rounds after finishing second in Group A, ahead of Switzerland on goal difference. Much of that is down to Danny Ward's form.

The Leicester City man saved 86.7 of the shots on target he faced, the best record among keepers to make at least five saves.

 

LCB: DALEY BLIND

The Netherlands surprised a few people with three convincing wins in Group C, with Daley Blind's calm yet authoritative presence at the heart of their performances.

Blind completed 221 passes in the group stage, more than any other Oranje player, with more than half of those (115) coming in opposition territory.

 

CB: ANDREAS CHRISTENSEN

Quite rightly celebrated for that thunderbolt of a goal in Denmark's key victory over Russia, Andreas Christensen's all-round displays make him worthy of inclusion here.

The Chelsea defender won 79.2 of his duels in the first three rounds, a tally bettered only by Oleksandr Karavaev (80 per cent) and Thomas Vermaelen (90 per cent) among those to contest at least 10.

 

RCB: LEONARDO BONUCCI

Italy's 1.3 expected goals against was the lowest figure of any side in the group phase, underlining the imperious nature of their form not just at these finals but in the whole of their 11-game winning run in which they have not let in a single goal.

Leonardo Bonucci has been the rock at the back, particularly with Giorgio Chiellini battling injury. He has won possession 11 times, the most of any Azzurri defender, and has yet to be beaten by a dribble.

 

LWB: JORDI ALBA

Jordi Alba was Spain's standout performer until the rest of the team somewhat caught up on matchday three as they turned on the style to thrash Slovakia 5-0.

The Barcelona left-back completed 247 passes, the most of any defender after Aymeric Laporte (259), while leading the way for possession won (30 times).

 

CM: GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM

With three goals in three games, Georginio Wijnaldum surpassed the great Marco van Basten on the all-time Netherlands scoring charts to reach 25 for his country.

Enjoying a more advanced role at these finals, Paris Saint-Germain fans are being given a glimpse of what the midfielder could provide for them next season.

 

CM: PIERRE-EMILE HOJBJERG

Alongside Kevin De Bruyne, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is one of only two midfielders to create nine goalscoring chances during the group stage.

The Tottenham man set up two Denmark's goals in the 4-1 hammering of Russia to move to three assists at these finals, a tally matched only by Switzerland's Steven Zuber.

 

CM: MANUEL LOCATELLI

His two goals against Switzerland were the highlight of his group-stage displays and made Manuel Locatelli just the third Italy player to score twice in a single European Championship match.

The Sassuolo star was rested against Wales, but the quality of his performances in the first two games prompted rumours that Juventus have redoubled their efforts to sign him.

 

RWB: DENZEL DUMFRIES

Full-back Denzel Dumfries became an unlikely goalscoring hero for Frank de Boer, becoming just the second Netherlands player to score in his first two European Championship games (the first was Ruud van Nistelrooy).

Denmark wing-back Joakim Maehle was the only nominal defender with more touches in the opposition box (20) during the group stage than Dumfries (17).

 

CF: ROMELU LUKAKU

Continuing his spectacular Inter form at these finals, Romelu Lukaku scored three times in Belgium's group games from a total of just four shots on target.

He would probably be the favourite for the Golden Boot were it not for the form of the only man to outscore him in Serie A last season...

 

CF: CRISTIANO RONALDO

With five goals in three games, Cristiano Ronaldo became the leading goalscorer at the World Cup and European Championship combined (21).

The Portugal captain needs just one more to surpass Ali Daei as the top-scoring international men's footballer of all time.

We had to wait an extra year, but the Euro 2020 group stage threw up drama and records – and in terms of goals it delivered magnificently.

With the likes of Cristiano Ronaldo and Romelu Lukaku hitting their stride, it was a feast for the strikers, with 94 goals scored across the 36 games.

That represented a massive raising of the bar after only 69 goals were netted at the same stage in the 2016 tournament.

Here, Stats Perform looks at the most eye-catching numbers that defined the first 13 days of this delayed tournament – ahead of the do-or-die knockout stage getting under way.

 

Ronaldo making up for lost time

Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to score as many as five goals in the group stages of a single European Championship since Michel Platini bagged seven for France in 1984, on his way to a nine-goal tournament tally. Three of Ronaldo's goals for Portugal at this tournament have been penalties, while Platini netted just one spot-kick during France's run 37 years ago.

Impressively, Platini's goals in 1984 came from an expected goals (xG) rate of just 3.32, while Ronaldo has recorded his five from a total of 4.71 so far. Opta builds its expected goals data by measuring the quality of an attempt based on variables such as assist type, shot angle and distance from goal, whether it was a headed shot and whether it was defined as a big chance. It means Ronaldo has put away approximately the number of goals he should have expected to score.

Ronaldo scored twice from the penalty spot in Wednesday's 2-2 draw with France, the first game in the history of the Euros to see three spot-kicks scored, excluding shoot-outs.

Defending champions Portugal have been far from perfect, however, dropping a competition-high five points from winning positions.

While Ronaldo has the most goals of any player so far in these finals, he has not been able to keep up with the rising tide of own goals. There have been a staggering eight, as many as were scored between the 1980 and 2016 editions combined.

 

Firing range

Why wait until seeing the whites of the goalkeeper's eyes before offloading a shot?

Patrik Schick had one quick glance towards David Marshall's goal and let fly from 49.7 yards at Hampden Park to put the Czech Republic 2-0 in front against Scotland. That incredible moment gave Schick the longest-range strike on record at the European Championship, with such measured distances available from the 1980 tournament onwards.

There were 304 shots from outside the penalty area in the group stage, but only 12 goals scored from such long range. That ratio of one goal for every 25.3 shots from long distance was nevertheless an improvement on the Euro 2016 numbers, when just 16 goals from outside the area were scored from 638 attempts across the whole tournament – one every 39.9 shots.

 

Low Countries, tall targets

Belgium and the Netherlands are nations who have experienced mixed fortunes on the football field in the 21st century, but both will feel a big moment could be arriving.

The Belgian Red Devils were absent from all major tournaments between their appearances at the 2002 and 2014 World Cups, while the Dutch were conspicuous by their absence from Euro 2016 and the 2018 World Cup.

Lukaku, with three goals so far, has been a terrific spearhead of the Belgium side, netting 50 per cent of the goals their players have netted (excluding own goals) at Euro 2020 despite only taking 22 per cent of their shots – seven of 32 attempts.

If Lukaku keeps firing, with Kevin De Bruyne and co prompting from midfield, then Belgium, who have never won a World Cup or European Championship, have a strong chance to show why they are ranked by FIFA as the world's number one team.

Belgium exceeded their collective xG tally by 3.15 – scoring seven against xG of 3.85 – the highest number by which any side surpassed their expected goals in their opening three games.

Their neighbours, the Netherlands, have also caught the eye. Ronald Koeman lifted the Oranje from their doldrums and successor Ronald de Boer has guided the team through the group stage as top scorers and with a 100 per cent record.

That Group C success, with eight goals scored and two conceded, came on the back of Georginio Wijnaldum scoring three times. In doing so, he has overtaken Marco van Basten and Dirk Kuyt on the list of the Netherlands' leading international goalscorers, moving to 25, one ahead of the former Milan and Liverpool forwards.

Or, to put it another way, Wijnaldum is halfway to matching Robin van Persie's record haul of 50 international goals.

 

Boring, boring England?

England, by netting only twice, became the lowest-scoring side to ever finish top of a group at a European Championship. They did not so much storm through Group D as plod a methodical path through to the last-16 stage, although an xG of 4.45 suggests England have at least been creating chances, albeit not finishing as well as they might.

Yet England might yet go far. Germany visit Wembley next Tuesday and will encounter English players who have only been dribbled past 12 times in the group stage, the lowest number among all competing teams. England's expected goals against (xGA) tally is a miserly 1.33, the second lowest in the tournament behind an Italy side (1.3) who have got it right at both ends of the pitch to.

Turkey's players were dribbled past on 36 occasions, a group-stage high, and only North Macedonia (8.85) had a higher xGA than Senol Gunes' team (7.69), who failed to live up to 'dark horse' expectations.

 

Riding their luck? Or being all out of it?

Wales conceded just twice, defying an xGA total of 5.47, and reached the knockout stage on the back of that. The gap of 3.47 between expectation and reality with that metric was the highest among all competing teams.

Conversely, Scotland scored just once against an xG of 4.00 – with 3.00 the highest negative difference between xG and goals scored.

Russia bowed out, and could hardly blame anyone but themselves. Their players made three errors leading to goals – more than any other side and the joint-most by any nation at a finals going back to 1980, the point from which records are available.

Hungary also exited the tournament. They predictably finished last in the 'group of death' – adrift of France, Germany and Portugal – but Hungary were surprisingly ahead for more minutes and trailed for fewer than any other team in that Group F campaign.

Denmark squeezed through in second place behind Belgium in Group B, becoming the first team in European Championship history to reach the knockout stages of the competition having lost their first two group stage games. After the alarm of the Christian Eriksen situation, many would love them to go further.

Would you Luka that!

Luka Modric became the oldest player to score for Croatia at the Euros, netting a gorgeous strike in the 3-1 win against Scotland at the age of 35 years and 286 days. That made it an unusual double for the veteran playmaker, who also holds the record for being Croatia's youngest scorer at the tournament (22 years 73 days versus Austria in 2008).

Modric continues to marvel, and there was a slice of history for another midfielder in the group stage as Switzerland's Steven Zuber became only the third player since 1980 to register three assists in a single European Championship game – doing so against Turkey – after Portugal's Rui Costa in his rampaging 2000 display that tormented England and Denmark's Michael Laudrup in 1984 against Yugoslavia.

Georginio Wijnaldum will wear a rainbow-coloured armband when he captains the Netherlands against the Czech Republic in Budapest on Sunday and has declared that he and his team-mates could leave the field if they are subjected to any form of abuse.

Hungary has faced criticism over its treatment of LGBTQ people after passing a law that prohibits the sharing of content in schools that could be deemed to promote homosexuality and gender change.

Football's attempts to show support have also created controversy, with UEFA launching an investigation into Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer's use of a rainbow armband - a nod to the flag of the LGBTQ community - before acknowledging the motif as "a team symbol for diversity".

However, the governing body did not allow Munich's Allianz Arena to be lit up in those colours for Germany's final Group F game against Hungary on Wednesday, ostensibly due to its rules regarding political neutrality.

But that has not discouraged Wijnaldum from plans to wear an armband featuring the words "One Love" for the first time in the tournament when the Dutch head to the Hungarian capital.

"It is not just against Hungary," he said. "The armband means a lot because we stand for diversity – one love means everybody is a part of it and everybody should be free to be who they are.

"In our opinion [the right to be yourself] has been encroached upon. As players we have a podium to do whatever we can to help."

UEFA launched an investigation into allegations that France star Kylian Mbappe and Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo faced racist and homophobic abuse during their appearances in Budapest.

And Wijnaldum has warned that he will be ready to take his team off the pitch should any such incidents occur during Sunday's last-16 clash.

"UEFA should be there to protect the players and make the decision," he said. "It should not be left to the players. Players often get punished for protecting themselves so UEFA needs to take a lead role in this.

"I have said I don’t really know how I will react in such a situation. I thought first that I would walk off the pitch but maybe not now because maybe the opponent will think: ‘Let them [in the crowd] throw racist slurs and they will walk off the pitch'.

"It could be the case that I will walk off the pitch but I will speak with the players about it first."

Karim Benzema and Cristiano Ronaldo provided some of the most enduring images of Euro 2020 when France faced off with Portugal on Wednesday.

Social media was abuzz over the "bromance" between the former Real Madrid team-mates, the pair sharing a cheeky smirk with one another prior to kick-off and then embracing both at half-time and after the final whistle.

The duo both moved to the Santiago Bernabeu at the same time in their careers ahead of the 2009-10 season and enjoyed nine prolific campaigns together before Ronaldo – Madrid's all-time record goalscorer – moved on to Juventus.

Clearly, the respect the two have for one another still runs deep, with Benzema revealing what they discussed after a thrilling 2-2 draw in Budapest, a result which means both teams progress to the last 16.

"It's nice to see him again, we have come a long way together," Benzema told reporters following a game in which he and Ronaldo both scored twice.

"We both played eight or nine years at Real Madrid, we scored goals, won trophies.

"We spoke, we wished each other good luck for the future with our clubs and in the tournament and especially to continue to have fun on the field and continue to make the difference."

Ronaldo has scored five times in the tournament to draw level with Ali Daei's record of 109 international goals. Portugal next face Belgium, while world champions France are up against Switzerland.

Lorenzo Insigne dismissed speculation linking him with a move to Serie A rivals Lazio amid doubts over his Napoli future.

Insigne is entering the final year of his contract and the captain is yet to re-sign with boyhood club Napoli, where he emerged from the youth team in 2010.

The Italy star has been linked with LaLiga duo Barcelona and Atletico Madrid, while Liverpool and Milan have previously emerged as possible destinations.

Insigne was asked about his future, with reports claiming Italy team-mate Ciro Immobile is trying to lure the 30-year-old to Lazio.

"This rumour came out that Immobile is acting as sporting director to bring me to Lazio, but it's not true," Insigne said as Italy prepare for Saturday's Euro 2020 last-16 clash with Austria.

"He didn't tell me anything about it. We're friends, we're going on vacation together, but we haven't talked about that."

Insigne added: "I am only thinking of playing the European Championship, afterwards there is time to talk to the club.

"As for my career, I have no regrets. What I always dreamed of was playing for Napoli and wearing the armband. My two dreams have come true and therefore I am not happy, but overjoyed."

Paul Pogba played down rumours regarding a return to Juventus as the Manchester United and France star insisted he is solely focused on Euro 2020.

Pogba provided a sublime assist for Karim Benzema's second goal in France's entertaining 2-2 draw with reigning European champions Portugal in the final Group F fixture on Wednesday.

France earned a last-16 showdown against Switzerland at Euro 2020, but Pogba was asked about his future after his latest hairstyle fuelled speculation.

Pogba dyed his hair black and white – the colours of ex-club Juventus – leading to questions about the Old Lady, where he played between 2012 and 2016.

"My hair was black and white as Juventus shirt tonight? I was expecting this question," Pogba joked with Sky Sport as he enters the final year of his current United contract.

"I'm not thinking about my future, I'm only focused on the Euros. And my hair always changes, you know!"

France are unbeaten in each of their last 12 group-stage games at major international tournaments (World Cup and Euros), winning seven and drawing five.

Each of their last four matchday three group games in these major tournaments have ended level.

Aged 33 years and 186 days old, Benzema became the oldest player ever to score more than once in a major tournament match for France (World Cup and Euros), overtaking Zinedine Zidane (31years and 356 days) against England at Euro 2004.

Benzema scored his first goal with France since October 8, 2015 – five years and 258 days ago, the longest gap between two goals with Les Bleus since Didier Deschamps (seven years between his third and fourth goal, also against Portugal).

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