THE list of 24 has been cut to 16. Now just eight spots are up for grabs as the knockout stage of Euro 2020 gets underway this weekend and the competition really takes shape.
Those that fell at the first hurdle will watch on for the remainder of the competition and wonder where it all went wrong and what might have been.
For the nations that emerged in the top two places in their groups, or that secured one of the berths reserved for the best third-placed sides, the coming days only offer opportunity.
The round of 16 has thrown up some intriguing ties. Here, Herald and Times Sport assesses the likely winners now that the quarter-final berths are up for grabs this summer.
WALES V DENMARK
Saturday, June 26, 5pm
The Danes have become the adopted nation for fans across the continent in recent weeks and it was only those of a Finnish or Russian persuasion that would have been disappointed to see them emerge as runners-up in Group B on Monday evening.
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 16, 2021
You simply have to admire and respect Kasper Hjulmand’s squad for their efforts in extraordinary circumstances thus far but there is a quality about the side that ensures they have to be taken seriously and not just backed in an emotional sense.
Wales, of course, have the benefit of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey within their ranks and the two star men that were so influential in helping them finish second in Group A will be integral to their chances in a tough to call knockout tie.
ITALY V AUSTRIA
Saturday, June 26, 8pm
Group C panned out as expected for Austria as they beat North Macedonia 3-1, lost to the Netherlands and then clinched qualification with victory over Ukraine in what always looked like being the deciding fixtures in the section.
The meeting with Italy will be their toughest test of the tournament, though, and it is hard to see them raising their standards to the required levels at Wembley, even with the likes of Marcel Sabitzer and David Alaba.
Top performer: Manuel Locatelli!
???? With two goals, 94% passing accuracy and six tackles, Manuel Locatelli’s match-winning display for Italy against Switzerland was one of the standout statistical displays of Matchday 2 ????@FedExEurope | #EUROPZ | #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/Yr88ikWJFh
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 20, 2021
The Azzurri were a pleasure to watch as they ended Group A on nine points, with seven goals scored and none conceded. A flair has been added to the famous Italian stubbornness this summer and boss Roberto Mancini has his side in fine fettle as they have emerged as one of the teams of the tournament thus far.
NETHERLANDS V CZECH REPUBLIC
Sunday, June 27, 5pm
Holland’s 3-2 victory over Ukraine was one of the highlights of the group stages and the Dutch have been a typically entertaining outfit so far this summer under the guidance of Frank de Boer.
Eight goals in three games – including a trio of strikes from the impressive Georginio Wijnaldum – ensured Holland topped their section with maximum points and it would be a surprise if they are not too strong for the Czechs this weekend.
???????? First Dutch player to score 3 goals or more at a EURO final tournament since Ruud van Nistelrooy (4) in 2004…
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 21, 2021
Jaroslav Silhavy’s side were competent without being eye-catching as they beat Scotland and drew with Croatia to claim one of the best of the rest spots.
An in-form and high in confidence Patrik Schick could cause the Dutch defence problems but the Czechs are likely to fall short at this stage as Wales or Denmark lie in wait.
BELGIUM V PORTUGAL
Sunday, June 27, 8pm
This could be the most entertaining tie of the round and an unexpected early exit will befall a side that would have ambitions of going all the way to Wembley glory this summer.
Belgium breezed through their wins over Russia and Finland and overcame Denmark on their way to nine points and the attacking talents of Roberto Martinez’s squad – with Romelu Lukaku particularly impressive thus far – are well versed.
— GoalMouth (@GoalMouthFooty) June 19, 2021
Portugal had to sweat it out as they joined France and Germany at this stage. They aren’t exactly short in the final third themselves and it has been a record-breaking few days for Cristiano Ronaldo, who tops the scoring charts with five goals from three games.
There simply must be goals and drama in this one. Whoever wins will certainly have taken out one of their rivals for the silverware.
CROATIA V SPAIN
Monday, June 28, 5pm
The game that the Tartan Army will watch with more than a tinge of regret. Had fate dealt Steve Clarke a different hand, it could have been his squad heading to Denmark next week.
Croatia’s prize for beating Scotland to second place in Group D is a meeting with Spain and this tie is a difficult one to call given the formbook of both sides so far.
???????? Ferran Torres has scored 5 goals in his last 4 games for Spain ????
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) April 9, 2021
Zlatko Dalic’s side will need all the guile and genius of Luka Modric once again and the 2018 World Cup finalists haven’t exactly looked like a team capable of going that far in the competition this time around.
The same could be said for Spain. The 5-0 trouncing of Slovakia on matchday three was emphatic but they were held by Sweden and Poland in their first two fixtures. There is certainly more to come and if they find it then they will likely prove too strong.
FRANCE V SWITZERLAND
Monday, June 28, 8pm
The reigning World Champions were the favourites of many to add the Euros crown to their honours list and few will have been put off by what they have seen thus far.
Les Bleus would top Group F ahead of Portugal and Germany, mainly courtesy of their 1-0 victory over Joachim Low’s side on matchday one. A draw with Hungary preceded a terrific meeting with the Portuguese on Sunday night.
???????? Karim Benzema will be back in France colours for #EURO2020
???? 81 caps
⚽️ 27 goals pic.twitter.com/e2AHWKogjT
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) May 18, 2021
Switzerland, meanwhile, were amongst the best third-placed teams as a victory over Turkey and draw with Wales proved enough to see them progress to this stage.
France offer a significantly stiffer challenge, though, and a star-studded squad guided by Didier Deschamps has shown why they remain the ones to beat.
ENGLAND V GERMANY
Tuesday, June 29, 5pm
There is little that needs said about this fixture. The previews for this one write themselves and the stage is set for a huge tie at Wembley next week.
Neither side have been that convincing thus far and both will need their best performances of the tournament if they are to progress. Whichever one does so must then hit new heights if they are to threaten to win the tournament.
“That was probably taken about a year ago.” ????
????󠁧󠁢󠁥󠁮󠁧󠁿 Gareth Southgate tries to guess the England players from their ???????????????? ???????????????????????? ???? How many did you get?@England | #EURO2020 pic.twitter.com/SoUbUmFK19
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 22, 2021
A draw with Hungary was enough to see Germany emerge from Group F and the challenge of England won’t worry them after workmanlike showings against Croatia, Scotland and the Czechs.
This will be historic either way. A quarter of a century on from his penalty miss, could Gareth Southgate earn some personal redemption and spark another wave of English hype?
SWEDEN V UKRAINE
Tuesday, June 29, 8pm
This is the final game that Hampden will host at the finals and, on paper at least, it doesn’t look like being a blockbuster tie as the line-up for the last eight is completed.
Sweden have to be favourites to progress after pipping Spain to top spot in Group E, while Ukraine would finish behind Holland and Austria in their section.
“For lack of a better word, I wrote hyper!” ????????????
— UEFA EURO 2020 (@EURO2020) June 18, 2021
A 1-0 win over Slovakia followed a goalless draw with Spain and a dramatic victory over Poland on Wednesday night rounded off the section for the Swedes.
Emil Forsberg has three goals to his credit already this summer and is clearly the man that Andriy Shevchenko’s side will need to watch but it seems that neither team will threaten the last eight.