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Euro 2020 Knockout Stage Power Rankings: How Group Stage, Bracket Impact the Field

The Euros have been narrowed from 24 teams to 16, but which group stage survivors are best suited to make a run to win it all? And is France still the favorite to follow up its World Cup success with another trophy?

Despite the uncertainty of hosting a sprawling event during a pandemic, Euro 2020 has mostly gone according to plan, and that includes the teams that have made it through to the knockout stage.

There have been very few surprises at the Euros from a competitive standpoint, no catastrophic meltdowns and no shameful big-name exits. In fact, the favorites coming into the tournament became bigger favorites—only to end up on the same side of the knockout bracket. 

Does that mean the chaos is only about to begin? We can only hope that the final day of the group stage gave us a taste of what is to come when the best teams face off with everything on the line. 

Here's how the remaining 16 contenders for the European title stack up (previous rankings based on our pre-tournament edition):

The knockout bracket for the 2020 European Championship

1. FRANCE

Previous ranking: 1

Group finish: 1st in Group F (beat Germany; tied Hungary, Portugal)

Last-16 opponent: Switzerland (Monday, 3 p.m. ET)

This is clearly still France's tournament to lose. There are two ways to look at its narrow Group of Death conquest: 1) Clashes with Portugal and Germany have steeled Les Bleus and will only prepare them for another final win. 2) The two draws have put France's weaknesses on display. Either way, France has only reinforced its status as the team to beat at Euro 2020, with Karim Benzema finding form at just the right time with two goals against Portugal. Once again, it looks like the real final may be in the semifinal with a potential France vs. Belgium/Italy/Portugal matchup looming.  

2. BELGIUM

Previous ranking: 5

Group finish: 1st in Group B (beat Russia, Denmark, Finland)

Last-16 opponent: Portugal (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET)

The feeling around Belgium is similar to that of France in the 2018 World Cup: a tournament favorite filled with an absurd amount of talent that hasn't even left second gear. The Red Devils have cruised throughout much of the tournament so far in a relatively weak group, waiting until the 74th minute to take the lead against Finland in the group finale. Kevin De Bruyne looks to be back to full form following his facial injury, Eden Hazard is starting and appears to be fit, and Romelu Lukaku leads the team with three goals. 

However, no one has a tougher road to the final, with a round-of-16 matchup against defending European champion Portugal, followed by potential meetings with Italy and France. If Belgium ends up as the winner, it will be truly deserved. 

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3. ITALY

Previous ranking: 4

Group finish: 1st in Group A (beat Turkey, Switzerland, Wales)

Last-16 opponent: Austria (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET)

Gli Azzurri were always supposed to win their three home games at the Stadio Olimpico and advance with ease, but the fact that they actually did it by outscoring opponents 7–0 has the soccer world talking about a deep Italy run. Roberto Mancini has his side in excellent shape with 11 straight clean sheets and an Italian-record-tying 30-game unbeaten streak dating back to September 2018. Manuel Locatelli and Ciro Immobile have emerged as pleasant surprises on the big stage, while Marco Verratti gave Italy a boost with his return from injury against Wales (Giorgio Chiellini is also hoping to be back for the knockouts). But all eyes are already on a potential quarterfinal against Belgium, where we'll learn how good this Italian side truly is if both advance.

Manuel Locatelli scores for Italy at Euro 2020

4. ENGLAND

Previous ranking: 6

Group finish: 1st in Group D (beat Croatia, Czech Republic; tied Scotland)

Last-16 opponent: Germany (Tuesday, noon ET)

We're going to learn a lot about England very early in the knockout stage with a round-of-16 showdown against Germany on Tuesday. But the Three Lions have one significant advantage, a home field advantage to be precise. England didn't give up a goal in its three group matches but managed to score only twice. It should be a major concern that Harry Kane has been nonexistent, but Raheem Sterling has picked up the slack with both of England's goals in the tournament. If England can get past Germany (which is a massive if—considering England's reputation, and its tournament past vs. Germany), it will head to Rome for a quarterfinal knowing that all roads lead back to Wembley for the semifinal and final. 

5. NETHERLANDS

Previous ranking: 11

Group finish: 1st in Group C (beat Ukraine, Austria, North Macedonia)

Last-16 opponent: Czech Republic (Sunday, noon ET)

The Netherlands emerged unscathed from the weakest group of the Euros and, once again, has the best draw of the tournament. The Oranje may have the clearest path to the semifinals with a round-of-16 matchup against third-place Group D finisher Czech Republic potentially followed by a quarterfinal against either Wales or Denmark. Manager Frank de Boer's controversial switch to a 3-5-2 has paid dividends, and perhaps no one has seen his transfer value skyrocket more than PSV Eindhoven fullback Denzel Dumfries. The Dutch will surely be looking to follow the 2016 Wales formula: win the group and watch the giants batter themselves while you unexpectedly cruise to the semifinals. 

6. GERMANY

Previous ranking: 7

Group finish: 2nd in Group F (beat Portugal; tied Hungary; lost to France)

Last-16 opponent: England (Tuesday, noon ET)

The story of Group F has been out of the frying pan and into the fire, and Germany is no exception. After finishing second in the group, Germany must head to Wembley to face England in front of 40,000 fans. Germany almost didn't qualify for the knockouts until Leon Goretzka's 84th-minute equalizer against Hungary and will need to show more of the spirit it displayed in a 4–2 win over Portugal if it has any hope of extending Jogi Löw's tenure as Germany manager. With a win in London, though, Germany will suddenly become a favorite to reach the final.

7. PORTUGAL

Previous ranking: 2

Group finish: 3rd in Group F (beat Hungary; tied France; lost to Germany)

Last-16 opponent: Belgium (Sunday, 3 p.m. ET)

When it triumphed at the last Euros, Portugal took advantage of a third-place finish in a weak group to cruise through the easy portion of the bracket all the way to the trophy. This time, a third-place finish in the Group of Death has resulted in the most difficult journey to the final, starting with a last-16 matchup against No. 1-ranked Belgium. Portugal boasts the tournament's leading scorer in Cristiano Ronaldo with five goals, and the Juventus star can take sole possession of the all-time men's international scoring record with one more. There are sure to be fireworks in Seville on Sunday. 

Cristiano Ronaldo scores for Portugal at Euro 2020

8. SWEDEN

Previous ranking: 17

Group finish: 1st in Group E (beat Slovakia, Poland; tied Spain)

Last-16 opponent: Ukraine (Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET)

Despite missing its talisman in Zlatan Ibrahimović, Sweden bulldozed its way to the top of its group. The Swedes held Spain to a scoreless draw in the opener, squeaked out a win against Slovakia and blew a two-goal lead to Poland and Robert Lewandowski only to score a last-minute winner to clinch first in the group. They were rewarded with a favorable matchup against Ukraine and a shot at revenge in the quarterfinals: either against England, which eliminated them in the 2018 World Cup quarters, or Germany, which beat Sweden on Toni Kroos's memorable 95th-minute free kick nearly three years ago to the day (Sweden did go on to top their group). 

9. SPAIN

Previous ranking: 3

Group finish: 2nd in Group E (beat Slovakia; tied Sweden, Poland)

Last-16 opponent: Croatia (Monday, noon ET)

Spain was far from impressive for most of the group stage until a Martin Dúbravka own goal sparked its five-goal output against Slovakia in its group stage finale. The win was only enough to finish second after disappointing draws with Sweden and Poland in which the team only managed one goal. But La Furia Roja's failure to top the group may prove to be costly. Instead of a more favorable path, it drew a meeting with Croatia preceding a potential quarterfinal matchup vs. France. Spain will have to hope that Wednesday's scoring outburst is the norm rather than an anomaly if it has any hope of repeating past European glories. 

10. DENMARK

Previous ranking: 8

Group finish: 2nd in Group B (beat Russia; lost to Finland, Belgium)

Last-16 opponent: Wales (Saturday, noon ET)

There is no doubt that Denmark's run has been the biggest story of Euro 2020. Christian Eriksen's collapse and cardiac arrest against Finland shocked the sporting world, and few expected Denmark to come back from such a harrowing event. Yet in front of its emotional home crowd in Copenhagen, Denmark exploded for four goals vs. Russia to clinch its spots in the knockout stage. Now on the weaker side of the bracket, Denmark has a legitimate shot at becoming a Hollywood story as it looks for a sequel to its magical Euro 1992 win. 

Denmark reaches the Euro 2020 knockout stage

11. CROATIA

Previous ranking: 12

Group finish: 2nd in Group D (beat Scotland; tied Czech Republic; lost to England)

Last-16 opponent: Spain (Monday, noon ET)

Croatia looked like a shadow of its 2018 self with a couple of sluggish games to open the tournament. But the World Cup runner-up discovered its goalscoring form in the group finale against Scotland with goals from veterans Luka Modrić and Ivan Perišić to break the tie and see it through to the knockouts. Still, it only clinched second over the Czech Republic based on goals scored as it failed to be the intimidating force that we've seen at the last two major tournaments. A high-profile matchup awaits against Spain, which Croatia came from behind to defeat at the last Euros before losing to eventual champion Portugal in the last 16. 

12. WALES

Previous ranking: 18

Group finish: 2nd in Group A (beat Turkey; tied Switzerland; lost to Italy)

Last-16 opponent: Denmark (Saturday, noon ET)

While Wales may not look as poised as the 2016 team that won its group, it sits in a similar position on the weaker side of the bracket with a comparatively easier path to the semifinals. It's clear that Gareth Bale is nowhere near the same player, as the Real Madrid outcast has yet to score and has taken up more of a distributive role, but Wales's defense has been a pleasant surprise under caretaker manager Robert Page. Can Wales make another improbable run to the semis? It's possible given the bracket, but less likely than in 2016 given the team—and the inspired opponent it'll face next.

13. SWITZERLAND

Previous ranking: 10

Group finish: 3rd in Group A (beat Turkey; tied Wales; lost to Italy)

Last-16 opponent: France (Monday, 3 p.m. ET)

Switzerland has stayed consistent for its uncanny ability to bore its opponents to death and squeeze out a trip to the knockout stage. A third-place finish in Group A, where it conceded more goals than it scored and put in languid showings against Italy and Wales, was made possible by defeating Turkey 3–1 in the final group-stage match. But now the Swiss must take on the defending World Cup champion in France, a team they haven't defeated since 1992 (3-0-4 in seven meetings), before much of the current French squad was even born. There would be no bigger shock in the round than a Switzerland win in Bucharest (not Budapest).

Switzerland reaches the Euro 2020 knockout stage

14. CZECH REPUBLIC

Previous ranking: 16

Group finish: 3rd in Group D (beat Scotland; tied Croatia; lost to England)

Last-16 opponent: Netherlands (Sunday, noon ET)

The Czech Republic impressed with a group-opening win against Scotland and a draw against Croatia, which may say more about Croatia than the Czechs. But the Czech Republic has shown that it has some firepower in Bayer Leverkusen's Patrik Schick, who scored the goal of the tournament so far with his halfway-line volley against Scotland. Surprisingly, the Czechs have only conceded a goal each to two World Cup semifinalists, so they aren't to be counted out against the Dutch, whom they've defeated in their last two meetings (in 2014 and 2015). 

15. AUSTRIA

Previous ranking: 20

Group finish: 2nd in Group C (beat North Macedonia, Ukraine; lost to Netherlands)

Last-16 opponent: Italy (Saturday, 3 p.m. ET)

Austria has proven to be one of the bigger surprises at the Euros with its second-place finish to qualify for the knockouts for the first time. However, that may be the only thing Austria will be able to celebrate from this tournament. Its only true test came in a 2–0 loss to the Netherlands, and now it must face an Italy team that hasn't lost in 30 matches. Had it been in Italy's group, Austria may have been a good bet to finish last. Yet stranger things have happened at the Euros. 

16. UKRAINE

Previous ranking: 9

Group finish: 3rd in Group C (beat North Macedonia; lost to Netherlands, Austria)

Last-16 opponent: Sweden (Tuesday, 3 p.m. ET)

Ukraine has Spain's five goals against Slovakia to thank for its knockout stage berth as the final third-place team to qualify. Some would argue that Hungary and Finland deserve the spot more for their rousing performances against top teams, but that's not how this format works. The fact remains that Ukraine is here because it came out of the weakest group, but it is here nonetheless and does have potential game-changers in its attack. If it can spread that four-minute burst against the Netherlands into an entire match, then perhaps a quarterfinal run is within reach.  

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