Top play: On EURO 2020 and the virus

Euro 2020 seems to belie fears of subdued performances due to the pandemic

However, it remains to be seen how much of the positivity spills over into the round-of-16, which begins in Amsterdam on Saturday with the Denmark-Wales clash. If ever there was a time for cautious play, it is now, with the competition essentially a single-elimination, winner-take-all affair. France, having won the 2018 World Cup, knows a way around such situations, and with midfielder Paul Pogba in imperious form, it remains the favourite. Italy has been the stand-out team, with its young and energetic outfit coached by the astute Roberto Mancini expected to go far and bury the ghosts of 2018 when it did not qualify for the World Cup. Belgium’s golden generation, led by Eden Hazard, Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku, seems well-placed to realise the dream of a first major trophy. But its shaky defence needs some shoring up, first against Ronaldo’s Portugal. The most-anticipated pre-quarterfinal clash will however be between England and Germany at Wembley. But both sides have been middling so far, with their halos significantly dimmed. Germany, in particular, was minutes away from elimination, before Leon Goretzka’s deflected goal against Hungary saved the day. But the weight of history can hang heavy on England, for it has won just three out of 11 competitive fixtures against Germany, the last coming 20 years ago.

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