Some people may have seen these before but this was an opportunity to rank the 24 countries that were taking part in the Euros into some sort of order.
I am starting with a couple of rules that need to be considered, so please read these before telling me I am wrong. The first is that this is only based on the games we have seen so far, nothing else, regardless of previous reputation etc. Second is that the eight teams out in the groups have to be ranked 17-24, and the eight teams out in the last 16 have to be 9-16.
So, on with the rankings.
Planning for the final
- Belgium – QF v Italy (previously second, up one place)
So good during the group stage, bar the first half against Denmark. Found a real determination to be better than Portugal and despite having a defence that seems to have played international football for twenty years, still looked able to repel anything thrown at them. The injuries to de Bruyne and Hazard may mean they struggle on Friday night, but in Lukaku they have a striker who is showing Manchester United how wrong they were to let him go. Big pressure on them to finally win something, but you can see why they are the top ranked team in the world.
- Italy – QF v Belgium (previously first, down one place)
Dominated their group, then struggled against Austria. A similar dip in performance will probably see them eliminated. Mancini who was unflappable throughout the group stage, looked really concerned as the second half went on. Squad rotation made sense for some teams but it looked like the attacking unit was not as in sync with each other through the second half of this game. As with their opponents, a lot will rest on their experienced back line.
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) May 23, 2021
- Denmark – QF v Czech Republic (previously fourteenth, up eleven places)
Normally when a team moves this far there is something horrendous about the previous prediction, and I am happy to admit that I thought the Danes would be emotionally spent after the win against Russia. They looked very good against Wales, I think they would have beaten most teams in the competition with that performance. Winning teams normally have a story that runs through a tournament, in this case I can think of nothing better than uniting around bringing it home for Christian Eriksen. They will be backed by every neutral and Damsgaard looks a real player.
- England – QF v Ukraine (previously fifth, up one place)
England still have not conceded in this competition. That fact alone bears repeating. Whilst I am not yet in the “coming home” camp, I would say that the performance and tactics against Germany were spot on. However, the problem with knock out football is that one mistake can end your chances. Raheem Sterling looked so relieved as he saw Muller put that chance wide and we could have woken to a very different atmosphere. Maguire has brought the ball out well, quickened the pace of the game and his influence makes him appear like a captain in waiting. I think the fact that Kane scored will help, it relieves some pressure off him and might bring his confidence back. Ukraine will be a test but England need to show the same attitude they have so far, maybe with a bit more swagger.
- Spain – QF v Switzerland (previously eleventh, up six places)
For readers after the group stage I said they needed a spark to get going. If letting a 3-1 lead slip, before winning 5-3 in extra time isn’t it then I don’t know what will be. Morata looked more involved and Laporte looked more solid, particularly in extra time. However, the fact that the Garcia substitution seemed to throw them into defensive jeopardy would worry me. I think they will be favourites on Friday, but can easily see them being beaten.
Still in with a shout
- Czech Republic – QF v Denmark (previously twelfth, up six places)
Is this another Euro 96 for more than one nation? Having scored a screamer against Scotland to finish them off, been unlucky to draw against Croatia and then looked ok against England, they were solid and effective against the Dutch. The Danes will be full of confidence given their last two performances but the Czechs should still fancy their chances.
- Switzerland – QF v Spain (previously thirteenth, up six places)
Beating France sees them rise into the top eight, a surprise given their exploits in the game against Italy where they looked very weak. Our super cool Swiss defender did the job from the spot. Embolo had his best game of the tournament but they will need to raise it to another level to beat Spain now Busquets is back marshalling that midfield.
- Ukraine – QF v England (previously sixteenth, up eight places)
The spirit of Shevchenko looks to be alive and strong. The team are well drilled and have some stand out talents in Yarmalenko and Zinchenko who linked up well for the opener. Malinovskiy is also a solid player but there were a few injuries and they will hope they heal up as they will likely need a full-strength side.
The polarized zone
- France (previously fourth, down nine places)
Mbappe missed a penalty and they were out. Should not have ended up in that position and could easily have lost 4-3 but for a missed penalty during the game. Benzema looked great but they were not the swaggering side of 2018 after all.
- Austria (previously tenth)
Should be extremely pleased with their Euros, a first trip to the knock out rounds and a solid performance against a good Italian team. Arnautovic had them worried for a short period.
- Portugal (previously seventh, down four places)
Ronaldo is the greatest European footballer ever, I think that just has to be taken as a fact however you feel about him. Portugal may do well to start to think about moving on from him after this tournament, the international goalscoring record should be sidelined for them getting a team ethos back.
- Sweden (previously sixth, down six places
Harsh red card in my view in extra time, the player cleared the ball and the opponent ran into his leg. A nasty injury and it looked awful when frozen in front of the screen and in slow motion, but the team were in relative control until then and can feel unfortunate to lose.
- Wales (previously ninth, down four places)
Played well against Turkey and Italy but were outplayed by the Danes. I think this team may need a recycle and Brooks to be involved more but they can hold their heads high after reaching the last 16.
Stock running out of this belting T-shirt….modelled by TF's very own Norman Riley…..
— True Faith: Newcastle United Fanzine and Podcast (@tfNUFC) June 21, 2021
- Netherlands (previously third, down eleven places)
Brilliant in the groups, straight out when challenged. The signs were there in the Ukraine game but like in 2008 the Dutch have wasted their brilliance in the games that are not as important. The red card did play a part but I thought they were poor beforehand.
- Germany (previously eight, down seven places)
One Muller chance and it could have been different, plus a Pickford save that was excellent at 0-0. However, they were lucky to get through past Hungary and it showed.
- Croatia (previously fifteenth, down one place)
Had them and Ukraine as the weakest teams in the tournament and I think the lack of Mandzukic and the age of the midfield caught up with them here.
Already on holiday
- North Macedonia
STEPHEN ORD @smord84