Euro 2020: Paul Merson's predictions for the Round of 16 fixtures

Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo have impressed in front of goal at Euro 2020
Romelu Lukaku and Cristiano Ronaldo have impressed in front of goal at Euro 2020

The group stages of UEFA Euro 2020 didn't produce too many surprises, as 16 nations booked their place in the knockout stages earlier this week. Group F lived up to its billing as the Group of Death and came to a frantic finish, as France finished first, with Germany and Portugal occupying second and third spot, respectively.

Hungary finished fourth despite holding France and Germany to draws in successive games. Their 3-0 defeat against Portugal in their Euro 2020 opener proved to be detrimental to their hopes of making it through to the Round of 16.

Spain and Croatia recorded convincing wins on Matchday 3 to confirm qualification after failing to impress in their first two games, as they prepare to face each other at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen next week. Aside from the usual suspects, Sweden and Denmark also made it through to the knockouts, with the Danes recording a famous 4-1 victory against Russia to end their Euro 2020 group stage campaign on a high.

Some of the ties may look straightforward on paper, but the Euro 2020 knockout stages could be quite hard to predict as the competition enters its business end.

After analyzing all the teams involved, I've made my predictions, but anything can happen in the world of football, so we have to take these with a pinch of salt.

The knockout stages of Euro 2020 is the perfect time for players to step up - this is it. These are just my opinions and how I see the games panning out, but if I were to just get one prediction right, I'm hoping it's the England one!

#8 Wales vs Denmark

Italy v Wales - UEFA Euro 2020: Group A
Italy v Wales - UEFA Euro 2020: Group A

Starting off with the first game of the Euro 2020 knockout stages, it's Wales v Denmark at the Amsterdam Arena. I look at both squads and I have to go for Wales.

They have a world-class player in Gareth Bale and the likes of Daniel James and Aaron Ramsey have performed well, but they need the rest of their players to step up in an important game. With all due respect to them, they've got a few players who aren't close to Bale's level and they will need to deliver the goods in the knockout stages of Euro 2020 to ensure Wales go far.

Aside from Bale, Kasper Schmeichel is arguably the only other world-class player on the pitch. I fancy Wales to record a 2-1 victory and make it through to the quarterfinals of Euro 2020.

Prediction: Wales 2-1 Denmark

#7 Italy vs Austria

Italy v Switzerland - UEFA Euro 2020: Group A
Italy v Switzerland - UEFA Euro 2020: Group A

I like Italy and in my opinion, they've been the team of Euro 2020 so far. My only worry is how they'll react after conceding a goal, they've recorded 10 successive clean sheets in all competitions.

Roberto Mancini's side have enough to get the job done, but Austria are tricky customers. They scored four goals in the Euro 2020 group stages and recorded a much-needed victory against Ukraine when it mattered the most.

I fancy Italy to win the tie, but if I'm an Italian fan, I'd like to see my team concede first and stage a fightback victory. If they manage to do that, they'd have ticked all the boxes and could really be a force to be reckoned with in the latter stages of Euro 2020.

Prediction: Italy 2-0 Austria

#6 Netherlands vs Czech Republic

North Macedonia v Netherlands - UEFA Euro 2020: Group C
North Macedonia v Netherlands - UEFA Euro 2020: Group C

I was impressed with Czech Republic's first-half performance against England. They created a lot of chances and could've scored early, but it didn't happen for them in front of goal. If they create as many opportunities as they did against England, they could cause the Netherlands a handful of problems.

Holland, on the other hand, have had a go in each of their games and I've been very impressed by them. However, in their Euro 2020 opener against Ukraine, they conceded twice in the second half and looked vulnerable at the back.

This will be a good game and could be much tighter than a lot of people might seem to think. Holland are a nice team to watch, I still fancy them to get the win.

Prediction: Netherlands 2-1 Czech Republic

Also Read: Jim Beglin column - 5 young players who could become household names after Euro 2020

#5 Belgium vs Portugal

Portugal v France - UEFA Euro 2020: Group F
Portugal v France - UEFA Euro 2020: Group F

This is an absolutely massive game and is arguably the standout fixture of the Euro 2020 Round of 16 stage. Belgium's Achilles heel is definitely at the back, while in the case of Portugal, their midfield hasn't been particularly great at Euro 2020. Fernando Santos has a bit of a problem, as their defense is conceding more goals than they'd have expected due to their midfield woes, which has had a knock-on effect on the rest of the team.

Portugal are a bit hard to predict. One minute they are really exciting to watch in attack but a few minutes later they conceded an avoidable goal against the run of play. They were shocking against Germany but improved against France, indicating that their results are a bit hard to predict.

Belgium, on the other hand, could've been punished by Denmark on Matchday 2 of the Euro 2020 group stages, but Kevin De Bruyne came on and changed the game for his side. This Belgian side reminds me of England's golden generation in the sense that we keep thinking they deserve another chance at a major tournament, so it'll be interesting to see how this one pans out.

Cristiano Ronaldo has already scored five goals at Euro 2020 and Romelu Lukaku is banging them in for Belgium, the battle of the two strikers could be an interesting one.

Another interesting sub-plot is Renato Sanches' role in the team. He replaced Bruno Fernandes in midfield and it turned out to be a masterstroke, as he was one of Portugal's best players against France. Santos might be tempted to give him another chance against Belgium as he looks set to add more quality to Portugal's midfield.

I'd be shocked if there weren't many goals in this one. 13 goals were scored in three Euro 2020 group stage games involving Portugal and the trend could well continue in the knockouts. I fancy the reigning European Champions to win the game and make it through to the quarterfinals.

Prediction: Belgium 2-3 Portugal

#4 Croatia vs Spain

Slovakia v Spain - UEFA Euro 2020: Group E
Slovakia v Spain - UEFA Euro 2020: Group E

Before Spain's Euro 2020 group stage encounter against Slovakia, I told a friend of mine that Spain are the dark horses of the competition. In their first two games, they missed a lot of chances, but I told him that sooner or later, they will absolutely smash someone and find the back of the net more regularly. The result? They won 5-0 when it mattered and sealed qualification with a fantastic performance.

Croatia, too, played well when it really mattered against Scotland, but I can't see them winning this one. I'm going for a comfortable victory for Spain. Pedri, who I mentioned as one of my surprise picks for the Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament award, has been fantastic so far. Alvaro Morata doesn't look like he'll score many goals, but he brings a lot to the team and doesn't hide when things go south for him.

We also have to keep in mind that as Euro 2020 enters its business end, the conditions will get hotter and hotter. This could well play into Spain's hands as they will look to keep the ball and tire opposition teams out in central midfield. Sergio Busquets is one of the best in the business in that regard and he keeps things ticking for his side.

Luis Enrique's side are coming on the back of their best performance at Euro 2020 and should see off Croatia at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.

Prediction: Croatia 0-2 Spain

#3 France vs Switzerland

Portugal v France - UEFA Euro 2020: Group F
Portugal v France - UEFA Euro 2020: Group F

If I'm being honest, I don't know what to make of France. In their opening game at Euro 2020, they beat Germany in second gear but it made me wonder - was it really second gear, or is that how good they are? My doubts seemingly compounded after the Hungary game, as they didn't do enough to record a victory.

Against Portugal, there was nothing between the sides as the game was evenly matched over the course of the 90 minutes. They were a bit fortunate with the penalty call on Kylian Mbappe, but it could also be argued that they should've had another late in the game after Bruno Fernandes brought down Kingsley Coman inside the box.

Switzerland will put ten men behind the ball and sit back, much like Hungary did in the group stage. Xherdan Shaqiri will look to get on the ball and make things happen for his side on the counter-attack, so this could be a dangerous game for France. I'm going for a hard-fought 1-0 win for Didier Deschamps' side, as Switzerland won't be pushovers.

Prediction: France 1-0 Switzlerland

#2 England vs Germany

Czech Republic v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Group D
Czech Republic v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Group D

If you'd asked me after the Portugal game, I'd have said I don't want England to face Germany in the knockout stages of Euro 2020. They were absolutely fearless and blew the reigning European Champions away with a fantastic performance. Against Hungary, though, they conceded two goals and narrowly secured qualification with a late equalizer from Leon Goretzka.

As for England, they performed really well in the first half against Czech Republic. The second half, though, was drab, as they had too many defensive players on the pitch. I want to see England have a go and take Germany on, we have enough quality to beat them in a one-off game. If we play negative football, we can't win, it's as simple as that.

With the intelligence of Kai Havertz, the pace of Serge Gnabry and the passing range of Toni Kroos, they will come at us if we sit back. Do we have the bottle to open up the game and take them on? Germany can't keep a clean sheet if we go at them, but we can't afford to play the way we did against Scotland.

England are a pundit's worst nightmare. I know there is a fair chance I could get each of my predictions wrong, but I usually have an idea of how other teams would play. As for England, it's so hard to predict and it frightens me.

Germany have conceded a few goals, but they've also scored a lot. We could be in for an absolute thriller, only time will tell if the game lives up to its billing. I'm a firm believer, so I fancy England to record a victory.

Prediction: England 2-1 Germany

#1 Sweden vs Ukraine

Sweden v Poland - UEFA Euro 2020: Group E
Sweden v Poland - UEFA Euro 2020: Group E

To be honest, I was a bit disappointed with Ukraine's approach against Austria. They got the script wrong and played for a draw, as the result would've virtually confirmed both teams' place in the knockout stage of Euro 2020. Austria didn't think that way, though, as they came out and recorded a deserved victory.

I fancy Sweden to win this. They are solid defensively, more disciplined tactically and have the know-how to win a game like this. Ukraine will look to have a go, but Sweden could score early and shut shop. They are a strong side defensively and should make it through to the next round of Euro 2020.

Prediction: Sweden 2-0 Ukraine

Also Read: Euro 2020: 5 surprise packages of the tournament so far

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Edited by Vishal Subramanian
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