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Preview: Under-21 EURO quarter-finals

The quarter-finals are played on Monday as the competition resumes in Hungary and Slovenia two months after the group stage ended.

Portugal train on Sunday
Portugal train on Sunday UEFA via Getty Images

Two months after booking their progress from the UEFA European Under-21 Championship group stage, the eight quarter-finalists return to Hungary and Slovenia as the knockout phase begins.

All four last-eight ties are on Monday, as holders Spain face Croatia and the Netherlands play France, followed by Portugal meeting Italy and Denmark taking on Germany. We preview the ties.

For tickets click here; there will also be a ticket office at each stadium.

Knockout bracket

All of Spain's goals so far
All of Spain's goals so far

Monday 31 May: Quarter-finals
Spain vs Croatia (Maribor, 18:00 CET)
Netherlands vs France (Budapest, 18:00 CET)
Portugal vs Italy (Ljubljana, 21:00 CET)
Denmark vs Germany (Székesfehérvár, 21:00 CET)

Thursday 3 June: Semi-finals
SF1: Netherlands/France vs Denmark/Germany (Székesfehérvár, 21:00 CET)
SF2: Spain/Croatia vs Portugal/Italy (Maribor, 18:00 CET)

Sunday 6 June: Final
Winner SF1 vs Winner SF2 (Ljubljana, 21:00 CET)

How the groups ended


Spain vs Croatia
(Maribor, 18:00 CET)

Holders Spain only conceded once in qualifying and kept three clean sheets in March, leaving them as one of two unbeaten teams across the competition so far, along with Denmark. And they have a reputation to keep up: Spain have never lost a U21 EURO knockout game before the final since the tournament format was introduced in 1998.

Watch the late stunner that put Croatia through
Watch the late stunner that put Croatia through

Croatia, by contrast, made it past the group stage for the first time when Domagoj Bradarić's spectacular added-time strike against England pulled the score back to 2-1 – meaning they pipped both their opponents and Switzerland on three-way head-to-head goals scored. Bradarić, like Luka Ivanušec and Joško Gvardiol, has been named in Zlatko Dalić's UEFA EURO 2020 squad but the senior coach has given Igor Bišćan permission to select the trio for the match with Spain, although even if Croatia win they are set to leave the U21 camp after this quarter-final.

Luis de la Fuente, Spain coach: "[Croatia] are a very tough team who are difficult to overcome because they're a very good side. They also have some key individual players, who are competing at the highest level. They'll force us to be the best version of ourselves in order to have any chance of overcoming them."

Igor Bišćan, Croatia coach: "[Spain] have been dominant at U21 level for the past ten years and the latest generation have shown that they are following the path of previous ones. This will be a tough match for us. They are clear favourites, but – because of everything we’ve been through, both at the tournament and during the qualifiers – a sense of cohesion and unity has emerged among both the squad and the staff. This gives us hope that, if we prepare well and maintain a positive attitude, we can surprise Spain."

See the knockout squads

Netherlands vs France (Budapest, 18:00 CET)

Every Netherlands goal so far
Every Netherlands goal so far

After 1-1 draws with Romania and Germany in Budapest, the Netherlands turned on the style to end the hopes of co-hosts Hungary with a 6-1 win, Cody Gakpo scoring two and making two more. Gakpo, however, has been promoted to the provisional senior squad for UEFA EURO 2020, though with Justin Kluivert, Dani de Wit, Myron Boadu and Brian Brobbey among others these is still plenty of attacking spark.

France bounced back from an opening loss to Denmark by beating Russia and Iceland 2-0 (both times with two first-half goals). Bundesliga pair Dayot Upamecano and Moussa Diaby are high-profile additions to the France squad. However, first-choice goalkeeper Alban Lafont is out due to Nantes' involvement in the Ligue 1 relegation play-offs. Etienne Green has been called up to join Illan Meslier and Dimitry Bertaud (the only one of the three with a U21 cap).

Erwin van de Looi, Netherlands coach: "We won our group and we didn’t expect to play France, but they came second in their group. I think France had a similar experience to us: they were unlucky and lost the first match against Denmark and then were solid in the rest of the matches. They’re a very strong team with good individual players who all play at the highest level in a strong French league. Some play abroad; they are also very strong physically, with a particular playing style. It will be a great challenge for us and it certainly won’t be easy for us, as everyone knows."

Every France goal so far
Every France goal so far

Sylvain Ripoli, France coach: "What’s most impressive about the Dutch team is their technical maturity as a team. They’re very intelligent and mature already in terms of control, their ability to play forward quickly, and to play in tune. Obviously the Netherlands are a huge team with a lot of individuality and talent in all areas. They were intelligent in their approach to qualifying; they drew twice and then won their last match. But those matches were all good, they were consistent and, again, at a technical level, in particular, the team was very strong."

Where to watch the games


Portugal vs Italy
(Ljubljana, 21:00 CET)

Portugal stormed through the group stage, beating Croatia, England and Switzerland without conceding, the latter two games at Stadion Stožice to which they return. Those performances augmented their stellar pre-tournament reputation, particularly with the creativity of Fábio Vieira and Vitinha.

Italy ended their opening draws with the Czech Republic and Spain down to nine men but their 4-0 elimination of co-hosts Slovenia, Patrick Cutrone scoring twice, got the joint-record five-time winners back on track. Striker Riccardo Sottil is back in the Italy squad after his recent return from a thigh injury that kept him out of the group stage.

All of Portugal's goals so far
All of Portugal's goals so far

Rui Jorge, Portugal coach: "[Italy are] usually very resolute and mature teams, and this one is no exception. They’re very consistent, they’ve got really experienced players, and they’re a very aggressive team with players that can change a match in an instant. They’ve got two fantastic forwards and are very consistent and mature. Overall they’re very dangerous."

Paolo Nicolato, Italy coach: "We know Portugal very well, because they have had similar growth to us since the [2018] European Under-19 [Championship], when they beat us in extra time. We know that their Under-17 team won the [2016] gold medal, their Under-19 won a [2017] silver and a [2018] gold medal, so we are talking about the elite. It’s a great motivation, and we respect their qualities very much."

Denmark vs Germany (Székesfehérvár, 21:00 CET)

Denmark left France, Iceland and Russia in their wake with three wins and six unanswered goals in the group stage. The thrilling wing play of Jacob Bruun Larsen and Gustav Isaksen was just one aspect of the impressive displays by Albert Capellas's side, which had even been deprived of several key men due to senior call-ups.

Germany's opening Ridle Baku-inspired 3-0 win against co-hosts Hungary in Székesfehérvár ensured they could draw with the Netherlands and Romania and still progress in a tight three-way tie-break. Stefan Kuntz will bring his team to Hungary after a week-long camp in the Alps, just as they did before the 2019 finals, when they opened by beating Denmark 3-1 before finishing runners-up. Niklas Dorsch is suspended for the quarter-final.

All of Germany's goals so far
All of Germany's goals so far

Albert Capellas, Denmark coach: "[Germany] have different ways of playing, and that makes them a little less predictable. They are very good on the counterattack; you have to be careful when they sit back, since they always leave one or two players free in the attacking third. Then, when you lose the ball, they pounce quickly, they’re very good at counterattacking. They have very fast players, and when they get into your box, they will make you pay. It’s about taking control over those little details that they can use to hurt you, and organise your team to avoid them."

Stefan Kuntz, Germany coach: "We watched [Denmark's] games and we faced them before in previous tournaments. The games were always close and there was always a very fine line between winning or losing these games. Of course we will need defensive stability again [like in the group stage], but consistency and concentration will play a major role. You can’t afford to make many mistakes against Denmark."