4 things we learned from Euro 2024 quarter-finals

  • Four major nations have advanced into Euro 2024 semi-finals
  • England and France both progressed on penalties
  • Spain without Pedri for remainder of tournament after beating Germany
Trent Alexander-Arnold scored the winning penalty for England against Switzerland
Trent Alexander-Arnold scored the winning penalty for England against Switzerland / James Gill - Danehouse/GettyImages

The Euro 2024 quarter-finals brought about a whopping 450 minutes of action, but that wasn't necessarily a good thing.

Only one of the four contests didn't require an extended period, with two of the bouts going the distance. They were decided from 12 yards and the four nations competing certainly produced in the shootout as only two spot kicks were errant. The quality there can't be disputed.

The quarter-finals did offer even contests across the board and sequences of open-play magic, but the sense of occasion and the incoherence of some outfits meant fans were forced to slog through much of the action - in two games anyway.

Here are four things we learned from the Euro 2024 quarter-finals.

Cold-blooded England

Ivan Toney
Eyes on the ba--- goalkeeper / James Baylis - AMA/GettyImages

England were hardly transformed against Switzerland but they did produce a decent opening 45 minutes - albeit one devoid of chance creation.

For a period, it looked as if Gareth Southgate's side would be heading home after they'd allowed the game to drift. Breel Embolo opened the scoring but Bukayo Saka took matters into his own hands to swiftly equalise. A nervy conclusion to the bout ensued with Switzerland coming on strong in extra time, but England held on for penalties.

There was once a time when the five words which concluded the above paragraph would have been met with an existential dread. Penalty shootouts once brought out inhibition and unbearable anxiety, but this set of players are seemingly immune to any sort of pressure.

Five perfect penalties and Jordan Pickford's early denial of Manuel Akanji sent the Three Lions through to their third semi-final at a major tournament under Southgate.

They remain tactically unsure and are certainly flawed, but England's ability to dig in and deliver when it matters will serve them well as they aim to secure their first ever European Championship trophy. Southgate's group are embracing the occasion.

This is Didier Deschamps' France

Didier Deschamps
France are yet to score a goal from open play / BSR Agency/GettyImages

Didier Deschamps' France were once defined as 'pragmatic', but the former water carrier has drifted so far into the realm of caution and conservatism this summer that labelling this French side pragmatic would be doing the word a disservice.

With centre-backs littered across the backline and three holders offering midfield protection, Deschamps' France are far from an inspiring watch. Their defensive resilience can't be denied, though, and they seemingly always find a way.

Some projected a knockout stage uptick after an uninspiring group stage but, after outlasting Belgium and overcoming Portugal on spot-kicks without scoring an open-play goal, it's fair to say that this is what to expect from the 2018 World Cup winners.

No major upsurge is going to arrive soon, but they've got as good a chance as any of winning this competition for the first time since 2000.

Spain can fill Pedri void

Dani Olmo
Dani Olmo opened the scoring against Germany after replacing Pedri / Alex Livesey/GettyImages

Spain are certainly the most impressive team left in the tournament, but they have been dealt a blow in the aftermath of their quarter-final triumph over Germany.

A cynical but in no way malicious lunge from Toni Kroos - which remarkably didn't warrant a booking - on Pedri has ended the Barcelona midfielder's tournament. After dazzling at Euro 2020, Pedri's career has stagnated due to a litany of setbacks and his latest knee injury is set to sideline him for six weeks.

The 21-year-old is thus set to add to the 83 games he's missed for club and country through injury.

His absence does hinder Luis de la Fuente's side, but Spain are well-stocked in reserve and Pedri's potential replacements provided the goods against Germany. The versatile Dani Olmo replaced Pedri and took up a free-roaming function in Stuttgart. Olmo opened the scoring and was named Player of the Match for his contribution, but it was another midfield substitute in Mikel Merino who produced the decisive moment in extra time.

Merino was fighting for a starting berth pre-tournament but De la Fuente opted for Fabian Ruiz and the PSG star has enjoyed a superb campaign. In Pedri's absence, Merino could get the nod in Spain's engine room. The 28-year-old has starred for Real Sociedad in recent years, emerging as one of La Liga's most reliable and consistent midfield performers.

Wout Weghorst is the Netherlands' difference-maker

Wout Weghorst
Wout Weghorst changed the game for the Netherlands / Soccrates Images/GettyImages

Despite their knack for producing them, the Netherlands has a rather uncomfortable relationship with the target man striker.

The Dutch are a proud bunch still synonymous with the swashbuckling style pioneered by Johan Cruyff's Total Footballers. There's no room for a limited big man as part of an ever-rotating collective, but recent Netherlands outfits, including Ronald Koeman's current iteration, have been far cries from the Total Football utopia.

The Netherlands team on display in Germany has neat pieces with controllers in the middle of the park, but they lean closer to the functional unit of 2010 than Cruyff's team of 1974 - both World Cup finalists.

As a result, many have come around to the idea of Wout Weghorst. Having scored the winner off the bench on Matchday 1 against Poland, there have been calls for Koeman to start the Burnley forward in place of Memphis Depay, who's closing in on the Netherlands' all-time scoring record. Koeman has since resisted such cries given his admiration for Depay, but Weghorst has been utilised as his Plan B.

The Dutch were 1-0 behind when the boss pivoted to his target man at half-time. He didn't get on the scoresheet but served as a much-needed reference point for his side's playmakers. Weghorst was a presence and was able to compete far better against an aggressive Turkey backline. He helped his side turn the tide and an exceptional defensive clearance prevented the Netherlands from falling 2-0 behind.

There will be cries for Weghorst against England, but another cameo off the bench is likely.