Even if you've never watched it, chances are that you're heard of the World Cup. It is a global soccer—or football—tournament that is the most watched sporting event in the world. (Yes, even more than the Olympics.) The World Cup happens every four years—and in between, there is another event that attracts a lot of attention from sports fans. The UEFA European Football Championships, or Euros.
The most recent Euros were supposed to happen in 2020, but, well, we all know what happened to those plans. So now in 2021, the event is making up for lost time. If you've been following it, you know it's been a great event so far, full of surprising upsets and thrilling, roller coaster finishes. But if you're only hearing about it now and are feeling curious, your timing couldn't be better. That's because today and tomorrow are the event's semifinals and the matchups are excellent. From soccer superpowers going head-to-head to underdogs and underachievers, these two games have it all.
Tuesday: Mighty matchup
Today the feature match is Spain versus Italy. These two countries are some of the most successful in the history of European football. Spain has won three Euros, plus a World Cup. Italy's team has won one Euro and a stunning four World Cups. In other words, these are powerhouse teams with long histories and passionate fans.
Neither team has lost a match yet, and Italy has looked especially impressive, winning all of their matches so far. Spain started slowly—with a pair of so-so ties, or draws, in their early games—but they have really been revving up their engines now. Neither team is stronger here, but they do play different styles.
Spain loves a possession game, which means they hold on to the ball as much as possible. They pass expertly to each other and try to develop perfect attacks over time. Italy, on the other hand, combine strong defence with a lightning fast attack that is always ready to punish any mistake.
Two very skilled, though different, heavyweight teams. It will be fun to watch!
Wednesday: Finally here
Tomorrow's match—England versus Denmark—is a bit of surprise semifinal. Even though England is home to the world's most popular football league—the Premier League—and its team is consistently ranked highly, they have a history of failing on the big stage. They only won the World Cup once and have never even been in a Euro final before. Denmark actually have won a Euro (1992), but outside of that, their achievements are also pretty slim. Their reputation is that they are a good team, but rarely a great one.
So with one underachiever (England) and one underdog (Denmark), who has the edge?
Experts have said that it's England. After decades of disappointment, this team is on a real run. They reached the semifinals of the last World Cup (2018) and haven't let in a single goal this whole Euros. Yep, not one. And they're not just about defence either. This English side is quick, young, and full of attacking options, as shown in their 4–0 quarterfinal win over Ukraine.
Denmark, however, are full of that magic thing sports teams crave. Belief against the odds. Their tournament started with tragedy when their star player Christian Eriksen collapsed in the first half of their opening match. Though he is recovering safely in hospital, it was a scary event that cost the team their best player, and Denmark went on to lose their first two matches. Since then, they've turned on the jets. They've rallied around each other, winning three in a row, and scoring loads of goals.
Will it be enough to break down England? No one has done it so far. But every game is a clean slate.
Which if these four teams do you think will win the Euros?
Both semifinals will happen at 3:00pm EST.