This is when it starts to get really interesting. Real-life jeopardy. Proper drama. The group stages had their moments but the straight knock-out nature of finals football conjures up a whole different level of emotion.
Four players from Elland Road were present - on pitch or bench - for the first round of knockout football. All either watched or took part in some outstanding games.
However, as with knockout football, there were mixed fortunes as four became three.
Kalvin Phillips / Robin Koch
The Yorkshire Pirlo put in another rock-solid performance on Tuesday evening, playing the full 90 minutes as England beat Germany 2-0 at Wembley to go through to the quarter-finals. Koch was an unused substitute again and, unfortunately, failed to knock up any minutes in this years Euros.
It was England’s - and Phillips’ - night in the end, beating the Germans in a major tournament finals for the first time since 1966. Phillips is the first Leeds United player to do so since the late great Jack Charlton.
Early scepticism was rife as Gareth Southgate’s team selection came out, opting for a back three with both Declan Rice and Phillips in a midfield two. But the duo, despite both picking up yellow cards in the first half, dominated the midfield battle against Leon Goretzka and Toni Kroos in a solid display from the Three Lions.
Southgate’s tactical switch up worked perfectly however, and England seemed relatively comfortable throughout, packing in the central areas whilst also successfully nullifying Germany’s rampaging wing-backs, Robin Gosens and Joshua Kimmich, who have provided Die Mannschaft’s biggest threat in the group stages.
Chances fell equally to both sides in the first half. For England, Raheem Sterling went close with a curling shot before Harry Maguire had a header that went straight at Manuel Neuer. Whilst Kai Havertz came closest to scoring for Germany, his well struck half-volley tipped over by the sublime again Jordan Pickford.
The second-half was a much more docile affair until, in the 75th minute, Sterling cut in from the right, before laying the ball into Harry Kane who subsequently fed Jack Grealish on the left. Grealish’s low cross found the onrushing Sterling who tapped home from close range.
Thomas Muller was handed a great chance by Sterling just six minutes later and ended up clean through on Pickford’s goal, but the Bayern Munich forward, somehow, slipped the ball wide of the post.
After that snap chance, however, it was England who continued to pose the biggest threat, and when Kane nodded in another fantastic Grealish cross four minutes from time it was 2-0, and game over.
England’s win takes them into a quarter-final clash with Ukraine on Wednesday, in Rome, knowing a win sets up a semi-final clash with one of Denmark or the Czech Republic.
For Koch, this tournament will be looked back upon as a learning opportunity and an opportunity to settle into a national camp that he will likely have many successful tournaments with.
Phillips’ reputation amongst England fans grows and grows with each passing minute. He is still yet to miss a minute of this finals and his partnership with Rice gets better and better. Jordan Henderson - previously a shoe-in for the starting XI - will struggle to find a spot.
Kalvin Phillips v Germany.— LUFCDATA (@LUFCDATA) June 29, 2021
82% pass accuracy
45 successful passes
11.3km distance covered
11 ball recoveries
4 successful long passes
4 duels won
Huge performance. More than held his own against Toni Kroos & Leon Goretzk. #ENG pic.twitter.com/OX2b5kCb9a
Roberts was finally handed his first major tournament minutes for Wales on Saturday, coming on as a sub for Kieffer Moore in the 78th minute. It was to be a bittersweet experience, however, as Wales crashed out in spectacular fashion, losing 4-0 to Denmark in Amsterdam.
Rob page opted for the regular front three - Gareth Bale and Dan James either side of Moore - for the first knockout game of the tournament. They, along with Aaron Ramsey from midfield, started the game with real purpose, breaking the Danish lines and creating a few early half-chances.
But Denmark made a notable tactical adjustment after around 20 minutes, pushing Thomas Christensen up from a back-three into the base of the midfield, and from there managed to gain control of the game.
It didn’t take long for Denmark to convert their control into a goal, and when Joakim Mæhle’s ball found Mikkel Damsgaard Wales looked vulnerable. From there, Damsgaard offloaded to Kasper Dolberg who turned Chris Mepham and fired into the bottom-right corner.
From that point onwards Kasper Hjulmand’s side controlled the game, reducing Wales to just one shot on target amongst an array of speculative long-shots. Dolberg added a second just after the break when Neco William’s terrible clearance fell to him six yards out, although Wales will feel aggrieved not to have won a free-kick in the build up.
Roberts came on with 12 minutes to go, although by then a demoralised Wales side struggled to provide any service for the 22-year-old who managed just five touches, all of which were successful passes and part of some slick link up play.
Two late goals, firstly from Mæhle and then from Martin Braithwaite, bookended a debatable Harry Wilson red card and piled on the misery for Wales who, despite failing to create anything of substance past the first 25 minutes, will regard themselves unlucky to go out with a 4-0 defeat.
Roberts himself will likely be left dispirited by his lack of minutes and could’ve easily featured more often after a promising, if inconsistent, season with Leeds.
Leeds’ Spanish defender had the pleasure of witnessing the game of the tournament so far on Monday - debatable come 10pm that same night, when Switzerland knocked France out on Penalties - as his side beat Croatia 5-3 after extra-time in Copenhagen after finishing the 90 minutes at 3-3.
It will seem bittersweet, however, as he was once again an unused substitute and is still yet to make an appearance at the finals. Luis Enrique opted to start Aymeric Laporte and Eric Garcia in the middle of a back four.
Spain started the better of the two sides and predictably dominated possession, with early chances spurned by Alvaro Morata and Koke.
It was to be Croatia who took the lead though, and in bizarre circumstances. Pedri’s challenging back-pass to Unai Simon was completely missed by the Spanish goalkeeper, who turned and watched as the ball trickled into an empty net.
Spain kept their heads, however, and went into half-time at 1-1 after Pablo Sarabia fired in a loose ball from 15 yards.
Cesar Azpilicueta put Spain 2-1 up with a powerful header on 57 minutes before Ferran Torres’ brilliant run and finish looked to have ended the contest with 13 minutes still to play.
Croatia were not ready to give up, and with five minutes to go Mislav Orsic fumbled home after a series of chances, with goal-line technology adjudging the ball to have just crossed the line. Game on.
Spains centre-backs looked vulnerable to crosses all game and when Orsic’s cross found Mario Pasalic inbetween Laporte and the subbed on Pau Torres, Pasalic tucked home for 3-3 and extra-time.
Spain again managed to level themselves during the brief break and looked far superior during the first half, with two goals in that 15 minute spell, firstly from Morata who smashed home clinically. Mikel Oyarzabal then slotted home a Dani Olmo cross from a tight angle to make it 5-3.
Spain rode out the final 15 with relative ease and the win puts them into a quarter-final game with Switzerland on Tuesday.
Llorente will be desperate for an opportunity as Spain go into the latter stages of the tournament. He is the only outfield player yet to make an appearance for Spain.