Nico Williams has been in stunning for for Spain at the EurosNico Williams has been in stunning for for Spain at the Euros (Image: PA)

Euro view - Elliott Jackson

The good stuff is coming up with a blockbuster Friday treat for those who love the pulsating adrenalin of knock-out football.

The European Championship has been a great watch, albeit lacking jeopardy throughout the group stages. There has been drama, great underdog stories and attacking football on display.

The heavyweights, by and large, have been kept apart. We've had little snippets, Spain vs Italy, France vs The Netherlands, although the quality of the Italians diluted that game considerably.

But Spain vs Germany and France vs Portugal could've easily been the line-up for the final based on pre-tournament expectations. The French only have themselves to blame for landing in the toughest side of the draw after failing to top their group.

It will be very interesting to see how Spain fare on Friday. I think by most people's admission, they have been the best team in the tournament.

They have maintained their free-flowing, possession-based style but added more incision in the final third. The emergence of Lamine Yamal and Nico Williams has added cutting-edge, pace and thrust in attack to complement the wealth of technicians they boast.

But so often, it isn't the best or most exciting team that wins the tournament. I'd argue Spain were superior to Italy in the last European Championship too but missed out on penalty kicks. So often, it's not the team that impresses in the group stages that goes on to lift the trophy.

France have often looked lacklustre under Didier Deschamps and yet have been incredibly successful. England reached the final under Gareth Southgate. Argentina lost their first match of the Qatar World Cup to Saudi Arabia. And so on.

Germany, as the host nation, are a very credible challenger for the title. They looked brilliant against Scotland but 'get-at-able' in the games since. Hungary gave it a decent go and Georgia certainly did, scoring first despite losing 4-1 in the end.

The plucky minnows had plenty of promising moments in transition, something that Germany will be perhaps able to exploit better with the riches they boast bu comparison.

If the hosts are to win, it seems that the pace of Jamal Musiala and Leroy Sane will be crucial to their chances.

As the host nation, it will be interesting to see whether they sit off and look to counter-attack, which many would argue is their best route to victory. They will be expected to play on the front foot by the home crowd.

Julian Nagelsmann is famed for his high-pressing style. How much will he put the handbrake on? Or will he go for the throat but risk getting picked off?

It is set to be a fascinating encounter and one I certainly won't be missing.

Didier Deschamps embraces Nglolo Kante after the Belgium winDidier Deschamps embraces Nglolo Kante after the Belgium win (Image: PA)

Euro View – Marc Iles

You can’t knock Didier Deschamps’ record as France boss but I won’t be watching the highlights package on DVD when he finally does call it quits.

The man famously referred to as ‘The Water Carrier’ by Eric Cantona has taken those defensive principles and applied them successfully to international coaching. Indeed, he is bidding to become the first person to win the World Cup and Euros as both a coach and a player, which is quite remarkable.

But there is something so paint-by-numbers about the way he assembles his team for France and so often manages to stifle the imagination and creativity of players who seem to have so much more joie de vivre when they are in the club game.

Kylian Mbappe should be the most watchable player on the planet but between a troublesome mask worn to protect a broken nose and the general sense of ennui which has surrounded the first four games, he has hardly warranted a mention, stuck out on the left side of attack.

France’s most effective players have been defensive ones – Saliba, Hernandez, Kante – which maybe proves Deschamps’ regular point of view that only a practised and organised team can triumph at these major tournaments, not one that does things ‘off the cuff’.

Given Portugal’s lack of attacking punch so far you would back the French for another clean sheet in the quarter final, that is unless Roberto Martinez remembers he’s the manager and tells Cristiano Ronaldo he can’t have every single set piece. I won’t hold my breath on that one.

Mbappe is certainly good enough to break free of the shackles and score goals from the wide left. He had five shots at goal against Belgium but didn’t manage to hit the target with one of them. Surely that run will end soon, and maybe that will be enough to inspire France to show something more than we have seen so far.

Put it this way, if they edge another snooze fest tonight, I am going to seriously start thinking England stand a chance of winning the trophy.

Trent Alexander-Arnold should be ready to go on England's rightTrent Alexander-Arnold should be ready to go on England's right (Image: PA)

England View – Marc Iles

If Gareth Southgate is brave enough on Saturday we could see Trent Alexander-Arnold turn from a liability to a genuine threat within the space of one tournament.

All 26 players trained on Thursday, theoretically giving the England boss a blank canvas, with the exception of the suspended Marc Guehi, for the quarter final against Switzerland.

There has been a lot of excited talk about a switch to a back three, of Aston Villa’s Ezri Konsa coming in to replace Guehi, and that would mean a chance for Liverpool’s Alexander-Arnold to really show what he can do on the right.

Forget playing him as a central midfielder. Even if he fancies himself in the position, he has simply not got enough positional awareness right now to pull it off. But set him loose on Switzerland down the right, as one of the best passers/crossers around, and we have ourselves a major asset.

The left side isn’t so simple, of course. Luke Shaw would be a gamble even if fit, Kieran Trippier continues to look awkward down that flank and Bukayo Saka tells us that he doesn’t want to play there.

Quite how any player gets away with that at international level without being Cristiano Ronaldo or Lionel Messi is beyond me.

What is important, however, is that if England play a back three then we take advantage of the system and be positive on the ball, looking forward whenever we can. Otherwise, we will drop into a back five and the anti-Southgate sentiment will only get louder.

The more I think about the game, the more optimistic I feel that a semi-final place is there for England to take.

Switzerland have been good to watch in attack but rather passive, defensively, they can be ‘got at’ if you play with the right intensity. The word ‘intense’ is not one you would associate with England right now but if they can get TAA in the mood, I think it would be a good step forward.