Euro 2020 Tournament Review

Posted on by Matthew T

This summer’s delayed month long tournament of Euro 2020 football came to an end on Sunday evening with a tense penalty shootout victory for Italy over England in the final at Wembley Stadium. For one whole month there was a huge football party around Europe, and it was worth the wait. And it certainly felt extra special with the return of fans in large numbers after a torrid past sixteen months of the COVID-19 global pandemic.

In this review we delve deeper into some of the surprises, the disappointments, some truly unforgettable moments and some of the stars that were on display.

Team of the Tournament

A simple decision for this category, the winners of the tournament – Italy.

From the first touch of the football in the tournament in Rome on the evening of Friday 11th June, to the last touch from Gianluigi Donnarumma’s diving fingertips in the penalty shootout on Sunday evening, Italy looked the most impressive and consistent throughout. In addition to their collective passion in the singing of the national anthem before each match, they demonstrated the same collectiveness as a unit on the pitch as well.

Italy won Euro 2020 with Roberto Mancini
Italy lift the Euro 2020 trophy after their penalty shootout victory over England in the final

Despite beginning the tournament on a 27-match unbeaten run stretching back to September 2018, they arrived with not many tipping them for glory. After failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, manager Roberto Mancini has freshened up his Italian side with younger inexperienced faces, with the exception of Bonucci and Chiellini in defence, and a more expansive and creative style of football. This was certainly on show in their opening couple of games and later in the tournament they also demonstrated their traditional defensive solidarity as a unit and the ability to manage a lead. Combine it all together and the result is a deserving champion of this summer’s European Championships.

Best XI of the Tournament

UEFA announced the official team of the tournament on Tuesday, selected by their team of Technical Observers. Their selections are as follows:

Goalkeeper – Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)

Defenders – Kyle Walker (England), Leonardo Bonucci (Italy), Harry Maguire (England), Leanardo Spinazzola (Italy)

Midfielders – Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (Denmark), Jorginho (Italy), Pedri (Spain)

Forwards – Federico Chiesa (Italy), Romelu Lukaku (Belgium), Raheem Sterling (England)

Other players that impressed at the tournament and narrowly missed out on the best XI include Jordan Pickford (England goalkeeper), Luke Shaw (England defender), Giorgio Chiellini (Italy defender), Paul Pogba (France midfielder), Kevin de Bruyne (Belgium midfielder), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal forward and top scorer of the tournament), and Patrik Schick (Czech Republic forward and joint top scorer of the tournament).

Player of the Tournament

The official UEFA player of the tournament award has been given to Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. After playing in all of his country’s seven matches at the tournament, the towering 22 year-old was consistently impressive throughout. Conceding four goals and earning three clean sheets, the most notable moments for Donnarumma were his saves in the penalty shootouts against Spain in the semi-final and England in the final. UEFA also note that the player’s contribution to the team performance as a whole, and playing with a positive attitude and with respect, are taken into account when choosing the winner.

In truth, most of the Italian side could have been nominated for this award after winning the tournament with consistent performances from all of their players collectively as a unit throughout the tournament. But another that stood out for most was Jorginho. Sitting at the base of their three-man midfield, the Chelsea central midfielder was also excellent and deserves a mention for contributing massively to Italy’s revitalised style of play with his progressive passing and creativity from deep.

Young Player of the Tournament

UEFA have awarded the young player of the tournament to Spain’s central midfielder Pedri. It is certainly hard to argue with this decision as the Barcelona midfielder could quite easily have been awarded the overall player of the tournament. Had Spain progressed to the final, he would have stood a very high chance of earning it.

It is quite staggering that this young player is still only 18 years old. Coming off the back of a breakthrough year at Barcelona, Pedri carried his club form into the tournament for his country. His exquisite balance, dribbling and creativity were a joy to watch, and were integral to Spain’s attacking play.

Best Match of the Tournament

This was a tough choice with so many exciting matches played throughout the tournament. Some had plenty of goals, some swung one way and then the other, and some may not have been full of goals but were ones that you could not take your eyes off with the quality of football on display.

The round of 16 tie between France and Switzerland just about edges this one though. This match included all of the elements above. Although, the French fans may not agree with this choice. After falling behind early on, the World Cup holders France eventually turned the game on its head and seemed to be cruising to victory with a 3-1 lead with ten minutes left to play. But Switzerland had other ideas and scored two late goals to take the game to extra time and eventually knocked out the tournament favourites on penalties. It was one of those matches that made Euro 2020 worth the additional wait.

Other entertaining matches worth noting are the Netherlands’ 3-2 victory over Ukraine, Germany’s 4-2 win over Portugal, Sweden’s last gasp 3-2 win against Poland and the crazy tie between Croatia and Spain that eventually finished 5-3 to the Spanish.

Goal of the Tournament

Scotland fans will not want to be reminded of this but the Euro 2020 goal of the tournament has been awarded to Patrik Schick of the Czech Republic. The forward’s strike from the halfway line was an excellent combination of awareness and execution, and one that he will do well to better for the rest of his career. This strike helped his country to a 2-0 win over Scotland in the group stage and he managed to finish the tournament as joint top goal scorer alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, with 5 goals.

Best Moment of the Tournament

Without a doubt, the biggest and best moment of the tournament has to be the recovery of Christian Eriksen after his dreadful cardiac arrest in Denmark‘s first match. His captain, Simon Kjaer, and teammates deserve a special mention for the class they displayed in unimaginable and unforgettable emotional circumstances. They, along with the medical teams, are the true heroes of this tournament. The outpouring of emotion and support from around the footballing world during the truly horrific incident will not be forgotten. We all wish Christian Eriksen a speedy recovery and look forward to seeing him back in action on the football pitch soon.

Surprise Package of the Tournament

Heading into Euro 2020, Denmark were a side well respected after an unbeaten qualifying campaign and a talented pool of players well-known to many. But after the horrifying incident with Christian Eriksen midway through their first game as mentioned above, they quickly gained the respect and admiration of fans across the continent. They would ride the wave of this emotion to unexpectedly progress to the semi-finals.

Falling to an opening match defeat against Finland after being required to play on only hours after witnessing their teammate’s fight for his life, Denmark fell to a second defeat in as many games at the hands of an impressive Belgium side. Missing arguably their best player, the Danes rallied to demolish Russia in the final group game and qualify from the group with only three points after other results went in their favour. Another hammering followed in the round of 16, this time Wales being on the receiving end. And a hard fought win against the Czech Republic set up a semi-final tie against England, which they would go on to lose in extra time after a controversial penalty for England.

But this impressive run was certainly a shock after what this team had been through and after losing their opening two matches. This Danish side deservedly earned a lot of plaudits for their performances, as well as their character and class, which will stay with them forever for many reasons.

Disappointment of the Tournament

The biggest disappointment of Euro 2020 has to be the exit of France in only the round of 16. Having finished runners-up in Euro 2016 and then going on to win the World Cup in 2018, France were the hotly-tipped favourites to lift the trophy with many jealous of their mouth-watering talent of players on display.

However, even after topping the “Group of Death” despite struggling to a draw with Hungary, the favourites exited the tournament in the round of 16 on penalties to Switzerland after a 3-3 draw. This despite leading 3-1 with 10 minutes remaining in normal time. One of the reasons for their struggles was the unexpectedness of Kylian Mbappe’s failure to score or perform, whom the majority of people tipped to be the best player and top scorer of the tournament.

Another notable mention for a disappointment of Euro 2020 would be the performances of Turkey. The highly anticipated side were many pundits’ “dark horses” tipped to progress to the latter stages of the tournament. However, after an opening match demolition at the hands of Italy, two further group stage defeats by Wales and Switzerland saw them exit bottom of Group A with no points, eight goals conceded and only one goal scored.

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