These players put up a memorable show for their respective sides in the continental tournament.
A nail-biting final, decided on penalties ensured Italy emerge as the champions of Europe in what has been an eventful summer. A new format, challenging logistical issues and some extremely surprising results allowed fans and players to experience something unique. Be it a goal from the halfway line, spectacular defending, emergence of new talents or a packed stadium – UEFA Euro 2020 displayed it all.
A number of these players also became the crowd favourites, while they continued to guide their sides against difficult opponents. We have decided to feature 11 of these players in what would be Khel Now’s Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament.
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Donnarumma
The young custodian was commanding between the sticks for the Azzurri. His command of the box, clear organisation and penalty saves were vital. Italy conceded only four goals in the entire tournament. He was also helped by the presence of a stellar defensive pairing of Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci.
But it does not take the shine away from a memorable tournament for the 22-year-old, who can look to emulate the legendary Gianluigi Buffon as Italy’s No.1 for years to come.
Right Wing-Back: Robin Gosens
We have a German taking up this position, whose performances in Serie A for Atalanta did not go unnoticed. Gian Piero Gasperini’s side took Europe by storm thanks to their man-marking, high pressing and attacking 3-4-3 system. Robin Gosens was a key component of that setup.
Albeit in a slightly defensive role for Germany, Gosens impressed with his tireless runs out wide. Joachim Loew found his energy in the left flank invaluable in unlocking defensively stubborn opponents. Gosens repaid the manager’s faith with a crucial goal in a must-win game against Portugal. His runs also opened up the field for the German midfield to work its magic.
Center Back: Giorgio Chiellini
The 36-year old grizzly veteran seems to be going on forever. His role in this Italian side has not changed much from the days under Antonio Conte and Cesare Prandelli. Then his partnership with Leonardo Bonucci, Andrea Barzagli and Gianluigi Buffon gave every striker nightmares. Only Bonucci remains by his side now.
True to the rich heritage of Italian defenders, Giorgio Chiellini combined tactical nous, leadership and a certain element of psychology (Jordi Alba will testify to this) to command the Italian defence. His partnership with Bonucci kept things tight at the back for Italy.
Center Back: Simon Kjaer
Denmark’s opening game of Euro 2020 against Finland showed the world the black and white sides of football. The sight of Christian Eriksen collapsing and needing to be resuscitated on the pitch was only countered by the unity his teammates showed in a very difficult phase of their careers. Denmark captain Simon Kjaer led by example. He was there to comfort Eriksen’s partner. Kjaer also ensured the team gave their stricken teammate much-needed privacy as the medics battled to save his life.
This proved to be a catalyst as Kjaer was a key cog in Denmark’s inspiring road to the semi-finals. He made 39 ball recoveries and 12 tackles with a 60% success rate. Even a semi-final own-goal could not dampen the lift Kjaer gave to his side and every neutral, who watched Denmark play.
Center Back: Harry Maguire
Despite his injury scare, Harry Maguire was included in England’s Euro 2020 squad. Maguire had been struggling with an ankle issue after taking a knock against Aston Villa. However, he shook it off and returned against Croatia and added a certain authority to the backline.
His ever-present threat from set-pieces and the occasional forays into midfield helped the Three Lions keep control of the game. Maguire made 34 ball recoveries and completed 25 clearances.
Left Wing Back: Luke Shaw
His goal sent millions of Englishmen into a frenzy in the opening minutes of the final. Luke Shaw deservedly takes his place on the left flank. He counts as an England veteran despite being only 26. He was part of the failed English campaigns of the 2014 World Cup and the doomed Euro 2016.
After a productive season with Manchester United, Luke Shaw made his return to the England side. He played six games at Euro 2020. Shaw made 21 ball recoveries, nine tackles and also chipped in a goal. He also registered three assists to make him one of England’s key contributors on the way to the final.
Defensive Midfielder: Jorginho
Once derided for being the poster boy of Maurizio Sarri’s failed Sarriball experiment at Chelsea, he is now European champion in club football and the international circuit. If Italy is a passing machine, Jorginho is no doubt its heartbeat. He completed Euro 2020 with a 93% passing accuracy and also made the most interceptions.
It was his positional intelligence and ability to operate in small pockets that opened up space for his teammates. His partnership with Nicolo Barella and Marco Verratti / Manuel Locatelli is the bedrock of Tikki-Italia. Its success in Euro 2020 is a sign of just how far Jorginho has come from shedding the image of being only effective in Sarri’s system.
Center Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne
A catalyst for both Manchester City and Belgium, the 30-year old recovered from a fractured cheekbone to drive his team into the Round of 16 from a tricky group consisting of Denmark, Finland and Russia. His second-half screamer in a highly emotionally charged Parken stadium wrestled the game away from the Danes.
De Bruyne also registered two assists and completed 10 successful dribbles. He was crucial to Belgium’s quarter-final run and showed his class before being nullified by an efficient Italy in the last 16.
Center Midfield: Pedri
Arguably one of the gems of Euro 2020, Pedri played with a calm that has not been seen since the heydays of Andres Iniesta. The 18-year-old’s dribbling abilities, ball retention under pressure and an ability to find spaces made him invaluable to Luis Enrique’s brand of vertical possession football, a deviation from the usual death by possession approach that plagued the national side for years.
Pedri’s performance, especially in the semi-final against Italy, where he exploited little spaces in the inside left channel to play in his teammates drew praise from all quarters.
Striker: Raheem Sterling
A stellar Euro 2020 display from the Manchester City man, who had a shocker of a season at club level. His three goals helped England sail into the semi-finals with ease. Sterling’s dribbling, direct running and positional intelligence was negated by a highly controversial penalty earned in the semi-final against Denmark. Nevertheless, it was his presence that allowed Harry Kane to drop deeper into midfield and play him through the lines thus giving England a greater threat.
Striker: Patrick Schick
Hampden Park has seen its fair share of wonder goals. Zinedine Zidane’s left-foot volley in the Champions League final against Bayer Leverkusen in 2002 stands among the most iconic goals scored in this famous old stadium. Patrick Schick’s wonder goal from the halfway line against Scotland challenged this.
The world and Scottish goalkeeper David Marshall had no choice but to be baffled by a goal of extreme technical quality. Besides this, Schick’s five goals are on par with Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo in the battle for the top scorer in Euro 2020. Still only a 25-year-old, rest assured we will see a lot more of Patrick Schick in the years ahead.