Graham Ruthven with his picks of the tournament.
After 51 games involving 24 teams in 30 days, Euro 2020 is over. At the end of it all, Italy got their hands on the trophy having set the early pace in the tournament, while England came within a penalty shootout of finally seeing football come home. From start to finish, Euro 2020 was compelling in the drama and excitement it delivered.
The football agenda will move on quickly, with the transfer window open and pre-season already under way for a number of clubs, but before that happens let’s reflect on the tournament as a whole. Who were the standout performers? Which game will stick in the memory longest? What are the takeaways from Euro 2020?
Player of the tournament – Raheem Sterling (England)
A number of Italian players, including Leonardo Bonucci, Federico Chiesa, Gianluigi Donnarumma and Jorginho, could take this accolade, but no player shone in as many games as Raheem Sterling over the course of the tournament. Indeed, the 26-year-old was England’s most consistent attacking spark with three goals and one assist in seven appearances.
Even when England struggled for attacking traction in the group stage, Sterling provided cutting edge. After so much talk about the likes of Jude Bellingham, Phil Foden and Jadon Sancho as generational talents for the Three Lions, Sterling proved that he is still the country’s most devastating threat at international level.
Young player of the tournament – Pedri (Spain)
Just 12 months ago, Pedri was a relative unknown having only just arrived at Barcelona from Las Palmas. Since then, the teenager has gone on to become a key figure for club and country with the 18-year-old central to everything Spain did at Euro 2020. Without Pedri, they wouldn’t have made it as far as the semi-finals.
Luis Enrique built his entire team around the diminutive playmaker. Pedri was Spain’s creator in-chief and grew in stature with every game he played at Euro 2020. Enrique even drew the comparison with Andres Iniesta, insisting that not even the Barcelona legend had the talent at 18 that Pedri does.
Goal of the tournament – Patrik Schick (Czech Republic)
Patrik Schick was one of the stars of Euro 2020, scoring five goals in five games as Czech Republic made an unexpected run to the quarter-finals. However, only one of his five goals will be included in the highlight of his tournament and it came in his first outing against Scotland at Hampden, when he scored from 50 yards out.
No goal in European Championships history had been scored from further out, but this wasn’t just a hopeful punt from the halfway line either. Schick recognized where the ball would run, where David Marshall was and had the ability to bend the ball around the Scotland goalkeeper to eliminate any chance he had of keeping it out.
Game of the tournament – Croatia 3-5 Spain
Monday June 28 will live long in the memory as one of the most dramatic, compelling days in tournament football history as 14 goals were scored over two games. However, as gripping as Switzerland’s penalty shootout win over world champions France was, Spain’s extra-time victory against 2018 World Cup finalists Croatia was the most memorable game of Euro 2020.
This game had everything – goalkeeping gaffes, own goals, a late comeback and, of course, eight goals. But while there was no share of chaos on display, Croatia and Spain managed to put on a show of technical brilliance – these are two teams who know how to play with the ball at their feet.
Moment of the tournament – Yussuf Poulsen goal v Belgium
The traumatic scenes of Denmark’s opening group game against Finland rocked the football world, but the shock of Christian Eriksen’s on-pitch cardiac arrest, once it became clear the 29-year-old would make a recovery, galvanised an entire country behind their national team.
This was evident when Yussuf Poulsen scored Denmark’s opener against Belgium in their first game after Eriksen’s collapse – the emotion was clear in the forward’s face as he celebrated in front of the Parken crowd. While Denmark ultimately lost the match, this moment hinted at the momentum they would build over the rest of the tournament.
Team of the tournament
GK – Kasper Schmeichel (Denmark)
DL – Leonardo Spinazzola (Italy)
DR – Kyle Walker (England)
DC – Simon Kjaer (Denmark)
DC – Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)
MC – Jorginho (Italy)
MC – Paul Pogba (France)
MC – Pedri (Spain)
FL – Raheem Sterling (England)
FR – Federico Chiesa (Italy)
FC – Patrik Schick (Czech Republic)
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