Euro 2020 finally came to an end with a win for the Azzurri and a loss for the Lions and, as one Italian fan said after the match, “both England and Italy wanted and deserved to win the Euros, but Italy really needed a win that day. Italy were not the favourites to win the cup according to many bookmarkers but they had the spirit and as they proved from the first game against Turkey, they had it in them. Italy as a team amazed everyone at the euros and most of their players, especially their defence which was initially dismissed as ageing, put up the strongest fight of any team in the tournament. Denmark and Switzerland are the other teams that beat huge odds as well but these 10 players defied bigger odds to become the best performers of the tournament.
No one expected the Italian captain aged almost 37 to make it to Roberto Mancini’s Euro 2020 squad leave alone putting up the exemplary performance he delivered. His partnership with Leonardo Bonucci was reviewed by Jose Mourinho as the best central defence combination he had ever witnessed. Jose Mourinho said Chiellini deserved to open a school and teach people how to defend in football.
Chiellini also showed great leadership for the team keeping everyone’s spirits up even after Manuel Locatelli lost the team’s first penalty in the semis against Spain. Chiellini was both player and coach for the Italian team guiding the defence to concede only three goals in the entire tournament and win the coveted trophy. For a man that had been written off due to injury and age, Chiellini was by far the biggest shock of Euro 2020.
The whole football world came to Bukayo Saka’s defence after fans and some people in the media condemned him and Gareth Southgate for losing the determining penalty in the final but the 19-Year-Old’s performance in the tournament was amazing. He was the youngest ever English player to start in a Euros semifinal. His partnership with Harry Kane and Raheem Sterling was the most lethal England forward combination.
Being aged just 19 and not having started all England matches in the tournament, it would be fair to say that England’s success didn’t fully depend on him but whenever the arsenal man stepped on the pitch, all England fans were ecstatic and opponents were shaken. He became the hero of all the young talent in Europe for the tournament.
Donnarumma was awarded the player of the tournament award for Euro 2020 and hardly anyone disputed it. For a 6ft4 goalkeeper, Donnarumma is a tough man to beat between the sticks and if his management of the defensive line and flexibility is added to the list, he becomes the undisputed best goalkeeper in the tournament.
Everyone knew he was a great goalkeeper before he was called into the Italian first team but his performance was something else. He saved two penalties in the final giving his country the coveted title and himself, the fame he always deserved. He has since joined the likes of Manuel Neuer, Thibaut Courtois and Iker Casillas as one of the best goalkeepers in the world aged just 22.
CR7 is always a wonder to watch on the pitch, but at the age of 36, he wasn’t expected to be such a threat to some of the best defensive lineups in the world. However, Ronaldo didn’t disappoint and once again emerged as the top scorer of the tournament with five goals despite Portugal exiting in the Round of 16 after just four games. His list of achievements is too long to recount now but his performance at the Euro 2020 tournament just can’t go unnoticed.
He captained Portugal out of the group of death against both France and Germany and emerged as the captain fantastic for Portugal once more. Even those that didn’t like Portugal enjoyed watching Ronaldo play. He proved himself to be a true legend and also set the record as the highest ever scorer in the tournament’s history.
Spain was famous for its artists in Xavi and Iniesta but no one missed them in Euro 2020 all thanks to this man Dany Olmo. The RB Leipzig player is a hard man to defend against, making ways through the tiniest spots in defence lines. He was by far Spain’s man of the tournament at the Euros although the team exited earlier than expected thanks to their poor penalty-taking against Italy in the semis. It took the full force of the Italian defence to keep him away from scoring but he still linked up with Alvaro Morata to equalize against the Azzurri and everyone loved him. Everyone is betting on him to become the next Andres Iniesta for the Spanish.
The former Manchester United man sealed a move to Barcelona before the tournament ended and many saw it as a hurried move by Barca to beat the competition. The
Netherlands lost to the Czech Republic in the knockout stage after a perfect record in the group stages but if it wasn’t for Depay, they would have been eliminated earlier than they did. The Netherlands were not the favourites coming to the tournament and many believe that the age of heroes is over for the 2010 world cup finalists but Depay may just be the answer to their route back to the top. He has both speed and skill at the front and doesn’t fail to spot a hole in the defence whenever he is on the move.
Now to England’s captain fantastic who has become the symbol of national pride after bringing perfect leadership to the English side that hadn’t seen any for decades. England had never reached a major final since 1966 despite having some of the best players in the world over the years. Harry Kane managed to encourage Gareth Southgate’s young squad to put club rivalries and ambition aside and play as a team and the results were fantastic.
He scored four goals, and only needed one more to compete for the top scorer spot with Christiano Ronaldo. He showed great maturity when handling the ball and gave hope to team and nation when they lost in penalties to Italy. He was the man that England needed to turn all that talent into a team and it paid off.
Denmark was the surprise side of the tournament especially after Christian Eriksen collapsed in their first match against Finland and they ended up losing. The pain of watching one of their legends nearly dying next to them became a huge motivation for the team which turned their sorrows into victories winning all their games after that first match until they controversially lost to England in the semis. The one-man that Denmark couldn’t do without after losing Eriksen was Simon Kjaer though.
The skipper rallied the boys to deliver their best and also proved to be one of the best defenders in the tournament. He also became the hero of the tournament after images of him consoling Eriksen’s family after his collapse and rallying teammates to form a shield around their fallen teammate made headlines worldwide. He may not have been the player of the tournament but he definitely was its hero.
In football, even the most motivated teams need miracle workers at the opponent’s goal post and Dolberg was that man for Denmark in Euro 2020. The former Ajax man proved that he is still the ice-cold finisher after sinking the hopes of Wales in Amsterdam before coming in handy with another goal against the Czech Republic in the quarter-finals. He was the best of the Danish attack line in the tournament despite having had a terrible 2020/21 season in France.
Luke Shaw hardly made it to Gareth Southgate’s Euro 2020 squad and wasn’t given a chance in the opening match but after proving himself against Scotland, he became Southgate’s left back of choice for the rest of the tournament. Being reviewed as one of the best defenders of the tournament is a huge improvement for the united man who could hardly get playtime at the club less than a year before the tournament.
He proved himself to be a real stopper with skill, speed and power that made him a threat at the front and a solid wall at the back. He, alongside the English squad, managed to keep clean sheets until they conceded their first goal in the tournament against Denmark in the semis. The best of Shaw came when he scored the fastest goal of the tournament in the final after just two minutes of play. He was largely England’s unsung hero.