With Euro 2020 done and dusted, albeit a year later than intended, UEFA’s marque tournament has widely been considered a success in the most difficult of circumstances. Let take a look at some of the standout stories from this summer’s action.
Bring the noise
It was great to see crowds back at matches and illustrated how sorely ‘real’ crowd atmosphere was missed in the preceding domestic season. Feeling the atmosphere was particularly noticeable when a particular team was playing at home. The standard of football improved due to a crowd back in the stadium especially when a player put in a tackle or their team scored a goal. It has been tough to watch football over the last year but with crowds returning to football matches it looks like some things are getting back to normal.
Only a game
In the opening weekend of Euro 2020 there was a lot of shock and uncertainty as Christian Eriksen collapsed. When you see something like that happen it puts everything into perspective and makes you realise there are more important things in life than football. Thankfully Eriksen survived and since then everybody has enjoyed the games even more in this tournament. Denmark players used this as a positive and it motivated Denmark to win their final group stage match to get into the last sixteen and to reach the semi-final.
Video Assistant Refereeing had a good tournament and were able to give a decision quickly which was great to see. Before the tournament a lot of fans would have been worried of the tournament been ruined by a bad VAR mistake but thankfully this wasn’t the case. The Referees also had a good tournament they let most games flow and didn’t stop the matches for stupid fouls, but they need to start booking players for rolling around on the ground. The only thing that frustrates people more than the theatrics is the ruling that Assistant Referees are not allowed to put their flag up when someone is offside and have to wait to the passage of play is over.
French stars falter
When fans were picking potential winners before the tournament began, few could look beyond France not least for the attacking talent of Kylian M’bappe and Antoine Griezmann. However Les Blues played their last sixteen match against Switzerland as a group of individuals. France went out with a mindset that they could outscore the opposition. When France went 3-1 up with nine minutes to go everyone thought they had it won, including them. They lost concentration which let Switzerland back in. Star striker M’bappe did not have a great tournament which didn’t help France at all.
The Czech Republic surprised everyone in Euro 2020 as they made it to the quarter-final. When they were drawn in a group with England and Croatia nobody gave them a chance to get out of the group but Patrik Schick goals was the difference in getting Czech out of the group. Schick was one of the stars from Euro 2020 and if European teams are looking for a striker in the summer transfer window they should look no further. An honorable mention for Tomas Soucek also, West Ham United will do well to keep him.
When Luis Enrique didn’t bring any Real Madrid players there were a lot of eyebrows raised in Spain. The critics of the former Barcelona coach’s methods grew when Spain only scored one goal in their first two games, but five goals in the last game which gave them a much-needed confidence boost. They gained momentum from this result as they made their way to the semi-final. In the semi-final against Italy they were quite unfortunate being the better team throughout. Despite the loss on penalties there is a lot of cause of optimism heading towards next year’s World Cup, not least due to the performances of 18 year-old Pedri, who was a revelation.
A new England?
The knives were drawn for Gareth Southgate as England started their campaign with a narrow win against Croatia but then followed it up with a disappointing performance against Scotland. A win in the last group game lead to England’s best performance as they played a disappointing Germany off the park and Wembley fans were delighted that Harry Kane scored his first tournament goal.
Rolling over a tired looking Ukraine in Rome resulted in England facing Denmark in the Semi-finals, showing Steele tom come from behind after conceding their first goal in the tournament.
England went into the final quietly confident and started the match great with a goal from Luke Shaw. In the second half England became more defensive and let Italy back into the game. It was a familiar tale for England as they failed to hurdle the Penalty shoot-out, yet despite this disappointment there can be a lot of pride at how this young group of players handles the expectations loaded on them.
The Red Devils running out of fire?
A lot of football fans were picking Belgium before Euro 2020 started, but De Bruyne, Lukaku, et al. were ultimately undone by a smarter Italy. Everyone labels Belgium’s current crop of talent as a ‘golden generation’ yet with all their superstars but they have still to make a major final. There is a sense that next year’s World Cup will be the last dance for this current crop and perhaps coach Roberto Martinez is not the man to take them to the next level.
Italy only conceded three goals in Euro 2020 and this is why Italy won Euro 2020. With an heir apparent to Buffon in goalkeeper Donnarumma and the experience of Bonucci and Chiellini they are difficult to beat. They also have some great attacking players in Verratti and Immobile, but most importantly they know how to win which matters a lot in knockout football.
Italy were in the doldrums a few years ago until they appointed Mancini as manager and since then Italy have gone thirty four matches unbeaten which is unbelievable and Mancini has done a remarkable job with Italy over the last few years. Italy played the best football in Euro 2020 and it was a well deserved win.