This summer's Euro 2020 Championship, much like Copa America 2021, was a tournament that was defined by defensive solidity, rigidity, and tactical discipline. Despite providing fans with a number of thrilling matches and shocking upsets, the teams that had impenetrable defenses were the ones that eventually delivered at Euro 2020.
Euro 2020 finalists England and Italy possess some of the most impressive back-lines in world football at the moment. England conceded just two goals throughout the course of Euro 2020, whereas Italy conceded only four times.
Defenders are often asked to play the entire 90 minutes during football games without being substituted, as managers prefer to swap their attackers. At international tournaments, defenders sometimes also have to play 30 minutes of extra time.
As a result, defenders have to maintain unbelievable levels of focus throughout the game with the knowledge that one mistake could lead to their nation getting knocked out of the tournament. It is therefore defenders who receive most of the plaudits when their nations are victorious at international tournaments. Fabio Cannavaro won the Ballon d'Or in 2006, the same year that Italy won the World Cup.
Euro 2020: The 5 best defenders of the tournament
#5 Kyle Walker, England
Kyle Walker was immense for England at Euro 2020. The Manchester City full-back began the tournament as a right centre-back in a back three, but was also deployed as a right wing-back on occasion by Gareth Southgate.
The 31-year-old has arguably been one of the best right-backs in the Premier League over the years, but is often underrated by fans and pundits. His pace, physicality and ability to carry the ball forward make him one of the best modern full-backs in the world.
Former Manchester United manager Jose Mourinho, while speaking to talkSport, said:
'My player of the tournament was Kyle Walker. I think Kyle Walker was phenomenal. From the first minute of the competition until the moment he came off in the final he was phenomenal. He was giving covers to centre-backs on the opposite side, I don't remember him losing one single duel."
'But when I call a player an animal, it's the best compliment I can give to a player. Kyle Walker - absolute animal. For me, phenomenal, during the first to the last minute," Mourinho added.
#4 Aymeric Laporte, Spain
It is baffling to think that a defender of Aymeric Laporte's quality never made an appearance for the French national team. The Manchester City star has been one of the most impressive centre-backs in the Premier League in recent years.
Despite playing 51 times for France at youth level, Laporte changed his nationality to Spain before Euro 2020, a process that was approved by FIFA. Laporte put in a number of incredible displays for Spain as he helped Luis Enrique's side reach the semi-finals of Euro 2020, where they lost on penalties to eventual champions Italy.
Aymeric Laporte will have guaranteed himself a place in Spain's squad for the 2022 World Cup in Qatar if Luis Enrique's side qualify.