Euro 2020: Team of the Tournament

UEFA Euro 2020 finally drew to a dramatic climax earlier this week
UEFA Euro 2020 finally drew to a dramatic climax earlier this week
Jim Beglin

After a month of non-stop action, UEFA Euro 2020 finally drew to a close at the Wembley Stadium earlier this week. The final between England and Italy was just as I thought it might be - a tight encounter separated by the finest of margins. A lot of these games are really tight and for good reason. We're talking about elite footballers here, so games of such magnitude have to be close!

Italy got off to a bit of a puzzled opening and were shook by Luke Shaw's early goal in the Euro 2020 final, as they struggled to get to grips with the game in the opening exchanges. Bit by bit, though, they grew into the game and attempted to make things happen without forcing the issue. By the half-hour mark, they began to show signs of recovery and got a deserved equalizer in the second half through Leonardo Bonucci.

In one of my earlier columns, I spoke about the current generation of English footballers being able to retain the ball and see off games better, but that didn't quite happen in the Euro 2020 final. Marco Verratti and Jorginho pretty much ran the show and they played a big part in Italy gaining that crucial edge in midfield.

When it comes to penalties, anything can happen. With the benefit of hindsight, everyone is an expert after the event, but we have to understand that everything happens so quickly and there's nothing you can do after that. Had Raheem Sterling stepped up in the shoot-out, who is to say he would have scored? People got so angry because it cost England the Euros, but there is a good chance that one of the senior players could've stepped up and ended up missing!

I felt a bit sorry for Bukayo Saka because there was huge responsibility on his shoulders to keep England in the game. He'll have that with him for the rest of his life and people will always remind him of it.

All in all, I enjoyed Euro 2020 for the drama it produced. Some of the games were absorbing and brought me to the edge of my seat, UEFA will be really pleased with what emerged in such tumultuous times due to the COVID-19 pandemic. I enjoyed Euro 2020 as a spectacle, but it also has to be said that the nature of the tournament created a bit of an imbalance. Some teams were on the right side of it in terms of the fixtures being played at certain venues, but it should be fair across the board.

Another aspect of Euro 2020 that deserves a mention is the standard of refereeing and I hope we see more of this in the Premier League and European football as a whole. The officials were fantastic throughout the tournament and waved play on when the players went down after the slightest bit of contact - it quickens the game and lord knows we need it. Even the VAR was used a lot quicker and it improved the spectacle, here's to more of that!

Finally, as I name my Euro 2020 Team of the Season, I've given my thoughts on each of them and tried to be fair across the board. The standard of football was really good, so some of these picks had me scratching my head!

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Donnarumma | Italy

Italy v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Final
Italy v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Final

Gianluigi Donnarumma was named Euro 2020 Player of the Tournament and has developed a real presence about him. He's been around forever and made his senior debut aged 17, but he's still just 22 and has a huge career ahead of him. Gianluigi Buffon was worshiped in Italy for what he did for club and country, but it looks like we can finally turn that page. The great man can sit back and look at another wonderful goalkeeper emerging - he exuded calm and didn't get flustered at the back.

What I liked about him is the communication he had with his central defenders and the rest of the Italian backline - they had a calmness about them and seemed to understand each other very well. Donnarumma was relatively untroubled at the start of Euro 2020, but he produced some big moments in successive penalty shootouts and was there for Italy when it mattered most. Against England in the Euro 2020 final, maybe Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho didn't produce very good penalties, but I'd like to think Donnarumma's stature got into their heads, particularly in the case of Marcus Rashford.

He's hugely experienced for a 22-year-old and already has great knowledge behind him. A few players looked flustered in the Euro 2020 final, but it looked like a run-of-the-mill job for him, which is exactly what you want to see. Donnarumma was closely run by Jordan Pickford, who won the Euro 2020 Golden Glove and enjoyed a fantastic tournament overall, but he has to be #1 considering the nature of his contributions.

Right-back: Kyle Walker | England, Manchester City

Italy v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Final
Italy v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Final

I remember watching Kyle Walker at the start of the Denmark game, as his incredible pace came to the fore once again. Denmark had a couple of chances to catch England on the break, but he snuffed out the danger with consummate ease and that's a tremendous strength in his game.

Whether it is recovery pace or what you exhibit as you move forward - pace is pace. He should probably be called Kyle Runner or Kyle Sprinter as he has the ability to recover and outrun opponents regardless of what the situation is.

Nobody got past him in around 480 minutes of action at Euro 2020 and Walker was deployed as a right-sided central defender at times, so that is an incredible stat. I know stats don't paint the picture perfectly, but Walker stood for pretty much everybody who watched England and was one of Gareth Southgate's standout players at the tournament.

He got better as the games went on and that's the kind of strength you want in your back-four, so well done to Kyle Walker!

Central defenders: Giorgio Chiellini & Leonardo Bonucci | Italy, Juventus

Italy v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Final
Italy v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Final

At the heart of the defense, I have to go with the old boys in Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. I love their zest for the game and the way they worked off each other, they are two terrific old pros who were absolutely vital to Italy's Euro 2020 triumph. When one of them got a last-ditch tackle, they'd both get together and do a hand-slap. Sometimes, Gianluigi Donnarumma joined in as well, but they never took it too far. There was humility there, as they encouraged each other throughout the tournament to get their hands on the coveted trophy.

In my opinion, Leonardo Bonucci doesn't get the praise he deserves. He's almost like a midfielder when it comes to his distribution and scored what turned out to be a priceless equalizer in the Euro 2020 final, as he managed to peel off Declan Rice and put the ball into the back of the net from close range. He got the Italians firmly back on their feet and gave them a wave of confidence after the early setback they faced with Luke Shaw's opening goal.

As for Giorgio Chiellini, I smile when I watch him. He makes you think he's your mate, but the first chance he gets, he wipes that smile off your face on the pitch. He's a master competitor and a formidable captain who rolled back the years and produced a string of magnificent displays at Euro 2020. In terms of their partnership, he's the perfect foil for Bonucci. The latter isn't a saint by any stretch of the imagination, but we all know Chiellini is the sinner! Bonucci is more polished in terms of his passing range, while Chiellini is rough and ready for battle.

As a unit, they emitted confidence and laid the foundation for Italy's success. I really enjoyed watching them at Euro 2020 - they were the strength of Roberto Mancini's team.

Left-back: Leonardo Spinazzola | Italy, AS Roma

Italy v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Final
Italy v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Final

I feel cheated by the fact that Leonardo Spinazzola's injury deprived us of watching him at the business end of Euro 2020. He was absolutely fantastic for Italy on the left flank and was a breath of fresh air with his marauding runs down the pitch. He has a history of recurring injuries, but how cruel is it that he damaged his Achilles tendon when he was performing so well at a major tournament?

Much of Italy's play came through the left flank, with Spinazzola forging a fantastic understanding with Lorenzo Insigne. He was a joy to watch and was probably an element of the new Italy. The Italians don't play Catenaccio anymore like the teams that have gone by; this is a team that likes to get on the front foot and take the game to the opposition. He epitomized Italy's philosophy at Euro 2020 and was the catalyst for an awful lot of their movement down the left flank.

He was named Man of the Match against Turkey and Austria and was doing so well in a team of winners. Before his injury, Spinazzola was Italy's standout player at Euro 2020 and he was the talk of the town. I just hope he has the strength to overcome such a nasty injury and return to full fitness in the near future. Here's to hoping the injury doesn't slow him down and returns fitter than ever!

Also Read: Euro 2020 - Ranking the 5 best attackers at the tournament

Defensive midfield: Jorginho | Italy, Chelsea

Italy v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Final
Italy v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Final

I was never a huge fan of Jorginho, if I'm being completely honest. Maurizio Sarri brought him to Chelsea and I remember watching that team and thinking they passed the ball around just for the sake of it - it was tippy-tappy football. As the midfield metronome of that Chelsea side, I got a feeling that Jorginho slowed everything down. They were really disappointing in that spell and Sarri didn't last long in the job with Jorginho as the centerpiece of his team.

What we're seeing now is a different version of Jorginho. Frank Lampard seemingly got the slowness out of his game and got him looking forward more, but under Thomas Tuchel, he has taken his game to a new level since the turn of the year. He has the experience to deal with everything that's thrown at him and is a very cool operator in congested areas of the pitch, while he also finds a way of winning duels in the center of the park to help out defensively.

In terms of Italy's pressing at Euro 2020, Jorginho acted as the trigger. Whenever he felt it was necessary, his teammates pressed high up the pitch, as he kept chirping away as the voice of their midfield. Once Italy found their feet at Euro 2020, he controlled proceedings in midfield alongside the impressive Marco Verratti and was very good with his tactical fouls, too. If you're playing in that position, you'll face a lot of traffic so you have to know what to do. He knows that side of the game inside out now and is an integral part of a reliable Italian spine under Roberto Mancini.

He is a different player to the one Sarri had operating in midfield for Chelsea and the fact that Mancini continues to select him consistently deems him vital to what Italy are trying to produce on the pitch. Jorginho was one of Italy's standout players at Euro 2020 and I've turned to him as the deep-lying midfielder for my team.

Central midfield: Pedri | Spain, Barcelona

Italy v Spain - UEFA Euro 2020: Semi-final
Italy v Spain - UEFA Euro 2020: Semi-final

I've gone for Pedri as the left-sided midfielder for my team. His stats at Euro 2020 are absolutely sensational, it's ludicrous. In terms of international football, he's a baby! At the age of 18, he's backed up all the hype and launched himself on the European scene with huge credibility for someone so young. In the Euro 2020 semi-final against Italy, he played so well against a side that boasts some of the best midfielders on the continent.

Pedri is always aware of what's around him like Xavi Hernandez and Andres Iniesta, who are arguably two of the best midfielders of the modern era. I don't like the idea of replacing a player when he leaves, because if that's the case, teams just have to evolve in a slightly different direction.

That said, Pedri has been dubbed the next Andres Iniesta - a player who enjoyed extraordinary success at Barcelona, and do you know what? That could well be the case. Barcelona are in a state of financial turmoil, but I wouldn't be surprised if they decide to rebuild their team around the formidability of the 18-year-old.

He identifies with the beautiful game and is a joy to watch. It's almost as if he wants to grab every game by the scruff of the neck and prove to the wider audience that he can run the show like Xavi and Iniesta did back in the day. Spain performed admirably at Euro 2020, and if there's another great Spanish side around the corner, he will be of huge importance to it.

Central midfield: Paul Pogba | France, Manchester United

Hungary v France - UEFA Euro 2020: Group F
Hungary v France - UEFA Euro 2020: Group F

I thought about Kalvin Phillips and Declan Rice, but Paul Pogba was absolutely outrageous at Euro 2020 and just seemed to feel more at home with France. His freedom of expression went up several levels and some of the stuff he produced on the ball was audacious. We've spoken about several good passers of the ball, but Pogba's creativity was crazily good at Euro 2020 and his showmanship came to the fore in stunning style.

He starred against Germany and Portugal in the group stages of Euro 2020 but had a bit of an off-day against Hungary, much like the rest of his teammates. We know he's got it in him, but the precision of his passing, vision and awareness showed that he was capable of doing things I didn't see from any other player at Euro 2020. When Pogba plays for Manchester United, you never quite know what you're going to get. For France, on the other hand, he was on a roll and made a significant contribution despite suffering elimination in the Round of 16 and that's why he makes my team.

When I look back on Pogba's Euro 2020 campaign, I get a similar feeling to that of Leonardo Spinazzola's. The former wasn't injured, but we were robbed of somebody who could've stolen the show in the latter stages of the tournament. France rested on their laurels against Switzerland and their own little implosion denied us the chance to watch him on the grandest stage. It's fitting that he had the final say for France with a beautiful, measured finish into the top corner against Switzerland - the keeper was never going to get there!

Declan Rice and Kalvin Phillips were brilliant in their own right, but they can't pass the ball like Pogba. I enjoyed watching him play - he was the big entertainer at Euro 2020 and made a massive contribution for France.

Right-winger: Federico Chiesa | Italy, Juventus

Italy v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Final
Italy v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Final

Federico Chiesa didn't start the tournament, but with all due respect to Domenico Berardi, the Juventus man just brings more to the table. I think Roberto Mancini realized that towards the latter part of Euro 2020, as he gave Chiesa an extended run out in the team.

Juventus came up against FC Porto in the Round of 16 stage of the UEFA Champions League last season. After losing the first leg 2-1 in Portugal, they needed a special performance in Turin to secure qualification. FC Porto eventually prevailed on away goals after the tie finished 4-4 on aggregate, but Chiesa was almost a one-man band on the night, as he took the ball and attempted to make things happen on his own.

In the Euro 2020 final against England, he was the one who turned out to be a bit of a menace before the half-hour mark. Italy were a bit rattled after falling behind so early, but he gave them a sense of belief with his natural desire to run at defenders.

Chiesa led the charge against England and was absolutely fearless in everything he did. He ran himself into the ground and was substituted due to a combination of a cramp and an injury and that's a testament to his commitment to the cause. So often in a final, players tend to be a bit tentative, but he had the courage and the confidence to take the game to the opposition.

He ended up having a terrific tournament and had a bigger say at the business end of Euro 2020. Italy started off with Berardi on the right flank, but Mancini won't need too much convincing as to who deserves to play in that position in the future - it's Federico Chiesa without a doubt.

Striker: Patrik Schick | Czech Republic, Bayer Leverkusen

Netherlands v Czech Republic - UEFA Euro 2020: Round of 16
Netherlands v Czech Republic - UEFA Euro 2020: Round of 16

Patrik Schick made a massive contribution to the Czech Republic's run to the quarterfinals of Euro 2020. I'm not taking anything away from Cristiano Ronaldo, who scored five goals and is obviously up there as one of the best players in history, but three of his goals were penalties and one was a tap-in. Schick, on the other hand, did more for the Czechs and has seemingly used Euro 2020 as a launchpad to achieve greater things in his career.

As I said in one of my earlier columns, the second half of his career can be much better than the first. Scoring five goals at a major tournament has added seriousness to his stature, but it all matters only if follows it up with a string of consistent performances. He has been presented with an opportunity to go places and if he can do that, he'll immediately take on a greater status to command more authority and respect.

Schick has got a confidence within him that he never had before and scored the goal of the tournament in my opinion against Scotland. He didn't have too much time to think about it and execute it properly, but he did so with great accuracy from the halfway line. It's a sign of someone brimming with confidence and it goes without saying that he's a player who has great potential to fulfill.

I'll keep an eye on the Bundesliga in the forthcoming season and expect to see Patrik Schick's name on the scoresheet regularly.

Left winger: Raheem Sterling | England, Manchester City

Czech Republic v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Group D
Czech Republic v England - UEFA Euro 2020: Group D

Raheem Sterling had a quiet Euro 2020 final and was not as busy and penetrating as we'd seen earlier. Over the course of the tournament, though, he was the one who showed England the way and got them up and running in the group stages with two important goals against Croatia and the Czech Republic.

His end to the season at Manchester City was not what he'd have expected. Sterling found himself in and out of the team despite starting the UEFA Champions League final against Chelsea and there were rumors of friction between him and Pep Guardiola. I'm obviously speculating and could well be wrong, but because of the events that transpired, we saw a different Raheem Sterling for England at Euro 2020. He's been driven on by the frustration at Manchester City and a few things he's said have led people to believe that all is not well there. Maybe he's got a bit of patching up to do with the manager ahead of the new season?

He's like a little tornado who is always twisting and turning, making him incredibly hard to come up against for any defender on the planet. Early in the Euro 2020 final, Giorgio Chiellini got behind Sterling and he went down, but the referee waved play on. Something similar happened against Denmark in the semi-final where he threw himself onto the ground after being touched, but the referee awarded a penalty. If you want my opinion on the incident, that was never a penalty. The referee got it wrong, but what I'm trying to say is that Sterling plays that game and he's really good at it.

He made a huge impact for England at Euro 2020, but I'm a bit surprised he didn't step up to take a penalty in the shootout. Sterling has more experience than the likes of Bukayo Saka and Jadon Sancho and could've volunteered, but as I said before, who is to say he would've scored if he did?

I'm very keen to see where his attitude goes from here. He will want to start games for Manchester City, so it'll be fascinating to see how life unfolds and manifests itself after Euro 2020.

Also Read: Euro 2020 - Ranking the 5 best players from the tournament

Edited by Vishal Subramanian


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