UEFA Euro 2020: Team of the Tournament

All good things must come to an end.  While the 2021 summer of soccer rolls on, we officially closed the book on what was an epic UEFA Euro 2020.

While Italy were the last team standing, there were plenty of great performances this tournament that deserve recognition.  These are the type of tournaments that can submit a player’s legacy, secure a big money move to another, and announce yourself on the biggest stage in the world at the time.

Choosing a team of the tournament is a difficult task because the pool of players to choose from was already deep to begin with.  However, along the way, these eleven individuals were able to separate themselves from the pack and earn their place.

Lining up in a 4-2-3-1 formation, here’s who I think deserved to make the cut:

 

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Donnarumma, Italy

Probably the easiest choice of the bunch, Donnarumma was named Player of the Tournament by UEFA after he played a major role in Italy winning their first Euro title since 1968.  The 22-year-old entered Euro 2020 with a lot of hype and managed to live up to it.  Donnarumma began the tournament by keeping three straight clean sheets and finished it by stopping three attempts over the course of two penalty shootouts to help Italy advance and win the final.  Despite his age, Donnarumma never looked overwhelmed and nearly always had an answer for those who thought they had unlocked the Italian defense.  He has all the momentum in the world as he prepares for his first season with PSG.

Honorable Mention: Jordan Pickford, Yann Sommer

 

 

Left-Back: Luke Shaw, England

While there might be one special person out there who would oppose this choice, Shaw was a revelation for England on both ends of the pitch at this tournament.  On the defensive end, he was as sturdy as a rock when called upon, but did his best work going forward.  His service into the box led to a lot of England goals down the stretch while he also set a record for fastest goal in a Euro final vs. Italy.  After a long battle with injuries, Shaw finally looks like the player Manchester United and England thought he could be.

Honorable Mention: Leonardo Spinazzola, Joakim Mæhle

 

Center-Back: Giorgio Chiellini, Italy

Judging by the way he belted the national anthem before each match or the number of times he flashed his signature, goofy grin, you wouldn’t know Chiellini was on his final run with Italy at the age of 36.  While he didn’t get on the scoresheet like his back-line partner, Chiellini was one of the more dominating defensive forces at this tournament.  Despite his age, the Italian center-back remains a hard man to get past, utilizing his physicalit still to great effect.  As Italy’s captain, he helped motivate and guide the team through many highly pressurized moments on their way to a title.  He may not be donning the Italy kit for much longer, so you have to appreciate him while you still can.

Honorable Mention: Leonardo Bonucci, Aymeric Laporte

 

Center-Back: Simon Kjær, Denmark

While you may think this is purely a sentimental pick, Kjær deserves this spot just as much for his on-field performance.  He was at the heart of a Denmark defense that only conceded twice in their three knockout stage matches, coming just a few minutes short of potentially beating England and earning a trip to the final.  Nevertheless, his intangibles as a captain were on full display when he was first to reach and aid Christen Eriksen after he collapsed on the field during Denmark’s first match.  It takes a special kind of person to help a team recover from type of incident and Kjær was able to do that through his actions both on and off the pitch.

Honorable Mention: Harry Maguire, David Alaba

 

Right-Back: Kyle Walker, England

While he may not have the counting stats that others do, Walker was too busy shutting down some of the best players in the world on his way to tying for first with 19 interceptions.  His pace was on full display whether he was in recovery or going forward to join in the attack.  His performances were a big reason why England finished with the best defensive record at Euro 2020.  Of the four right-backs named to the initial roster, he was the one that rose to the top.

Honorable Mention: Vladimír Coufal, Denzel Dumfries

 

Holding Midfielder: Marco Verratti, Italy

After missing Italy’s first two matches as he recovered from injury, Verratti’s return made a great team even better.  Alongside Jorginho, Verratti pulled the strings on offense while simultaneously stopping opposing attacks in the middle of the park.  The Italian midfielder was top five in shot-creating and goal-creating actions while also placing second in total tackles and tackles won.  A lot of teams never even got the chance to challenge Italy’s defense because Verratti was there to stop them in their place and take it the other way.

Honorable Mention: Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Declan Rice

 

 

Holding Midfielder: Jorginho, Italy

While it took Verratti some time to get into Euro 2020, Jorginho started doing great work in the midfield for Italy from the jump.  The Chelsea man finished in the top five in SCA, passes into the final third, pressures, and interceptions.  He was also third at Euro 2020 with 587 touches, the most of any midfielder.  Each one of Italy’s attacking movements could usually be traced back to either Verratti or Jorginho.  While he came up short in the final, he did score the decisive kick in Italy’s penalty shootout win vs. Spain.  Jorginho very much represents the team dynamic of Italy and continued his fine form from his club season into this tournament.

Honorable Mention:, Paul Pogba, Toni Kroos

 

 

Left Wing: Raheem Sterling, England

Many like myself thought Sterling would be named Player of Tournament if England had gone all the way.  The winger started every match for the national team and was the only player to score for England in the group stage.  He tied for first in shots on target with eight and successfully dribbled past an opposing player 23 times, the most at Euro 2020.  He was a consistent threat on the outside thanks to his speed and elusiveness and was able to hit the ground running at a time when the rest of England’s offense didn’t.  Other than maybe taking a penalty kick in the shootout vs. Italy, there wasn’t much more Sterling could do for the Three Lions this tournament.

Honorable Mention: Lorenzo Insigne, Emil Forsberg

 

 

Attacking Midfielder: Pedri, Spain

While I could’ve opted for a more established player at this spot, Pedri is well on his way to becoming that.  Named the Young Player of the Tournament by UEFA, the 18-year-old was a magician in Spain’s midfield during their campaign.  He led all players at Euro 2020 in SCA and GCA, as well as passes and carries into the final third.  The Barcelona midfielder never showed his age, but instead confirmed that he deserved the early praise and expectations he had been given.  Time will tell if he’s the second coming of Andrés Iniesta, but this was a great first impression.

Honorable Mention: Kevin De Bruyne, Xherdan Shaqiri

 

Right Wing: Federico Chiesa, Italy

If there is one thing to nitpick Italy on during Euro 2020, it’s that they took so long to figure out what they had in Chiesa.  The 23-year-old didn’t make his first start until the third match and was immediately dropped to the bench after.  However, after coming on as a substitute to score the opener in Italy’s win vs. Austria, Chiesa started the rest of the way, which included scoring the opening goal in the semifinal match vs. Spain.  Both attempts were ferocious shots which showcased the chaos that the young winger can create on the outside.  Despite not seeing early action, Chiesa finished tied for fifth in total shots. He’s a product of Italy’s change in philosophy when it comes to their attack and was a big reason why they were the last team standing at Euro 2020.

Honorable Mention: Andriy Yarmolenko, Memphis Depay

 

Striker: Patrik Schick, Czech Republic

No one would’ve blamed Schick if he had walked off following his outrageous second goal from past the halfway line vs. Scotland, but that was just the tip of the iceberg for him.  The Czech Republic striker tied for the most goals at Euro 2020 with five but missed out on the Golden Boot thanks to Cristiano Ronaldo having one more assist than him.  Schick didn’t have much help around him, but when he got the ball, he made the most of his chances.  While others deserve some credit, he’s the main reason why the Czech Republic made it as far as they did, just short of a semifinal berth.

Honorable Mention: Cristiano Ronaldo, Harry Kane

 

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