With the conclusion of Euro 2020, the Patriot has made an effort to debate about a good mix of all these known and unknown faces to come up with a ‘one perfect playing XI’ that our readers would love to read about…
Euro 2020 has entered our history books, but not before it turned out to be one of the most thrilling Championships in the tournament’s history. There were cracking goals, moments of madness and also moments of greatness for someone like Patrik Schick of Czech Republic for scoring from the halfway line against Scotland. The Euro Championship concluded with several big names performing as per their name and reputation. But the championship belonged to those lesser-known names who have left a lasting impression on the minds of football fans.
Goalkeeper: Yann Sommer (Switzerland)
Italian custodian Gianluigi Donnarumma was voted as UEFA’s Player of the Tournament for his penalty shoot-out heroics in semi-final and final against Spain and Italy, respectively, but Swiss custodian Sommer had some incredible moments in the Euro Championship. Who can forget his save against French superstar Kylian Mbappe during Switzerland’s shoot-out win in the last 16?
Altogether, Sommer made 21 saves, and not to forget that 10 of those 21 were against the tough Spanish side which eventually defeated Swiss side on penalties in the quarter-finals. In his professional career since 2007, Sommer has saved 19 of the 79 penalties till date. To many, he was the best in the Euro with Denmark’s Kasper Schmeichel being the second.
Right-back: Cesar Azpilicueta (Spain)
After years of neglect, the defender made his first appearance for Spanish side in almost three years less than a fortnight ago. But the Chelsea veteran stamped his authority by not just scoring an important goal against Croatia in the knockout tie, but mainly with his superlative defensive efforts.
Choosing him ahead of England’s Kyle Walker was a tough ask but it was because of Azpilicueta’s calming effect on Spanish defence which was struggling during its first two drawn games in the tournament without him in the starting eleven. He along with Barcelona’s Sergio Busquets were the central figures of coach Enrique’s gameplan in the championships.
Centre-back: John Stones (England)
Stones has emerged as Three Lions’ hero in a memorable Euro campaign. Though his team suffered a heartbreak penalty shoot-out loss in Sunday night’s final against Italy, Stones has emerged as England’s top centre-back.
Stones formed one of the strongest defences alongside Kyle Walker and Luke Shaw in the tournament by not conceding a single goal in first six games. Stones had a troublesome last couple of years after he returned from the 2018 World Cup semi-final loss in Russia. His form dipped at Manchester City that resulted in him losing his place in the national team as well. But he has come back so much better and stronger. And at 27, his best years are still to come.
Centre-back: Simon Kjaer (Denmark)
With no points from the first two games and the tragedy of losing star midfielder Christian Eriksen in a horrifying on-field cardiac arrest, Denmark were almost down and out and needed some kind of miracle to revive the fortunes of the team. At this time, the leadership of Simon Kjaer made all the difference.
Kjaer is blessed with a clear reading of the game and his tenacity and discipline brought the Danish team back into the tournament. Denmark was never expected to progress to the semi-finals, but Kjaer-led side became one of the sweethearts of the Euro 2020 as the fans around the world poured their hearts out to support the brave hearts out there on the field.
Left-back: Luke Shaw (England)
Another English player on our list, Luke Shaw has been the best left-back in Euro 2020 alongside Italian Leonardo Spinazzola. To start with, Shaw was left out of the opening game against Croatia but made a heroic manner by giving two assists against Ukraine in the quarters. In fact, Shaw was often compared with former Brazilian great Roberto Carlos for his speed and accurate passing. Shaw’s best was on display during the final against Italy when netted the fastest-ever goal in a Euro Championship final with his well-timed volley. Primarily this particular goal is one big reason that Shaw has been included over Spinazzola in the list of our best XI.
Defensive Midfielder: Jorginho (Italy)
The Italian played a key role as his nation went all the way to beat England at Wembley, the English drawing room where the hosts were just not favourites to win an international trophy after 55 years, but to win it in style in front of a hostile crowd gathered from around the country.
Just before the semis between Italy and Spain, Spain’s Cesar Azpilicueta was asked who should stop Italy? And Without hesitation he named his Chelsea colleague Jorginho…“The best player on their side,” was all he replied.
Jorginho’s influence has been immense and that is one reason that he was the least substituted Italian player in the tournament. Every other player has a ready replacement in Italy’s squad, but for the Brazil-born Jorginho was irreplaceable in both attacking and defensive situations. His game is defined by intelligence and timing and that’s the reason he is there in competition with Lionel Messi for the Ballon d’Or award after his performances in the Champions League for Chelsea and then the Euros for Italy in a short but productive period.
Centre midfielder: Marco Verratti (Italy)
Verratti has been the reason behind Italian triumph in Euro 2020. Having started on the side-lines with knee ligament damage, Verratti was not part of Italian squad till the final game of the Group stage. And his understudy Manuel Locatelli was performing his duties with all sincerity. But as he got a chance against Wales, Verratti showed his class and reasons why his coach Roberto Mancini considered him the most important part of his squad.
The 28-year-old, who returned from two positive tests for Coronavirus as well, was all over the ground, creating 14 chances, completing 388 passes, tackling 18 crucial interceptions, and successfully recovering 37 possessions from opposition.
Midfielder: Pedri (Spain)
At 18, the Barcelona midfielder made history by becoming the youngest player in Euro Championships history to start a semi-final match. Pedri was only part of his national squad four times before the tournament, but his swiftness and ability to pass the ball with utmost precision won him a comparison with Spanish great Andreas Iniesta by none other than his coach, Luis Enrique.
That was the reason that he missed only a minute of Spain’s team campaign, by getting substituted at the Fag end of the extra time against Switzerland during last eight clash.
UEFA’s team of Technical Observers have named Pedri as their “Young Player of the Tournament”. UEFA observers took into account his performances throughout the tournament, both individually and as part of the team, besides the player’s impact on his team.
Right-winger: Raheem Sterling (England)
If anyone had the biggest impact on the outcome of Euro 2020, it was certainly Raheem Sterling’s on England’s impactful journey till the very end. Be it the breakthrough against Germany or winning the penalty in the semi-final against Denmark, Sterling emerged as England’s best and most reliable player. It was because of that penalty that he won against Denmark that English team qualified for its first major event final in 55 years.
The 26-year-old Manchester City winger scored goals for the Three Lions against Croatia, the Czech Republic, and Germany before posing the biggest threat to Ukraine in the quarters. How much Sterling was playing into the minds of Italians could be judged by the fact that coach Roberto Mancini warned his team to be wary of him during that all-important final.
Striker: Patrik Schick (Czech Republic)
Perhaps no name has been searched more on internet search engines during the Euro 2020 than Schick. Rise of the Czech Republic’s forward from almost anonymity to stardom in the space of a few days was a result of Schick’s spectacular goal from halfway in the 2-0 triumph over Scotland at Hampden Park.
In fact, the goal will go down as one of the tournament’s most memorable moments. But to prove to his critics, who were kind of calling his goal ‘a fluke’, the Bayer Leverkusen striker gilded home to complete a resounding pre-quarterfinal victory over the dangerous Holland squad. He was again on target against Denmark in the quarters, but was unlucky to have finished on the losing side with 1-2 scoreline.
Left-winger: Lorenzo Insigne (Italy)
Long overlooked in the national team, the Euro 2020 was the last chance for 30-year-old Insigne to make a statement at international level. And he did that in style in the opening encounter against Turkey with his sublime goal to help his team garner full points. Coach Roberto Mancini appreciated Insigne’s hard work and sharp tackles to give this Napoli captain his chance to shine at the highest level as a starter.
It was his well-calculated curler from outside the area that proved to be the turning point against world No. 1 side Belgium in the quarter-final. Insigne’s strike not just won the most crucial game for Azzurri, but also became the most sought-after player by almost all the big clubs around the world during this transfer window.
And none other but champion clubs like Barcelona and Liverpool are in talks with Napoli to grab their most precious gem.