After a whole year of waiting, with the postponement due to the COVID-19 pandemic in Europe, the 2020 UEFA European Football Championship, or simply UEFA Euro 2020, has finally reached its conclusion. This was the 16th edition of the tournament, and for the first time in history, it was held in multiple cities across the continent, with the final match being hosted at Wembley Stadium, in London. Portugal were the defending champions, having won the 2016 competition in France.
In the thrilling final played on Sunday, July 11, Italy beat England on penalty shootout following a 1-1 draw after extra time, and claimed their second European Championship, and their first title since the 2006 FIFA World Cup. With another frustrated run, England failed to “bring football home” and end their 55-year drought.
Italy finished the competition with the best offense, scoring 13 goals in 7 matches, and England finished with the best defense in the tournament, allowing only two goals. With his 5 goals in this year’s event, Cristiano Ronaldo received the Alipay Top Scorer award, and became the top goalscorer in Euros history, with 14 goals. Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma was elected the Player of the Tournament, and Spain’s Pedri received the Young Player of the Tournament award.
The tournament ended with the most goals per game in a European Championship since the introduction of the group stage, with 2.78 goals per game and 142 in total, and only two goalless matches, which led to pundits and fans praising the event’s high scoring.
After the final match, the UEFA Technical Team elected the Team of the Tournament, with five players from the winning side, as it follows: Gianluigi Donnarumma; Kyle Walker, Leonardo Bonucci, Harry Maguire, and Leonardo Spinazzola; Pierre-Emile Højbjerg, Jorginho, and Pedri; Federico Chiesa, Raheem Sterling, and Romelu Lukaku. However, if you disagree with the Technical Team, you can visit this website to check the squads of the UEFA Euro 2020, and build your own Team of the Tournament.
The next edition of the UEFA Euro will take place in Germany, for the third time in history, and is scheduled from June 14 to July 14, 2024.
The opening ceremony took place at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, Italy, on June 11, prior to the first match of the tournament, in which Italy beat Turkey 3-0. The group stage ended on June 23, with just a few unexpected results. Even though the weaker sides provided a tough challenge, the top-ranked teams managed to prevail in the end, with all favourites qualifying to the knockout stage.
However, in the first match of Group B, the world stopped for a few minutes, as we were shocked by what happened during the clash between Denmark and Finland. In the 43rd minute, Inter Milan and Denmark star midfielder Christian Eriksen collapsed on the pitch due to a cardiac arrest. He received immediate medical attention, and had to be resuscitated with a defibrillator, before being transferred to a local hospital. Fortunately, he managed to overcome the situation, and is currently in a stable condition. Despite the incident, the match was resumed and Finland won 1-0.
Group winners, runners-up, and the best four third-placed teams advanced to the round of 16.
The knockout stage of UEFA Euro 2020 began on June 26, with the round of 16. In the first matches of this stage, Denmark and Italy advanced after beating Wales and Austria, respectively, and Czech Republic provided one of the biggest upsets of the tournament, as they defeated Netherlands 2-0.
The defending champions Portugal faced Belgium, in one of the most expected matches of the round of 16, and were defeated 1-0, in a disappointing performance by Cristiano Ronaldo.
However, all the excitement was reserved for June 28, which came to be known as “Magic Monday”, when two round of 16 matches were played: Croatia-Spain and France-Switzerland. A total of 14 goals was scored in these two matches, with Spain beating Croatia 5-3 after extra time, and France eliminating Switzerland on penalty shootouts, following a thrilling 3-3 draw after extra time.
On June 29, one the bitterest rivalries in Europe had another chapter in its rich history, as England and Germany faced off at Wembley, with the Three Lions winning 2-0, with goals by Sterling and Kane. The round of 16 concluded on the same day, after Ukraine defeated Sweden 2-1 after extra time.
On July 2, the quarter-finals kicked off, with Spain eliminating the Swiss team, and Italy overcoming the Belgian side. The following day, Denmark defeated Czech Republic 2-1, and England beat Ukraine 4-0, with a brilliant display by Harry Kane.
Both semi-finals matches were played at Wembley Stadium, in London, between July 6 and July 7. Italy faced Spain, and after a highly disputed match, and a 1-1 draw after extra time, the Azzurri advanced to the finals, beating Spain 4-2 on penalty shootouts.
Finally, on July 7, England and Denmark faced off in a controversial game. After a 1-1 draw in regular time, it seemed that the match would also be decided on penalty shootout. However, in the 104th minute, referee Danny Makkelie awarded a penalty kick to England, following a tackle by Joakim Mæhle on Raheem Sterling in the penalty box. Harry Kane missed the penalty, but scored from the rebound. After the match, pundits all across the world criticised the decision, arguing that the penalty should not have been awarded when checked by VAR.
The final match was played in front of more than 67,000 spectators at Wembley, on July 11. In the second minute of play, Manchester United and England left-back Luke Shaw scored the opener for the Three Lions, which marked the fastest goal ever scored in a Euro final. In the second half, after much pressure by the Azzurri, Leonardo Bonucci scored the equalizer, and became the oldest scorer in the final of a European Championship, at the age of 34 years and 71 days.
With the score tied at 1-1, both teams kept battling for possession, with Italy being able to control the actions. However, both teams failed to score, and the match went to extra time. With not much happening in the tiebreaker, and both teams focusing on defending, the game was clearly going to the penalty shootout.
Both sides’ first penalties were successful, then Pickford saved from Belotti, before Maguire converted his kick. Bonucci and Bernardeschi scored for Italy, and then Marcus Rashford and Jadon Sancho missed their kicks. Jorginho stepped up to take the possible match-winning penalty for Italy but had his shot saved by Pickford. With the score 3-2 to Italy, Bakayo Saka took the final kick, but Donnaruma dived to his left and saved the penalty, to secure Italy’s second European Championship.