Euro 2020 had had it all — drama, entertainment and excitement… but which players stood out from the rest?
Laxmi Negi/Rediff.com picks the very best players from what has been an outstanding tournament:
Manager: Roberto Mancini
Mancini was reduced to tears at Wembley after his side edged England on penalties.
Italy’s first European Championship title since 1968 was the result of Mancini’s intelligent rebuilding of the national team following the humiliating failure to qualify for the 2018 World Cup in Russia.
His first job was to restore confidence in a demoralised side, but he forged a brilliant team spirit combined with his tactical excellence.
Mancini has led Italy out of one of the darkest chapters in their football history, delivering not only results but much-needed joy.
The victory follows three years of reconstruction, carried out with the support of many of his former Sampdoria team-mates, including former Chelsea manager Gianluca Vialli.
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Donnarumma (Italy)
The Italian goalkeeper was the Player of the Tournament.
Donnarumma, 22, crowned the competition in style on Sunday as he saved two penalties from Jadon Sancho and Bukayo Saka to secure a 3-2 shootout win for the Azzurri.
He was a mainstay between the posts for Italy throughout their campaign. Donnarumma — and Italy — did not concede in the group stage, letting in a goal for the first time in the round of 16 against Austria. That was the first goal they had shipped in more than 1,000 minutes.
Donnarumma also made a crucial save in the penalty shoot-out victory against Spain in the semi-final.
Centre Back: Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)
‘It’s coming to Rome,’ Bonucci screamed into the television cameras.
The veteran defender reacting quickest during a goalmouth scramble and equalised in the 67th minute. The Italian finished off the ball that bounced off the bar after being hit by Marco Verratti.
He became the oldest goal scorer in tournament finals history (34 years, 71 days). Post that, Italy never looked back, ultimately triumphing in that dramatic penalty shootout where Italian experience prevailed over English youth.
Centre Back: Giorgio Chellini (Italy)
Chiellini stands out for his imperious defence as for his statesman-like demeanour, for being a calming and commanding presence at the heart of the tournament’s best team and for providing some of its funniest moments.
His pre-penalty rendezvous with Spain’s Jordi Alba in the semi-final, and his instantly memeable ‘tackle’ on Bukayo Saka in the final take the cake.
Centre Back: Harry Maguire (England)
Not only is Maguire rated as the best-performing centre-back at the tournament, but the second-best player overall and that should come as no surprise on the back of his warrior-like performance against Denmark.
Centre Midfielder: Jorginho (Italy)
A legitimate Ballon d’Or contender, Jorginho flourished in the central areas and dominate the midfield contest of the Euro 2020 final.
He was key to Italy’s build-up play, kept finding spaces, remained composed under pressure and dictated the tempo of the game.
Although he missed from the spot during the penalty shootout, he had a fantastic game and was exceptionally consistent throughout the tournament.
Centre Midfielder: Paul Pogba (France)
Pogba was a masterclass for France.
He reportedly incurred the wrath of Benjamin Pavard for his defensive contribution, but tearing apart Germany and Portugal proved once again that Pogba is simply unstoppable for his country.
Right Wing: Federico Chiesa (Italy)
Chiesa took centre stage coming off the bench late to score as Italy battled past Austria in extra-time to reach the Euro 2020 quarter-finals.
In the final, Chiesa was afforded a free role and played a key part in Italy’s equaliser.
Attacking Midfilder: Pedri (Spain)
Pedri was named the Young Player of the Tournament. The 18 year old had won just four senior caps prior to the tournament, but missed only one minute of La Roja’s campaign, going off at the end of extra time in the quarter-final against Switzerland which Spain went on to win on penalties.
Pedri received widespread acclaim for his majestic performances, particularly in the semi-final loss to Italy when he completed 65 of the 66 passes he attempted across the 120 minutes of action.
The Barcelona star boasts the most shot and goal-creating actions at the entire tournament.
Left Wing: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
Ronaldo may have played only four games at Euro 2020, but he nevertheless finished as the top scorer.
Ronaldo opened his account at Euro 2020 with two late goals in the 3-0 win against Hungary, taking his all-time Euro finals tally to a new record of 11. He added one more to his total with the opening goal of the 4-2 loss to Germany and then struck twice from the penalty spot in the 2-2 draw with France.
Although the Czech Republic’s Patrik Schick also racked up five goals at the finals, Ronaldo finished out in front thanks to his assist against Germany, having also played fewer minutes than Schick.
Centre Forward: Karim Benzema (France)
After six long years, the Real Madrid striker returned to the French national team.
Unfortunately, the World Champions’ tournament was cut short after losing to Switzerland in the Round of 16 on penalties.
Benzema scored a brace in the game to keep France’s hopes alive but poor defending and several other opportunities that were squandered by Kylian Mbappe ended their tournament early.
When France took on Portugal, Benzema stepped up in the biggest match of the group stage and delivered a sensational individual performance to ensure Les Bleus finished on top of the group. He dispatched a fine penalty against Rui Patricio and then gave France the lead from a sublime finish.
Overall, the 33 year old performed admirably, scoring 4 goals in the tournament and delivered two clutch performances for his side.
Centre Forward: Harry Kane (England)
The England captain started Euro 2020 on a wobbly note but his confidence grew, having scored 4 goals, including the one against Denmark that sent the English to their first major tournament final in 55 years.
England were agonisingly beaten on penalties in the final following a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes. The defeat, Kane said, would ‘hurt for the rest of our careers’.
Feature Production: Ashish Narsale/Rediff.com
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