As the dust settles on Euro 2020 and a marvellous summer of football, it’s time to sit back, relax and reflect on a tournament that brought a much-needed ray of light across the continent after 18 months of doom and gloom.
Roberto Mancini’s Italy ultimately emerged victorious on Sunday night, while Gareth Southgate’s Three Lions caused a nation to truly believe football was coming home as they pushed the Azzurri all the way in their first major final in 55 years.
So, after 51 games, 142 goals (11 own goals!), 17 penalties. six red cards and more than 1,000,000 fans in stadiums, we’ve decided to look back at some of our favourite moments from this year’s incredible European Championship.
Best Game: France 3 - 3 Switzerland (Switzerland win 5-4 on pens)
A thrilling encounter which saw the reigning World Champions and the Euro 2020 favourites bow out prematurely at the hands of a tenacious and threatening Switzerland side.
The Swiss took an early lead through Haris Seferović before a world-class brace from Karim Benzema turned the game around early in the second-half. Even when Paul Pogba’s sensational strike gave them an even bigger mountain to climb, Switzerland never gave up and Seferović thumped in his second header from close-range before substitute Mario Gavranović’s late strike forced extra-time.
The following penalty shoot-out was tense and it was goalkeeper Yann Sommer who was the hero as he denied French talisman Kylian Mbappé to send the Swiss supporters into jubilation. A brilliant encounter and the classic underdog triumph that shows why football is the beautiful game.
Best Moment: Christian Eriksen’s message to supporters
Following his cardiac arrest in Copenhagen during Denmark’s opening game against Finland, the world stopped in fear for midfielder Christian Eriksen’s life. In truly harrowing scenes, everyone feared the worst.
The heroic actions of Danish captain Simon Kjær were crucial in saving his teammate's life and then he showed how much of a great human being he was when he, along with Kasper Schmeichel, were spotted comforting Eriksen’s wife, Sabrina.
Luckily, it was good news to find out relatively quickly that the Inter Milan star was in a stable condition in hospital and when he posted his message for the football world to read, there was sure to be a smile on everyone’s face knowing he was going to be okay.
Best Goal: Patrik Schick v Scotland
People will never tire of this sensational strike, which was one of Patrik Schick’s five goals of the tournament, a tally which saw him finish joint-top scorer alongside Cristiano Ronaldo.
Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall was foolishly further out of his area than he needed to be and a mistake in midfield gave the Czech Republic forward the chance to score one of the best goals of his career. Looking up to see where Marshall was, he instinctively knew he was going to attempt the sublime and he managed to get the perfect weight and curve on the ball to give Marshall no alternative to picking the ball, and himself out, of the net.
Player of the Tournament: Leonardo Spinazzola
Everyone who watched Euro 2020 will know all about this man, the tournament’s best right-footed left-back (sorry, Kieran Trippier). As Mancini wanted his side to attack with intensity, Spinazzola was crucial to how the Azzurri played at the tournament and for most of their games, he was their biggest attacking outlet.
He recorded the fastest sprint in the tournament and it was not surprising as he was constantly spotted flying up and down the left flank and he was a constant nuisance to any defence they faced. It was devastating to see the player forced off in the quarter-final against Belgium with a ruptured achille, but despite his relatively early exit, the 28-year-old Roma midfielder certainly lit up the tournament in a brief amount of time.
Young Player of the Tournament: Pedri
Spanish prodigy Pedri is already showing exceptional ability for an 18-year-old and this summer he proved to the world why he is one of the few bright sparks still shining at Barcelona.
For a young player at his first senior international tournament, Pedri showed such maturity and composure for his age as he always demanded the ball and he did not shy away from driving at his opponents. He is sure to be key for Spain’s tournament hopes for the next decade, at least.
Best Manager: Roberto Mancini
It is very hard to look past this man. Not just because of how he got his side to play their way to European glory, but for the overall journey he has taken them on since he took the reins.
The Azzurri were in a dark place after missing their first World Cup since 1958 in 2018, but the former Manchester City boss came in and made it clear he was going to instigate a renaissance in how they approach the game, with a new attacking philosophy that has paid dividends. Mancini hasn’t just led this current crop of Italians to glory, he has laid the foundations for the future
Best Fan: The Swiss fan who had the greatest mood swing football can offer
By now everyone will have seen the pictures of this particularly emotional Swiss fan against France. When first captured, he looked teary and defeated and then, when the Swiss scored moments later, you thought you were looking at a different man. His bucket hat and shirt were off, he was screaming in elation and you could see the passion on his face as his side had reignited the fire of hope within him again.
Best Dressed: Italy
The Italians have featured heavily so far but the suits that they donned for the Euros were too stylish not to have them named as the tournament’s best dressed. If the attire of a side was judged to win Euro 2020, then the Italians were head and shoulders above every other nation.
They took the tournament very seriously in all aspects, not just on the pitch. Having missed the last major tournament, the Azzurri will have been grounded and realised how much of a privilege reaching a major tournament finals really is. Those suit jackets were just incredible.