The European Championships are over and Italy have been crowned as champions. The delayed tournament has reminded us all just what we were missing after a season of empty stadiums, as grounds across the continent rocked with noise. We also saw the beauty of tournament football as favorites crashed, as the draw threw up titanic clashes and epic drama. Here, we count down the 24 teams who made up this special summer of football.
Turkey had the misfortune to be drawn to play the tournament opener against Italy in Rome and it went horribly wrong from there. Picking through the bones of Turkey’s campaign, there was a clear lack of energy in the team. It could be due to Turkey’s sizeable contingent from Europe’s top leagues having run out of steam after exhausting club campaigns. This is a largely young team who’s lack of experience in tournament football also came to bare. Senol Gunes’ team is still in a strong position to qualify for the World Cup and will hopefully learn from this summer’s chastening experience.
Star Man: Irfan Kahveci- His brilliant strike against Switzerland proved the only high from Turkey’s tournament.
23. North Macedonia
The Macedonians won plenty of friends at Euro 2020, but were not any points. Getting here was always the achievement, and North Macedonia played some enterprising football along the way. Still, they conceded eight goals in three games. Elif Elmas will lead a relatively young group for years, and unlike some at the Euros, Macedonia have a system of play in which they are well drilled. They will have to do without Goran Pandev, who signed off his 122 cap career with a moving guard of honour from his teammates. They may not have won a game, but North Macedonia were certainly not disgraced.
Star Man: Goran Pandev- The veteran marksman fittingly scored his nation’s first ever goal at a finals and his clever passing proved a thorn in plenty of defender’s sides.
The magic of 2018 was in short supply for Russia this year. Getting hammered by Belgium wasn’t a surprise, but struggling to break down Finland and getting thrashed by Denmark wasn’t in the script. Russia are currently flat track bullies with Artem Dzyuba able to gobble goals in qualifying, but all too often an isolated figure in tournaments. It does look time for a rethink for Russia and a new team to be built around talented 25-year old duo Aleksei Miranchuk and Alexsandr Golovin.
Star Man: Aleksei Miranchuk- His dazzling moment of skill grabbed Russia’s win over Finland, if Russia had got him involved more they may have gone much further.
A strong start from Slovakia slowly went downhill and ended in calamity. Few backed them to beat Poland, yet with Marek Hamsik back, they produced a fine opening win. Slovakia paid a hefty price for defending too deep, too early against Sweden, and defeat left them needing a result against Spain in which Martin Dubravka’s howler heralded an implosion and resulted in a 5-0 defeat. Going forward, Milan Skriniar leads a credible defence and veteran creative talents Hmsik and Robert Mack have the craft to open teams up. However, the lack of a centre forward remains a huge problem.
Star Man: Milan Skriniar- Brilliant at both ends of the pitch against Poland, the 26-year old Serie A title winner remains Slovakia’s rock.
Scotland’s first tournament experience in 23 years brought eerily familiar tropes from their past into the present; a bad start against a team they were expected to beat, inspired performance against a fancied team and leave themselves too much to do in the group finale. Scotland are hugely improved under Steve Clarke and in Andy Robertson, Kieran Tierney and Billy Gilmour they have some top class talent to build around. However the lack of a prolific striker proved a fatal flaw with Lyndon Dykes failing to score from numerous presentable chances as Scotland went out in the group.
Star Man: Billy Gilmour- Outstanding in Scotland’s 0-0 draw with England, the 20-year-old will provide Scotland with a midfield fulcrum for the next decade, a great pity he missed the final group game with Covid.
Nobody gave them a prayer, but incredibly Finland came within 16 minutes of the knockout phase. As expected the campaign was built around the stout defence with Lukas Hradecky kept busy, and they rarely attacked. However Finland unlike plenty of bigger name teams showed what togetherness and work ethic can do for a team. Fullbacks Jukka Raitala and Jere Uronen were hugely impressive, and when they did get forward down the flanks Finland looked dangerous. Finland have some veterans to replace but this bulk of this group could be together for some time.
Star Man: Glenn Kamara- The tireless defensive midfielder was masterful at the base of midfield, surely a future captain.
Poland paid a heavy price for a dreadful start. Losing to Slovakia gave Poland too much to do in a tough group, but this was not a tournament flop of 2018 proportions. Poland fought back well to gain a deserved point against Spain, but again found themselves behind against Sweden and forced to gamble. Lewandowski was outstanding and Paulo Sosa’s coaching is making Poland more inventive, but Lewandowski is now 32 and World Cup qualification looks tough.
Star Man: Robert Lewandowski- threw off his tournament hoodoo to grab big goals to give his team a fighting chance.
Another team written off as cannon fodder who came within a few minutes of the knockout phase. The draw was appalling but Hungary gave three of World Football’s superpowers a real game. Peter Gulasic lead a defence that as expected made life hard for opponents, but was was surprising was just how well this team counter attacked. It was a collective effort but Adam Szalai, Roland Sallai and Loic Negy were particularly effective at taking the game to opponents. With a strong team ethic and the precocious Dominik Szoboszlai to return, one of football’s grand old nations are heading back in the right direction.
Star Man: Adam Szalai– the captain lead a determined group and came up with a big goal to have Hungary dreaming.
A 4-0 hiding from Denmark ended Welsh hopes of a repeat of Euro 2016, but this was still a decent tournament from Wales. The return to form and fitness of Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey was key to Wales’ progress to the knockout phase and Bale reaffirmed his commitment to the cause after Wales’ elimination. Encouragingly for Wales the supporting cast are young and on the up with the likes of Daniel James, Ethan Ampadu and Neco Williams on an upward career path.
Star Man: Gareth Bale- When he’s fit Bale always gives Wales a chance, back to his best in the Turkey win with his pace and dribbling.
Austria are now restored to footballing respectability. Coach Franco Foda isn’t universally liked but he got his formation right when it mattered most, to send Austria into the knockout phase for the first time. They gave Italy a huge fright and left with pride restored. David Alaba was majestic once played in his favoured left-back role, the midfield tigerish and frontline dangerous. If Foda can resist tinkering Austria look a good for at least a World Cup playoff spot.
Star Man: Xaver Schlager- Not the biggest name in the side but got the midfield engineroom ticking along in the critical games against Ukraine and Italy.
A mixed bag from the Netherlands that ultimately cost Frank De Boer his job. The controversial 5-3-2 system did work with both wingbacks excelling in attack, but the weak group always threatened to make the Dutch look better than they were and so it proved. Going down to ten men in the last 16 was a hammer blow, but it was still shocking how quickly De Boer’s team folded and were bundled out by the unfancied Czech Republic. The new coach will have key men Virgil Van Dijk and Jesper Clissen returning to improve the defence and after so long away this tournament was ultimately a learning experience for the squad. Whoever comes in still inherits problems with a fragile mentality and short falls in key positions, but the man new man will buy himself time if he plays a 4-3-3.
Star Man: Denzel Dumfries- Played more as a winger than wingback and grabbed two goals, Dumfries got forward well and will be a key player for the next boss.
Their group phase started slowly, but when Croatia found their rhythm they dismantled Scotland at Hampden Park. But after steady improvement through the group came anarchy in the last 16. Croatia took the lead through a bizarre own goal but then found themselves 3-1 down with five minutes left when substitute Mislav Orsic inspired a dramatic comeback. In extra time Croatia didn’t take their chances (if only Ivan Perisic hadn’t got injured) and eventually went down 5-3. Despite the exit, things look rosier for Croatia now than six weeks ago with Orsic and Mario Pasalic surely due a bigger role going foward.
Star Man: Luka Modric– He can still do it! Modric turned in a midfield masterclass to crush Scotland and improved as the tournament progressed, all Croatia must hope he stays around until Qatar.
Solid did as solid does as Sweden did their usual thing to win Group E. Alexander Isak added an unpredictable element to Sweden’s blend, making light of the absence of Zlatan. They did however miss out in a second round tie they looked favourites to win until Marcus Danielson’s horror tackle reduced them to ten men. This did fell like the last knockings for some of Sweden’s veterans, but in Isak and Dejan Kulusevski there’s dynamic young talent around, and maybe Zlatan will return to play in the World Cup aged 40.
Star Man: Emil Forsberg- Sweden’s main man bagged four goals from midfield and was at the hub of their attack throughout.
Not the fairytale send off Joachim Low wanted, but not a disgrace either from Germany. The Portugal win reminded us all just how good Low’s Germany can be, but too often we saw familiar frailties. Wingbacks Robin Gosens and Joshua Kimmich were excellent and Kai Havertz showed bite in attack, but the back three looked vulnerable and Low was unlucky that his goalscorers (Werner, Sane and Gnabry) all arrived in modest form. Those expecting a quick turnaround under Hansi Flick could be in for a shock, the defensive problems aren’t going away and the midfield will need rebuilding without Toni Kroos and probably Ilkay Gundogan, Flick has plenty to ponder.
Star Man: Kai Havertz- Looks to be Germany’s new talisman, showing skill and maturity that must be the cornerstone of the new German team.
Beaten twice in four games were the bare facts of a disappointing title defence from Portugal. The draw was tough throughout, but that’s the price you pay for not winning your qualifying group. The 4-2 defeat to Germany exposed Portugal’s weakness of playing two attacking fullbacks as Portugal lacked the defensive security that underpinned their success in 2016. Meanwhile some of Portugal’s biggest names didn’t live up to expectations, notably Bruno Fernandes and Ruben Dias. With numerous ageing stars in their ranks, Portugal and Fernando Santos have some thinking to do.
Star Man: Cristiano Ronaldo- Five goals in the group phase made Ronaldo by far the tournament’s alltime record goalscorer, but that international goalscoring record will have to wait until the autumn.
As red hot favourites go France made a complete mess of this tournament. They opened with an impressive performance against Germany, yet France failed to win another game. Inconsistency was their downfall, France played in 20-30 minute bursts of class but couldn’t string 90 minutes together. Didier Deschamps’ strange tactical decision to switch formation against Switzerland backfired horribly, but they recovered from that to lead 3-1 in the closing stages. The return of Karim Benzema did work, but Kylian Mbappe suffered a dreadful Euros summed up by his decisive penalty miss. Deschamps’ place in French footballing history is already assured, but will he lead them to Qatar, with Zinedine Zidane available?
Star Man: Paul Pogba- He can’t entirely escape blame for France’s demise but Pogba’s sublime passing range proved key to their great moments in this tournament and his goal against Switzerland was a joy.
Tournament football is about progression, not necessarily your win percentage and nobody exemplified that more than Ukraine. Andriy Shevchenko’s team lost three times in five matches but return home heroes after their unlikely run to the quarter-finals. Ukraine have looked a team on the rise for a few years and Artem Dovbyk’s last ditch winner against Sweden was the most dramatic of the tournament. This is a young team who could be together for a while and will be confident of at least a World Cup playoff berth
Star Man: Andriy Yarmalenko- Ukraine’s talisman put a difficult club season behind by returning to form and fitness with his wand of a left foot proving as potent as ever.
7. Czech Republic
A great tournament from another improving team saw the Czech’s make the last eight. Patrik Schick’s wonder goal in their opening win over Scotland set the tone for the Czech’s tournament. A famous win over the Netherlands was the high point with goalkeeper Tomas Vaclik, rightback Vladimir Coufal and midfielder Lukas Masopust all enjoying fine campaigns. However it was Schick whose sharp instincts pushed the Czechs to a new level.
Star Man: Patrik Schick- Five goals in five games saw Schick finally make the step up he’s promised for years, Bayer Leverkusen will be relieved he’s got four years left on his contract.
A first knockout phase win since 1938 smashed Switzerland’s glass ceiling and confirmed their place at European football’s top table. None of that looked likely after one point and a 3-0 hiding from Italy in Switzerland’s first two matches, a start so bad it prompted coach Vladimir Petkovic to pen an open apology to the nation. Petkovic’s players responded in style with the spine of the team; Yann Sommer, Granit Xhaka, Xherdan Shaqiri and Haris Serferovic turning in big performances to beat Turkey and then come back from the brink to eliminate favourites France. The new spirit was best exemplified by the tireless Steven Zuber who notched four assists as Switzerland eventually suffered penalty agony against Spain.
Star Man: Yann Sommer- The penalty saving hero of a famous win over France, Sommer made a tournament high 21 saves this summer.
Belgium have consistently looked tournament favourites for two years yet came up short again in the finals. Having done everything right in qualifying and the group phase, the draw threw Belgium a nightmare path to the final. They did impressively to overcome defending champions Portugal but the pre-tournament injury worries over superstar duo Eden Hazard and Kevin De Bruyne came home to roost. Hazard missed the quarter-final and De Bruyne looked short of fitness as Belgium fell to Italy as Belgium’s achilles heel of an ageing backline was exploited. The window is closing on this team with Vermaelen, Vertonghen and Mertens close to the end of their careers.
Star Man: Romelu Lukaku- The deadeye finisher was again Belgium’s most potent weapon, scoring four more goals and leading the line.
An unforgettable emotional rollercoaster of a tournament for the Danes. From Christian Eriksen’s horrifying collapse and losing their first two games to their incredible run to the last four, nobody will forget Denmark’s Euro 2020. As ever they had unity and teamspirit in spadeloads with Simon Kjaer and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg optimising Denmark’s work ethic. Kasper Hjulmand’s team also played some sublime football with wingback Joakim Maehle a menace down the flank and young forward Mikkel Damsgaard taking over the talisman mantle, however ultimately Denmark ran out of steam in the semi-final.
Star Man: Mikkel Damsgaard- The breakout star of the tournament, the 21-year-old scored with two astounding strikes and added a creative spark to Denmark’s attack.
From zero to hero back to zero, striker Alvaro Morata optimized Spain’s strange tournament. A poor start and lack of incision saw the Spanish fail to win either of their first two games with Morata on the receiving end of vile abuse. Then came a goal glut and reinvigoration of Luis Enrique’s team who got better as the tournament progressed. They came from behind via Morata’s goal to have Italy on the ropes in the semi-final, but a lack of cutting edge and ultimately Morata’s penalty miss proved their undoing.
Star Man: Sergio Busquets- The Barcelona pass master came back from cover isolation to dominate midfield and re-energise Spain.
Football didn’t quite make it home, but a first final in 55 years, just five on from their abject failure at Euro 2016 showed just how far Gareth Southgate has taken England. England began the tournament in cautious fashion and throughout they kept a stingy defence and improved as an attacking force in the knockout phase. They lead the final for over an hour but eventually paid for trying to see the game out too early and their penalty demons returned. This is however a young improving side that has steadily progressed from fourth at the World Cup to third in the Nations League to second at the Euros, they’ll be optimistic of going one better in Qatar
Star Man: Raheem Sterling- provided a blend of pace, trickery and finishing to provide England’s most potent attacking weapon.
The Euro’s started with Italy and ended with them as champions. It’s a remarkable achievement from Roberto Mancini who’s brought a new dynamism to an experienced team. Italy played bright high tempo football from the outset and came through a tough knockout draw to edge out in turn Belgium, Spain and England. The veteran central defensive dup provided the foundation whilst Lorenzo Insigne and Federico Chiesa brought the cutting edge, they even pushed on after losing star player Leonardo Spinazzola to serious injury. Worthy winners
Star Man: Leonardo Bonucci- the 34-year-old formed the best defensive pairing in the tournament with Chielini and had the nouse to make up for ageing legs with some brilliant last ditch defending.