Five things we’ll remember about Euro 2020
It’s almost time to take those flags down and turn Baddiel & Skinner off repeat. Euro 2020 reaches its climax on Sunday night as Italy take on England at Wembley Stadium for European supremacy.
After the tournament was postponed last year amidst the pandemic, we’ve been treated to a spectacle and a half – with thrills and spills, plenty of shocks, and of course, fans returning to stadia across the continent.
And as we take one final look at the Euro 2020 odds, let’s look back at the tournament with fondness, and some of the things we won’t ever forget.
- It brought the continent together
The harrowing scenes in Denmark’s opening match against Finland are ones we will never want to witness again. Christian Eriksen has since made a safe recovery, following his collapse at Parken Stadium. But the way in which fans all over Europe rallied around and offered support was something truly wonderful. We are often divided by our allegiances to our domestic teams or even nations, but it was almost as though, everyone was united in their support for Eriksen and the Danish national team. It could be that passion that has spurred them onto success, reaching the semi-final for the first time since 1992.
- The year of the underdog
It isn’t just Denmark that have overperformed at Euro 2020, we saw a number of teams exceed expectations. The Czech Republic may have progressed to the knockout stages by way of their third-place finish in the groups, but a dominant display saw them defeat the Netherlands in the round of 16. Handed a lifeline when defender Matthijs de Ligt was sent off, the Czechs won 2-0, with another goal from Golden Boot hopeful, Patrik Schick. They of course, went on to lose to the Danes in the quarter-final.
And Switzerland were another to defy the odds. A six-goal thriller in Bucharest, with a late equaliser as they held World Champions France to a draw after the regulatory 90 minutes and extra time. The Swiss excelled from 12-yards out to win the subsequent penalty shootout – and set up a quarter-final with European powerhouse Spain. Another thrilling battle – which was decided by penalties once more. But the Swiss’ luck had run out, in what proved a dire set of spot-kicks.
- The Group of Death’s early elimination
Group F was always going to be an exciting prospect, with two teams guaranteed progression to the knockout stages, and the third hoping they’d done enough to qualify. Hungary weren’t there to make up the numbers and certainly put a spanner in the works – securing points against both France and Germany.
And the big three, that is France, Germany and Portugal – all exited the tournament at the last-16 stage. Portugal lost to the World Number 1 Belgium in Seville, while as mentioned, the Swiss defeated France on penalties. England exacted revenge on Germany for their Euro 96 win, with a 2-0 victory – enough to force Toni Kroos to retire from international football!
- Ronaldo’s record breakers
Wherever he goes, he scores goals and continues to break records – and Euro 2020 was no different for Cristiano Ronaldo. He became the first player to score at five consecutive tournaments.
He was also level with Michel Platini’s record of nine goals at the Championships, prior to the tournament getting underway – and later surpassed that with the five goals he scored during Portugal’s short-lived campaign.
And finally, those five goals took Ronaldo’s tally to 109 international goals. While he shares the record for the most goals scored with former Iranian striker Ali Daei, who notched 109 goals in 149 appearances, there’s no denying Ronaldo’s ability to break, or even smash this record. He also leads the way for Europe, with his nearest rival – the Hungarian legend, Ferenc Puskás – scoring 84 goals.
- It’s coming home!
Optimism amongst the Three Lions’ faithful has never been so high. After a fairly drab group stage campaign, England turned it on in the knockout stages – kicking off with a win over Germany. A second semi-final appearance in major tournaments proved more fruitful this time around, with a closely contested win over surprise package Denmark, and a date at Wembley on Sunday 11th June awaits. Italy will prove the toughest test yet, but we still believe!
Of course, if England don’t go on to lift the trophy, it’s been an exceptional campaign and after so many defeats in the penultimate round of major tournaments, Euro 2020 will be a memory that lives on.