Euro 2020: Picking the Team of the Tournament for This Year's Competition
What a month of football we've had. The European Championship has been an outstanding return to major international tournament football with fans and atmosphere and everything else that comes with it.
Italy triumphantly lifted the trophy after a penalty-shootout victory over England on Sunday. But it's not time to put all the fun behind us just yet though as we dive into a review of everything that went down by picking a team of the tournament. The best XI players at their respective positions over the course of the 51 matches.
These selections are based on individual performances, yes, but also considering the sum of the parts and how the player's national team got on in the competition. Players who exited proceedings early had a harder time making this team just given how many fewer minutes they showed us. An honorable mention for each position acknowledges some of those contributions.
Let us begin in goal and work our way up the pitch in what will look something like a 4-3-3 formation.
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Donnarumma, Italy
When a goalkeeper wins player of the tournament, you know he must be doing something right.
Donnarumma was outstanding. Simply outstanding. The soon-to-be-confirmed Paris Saint-Germain player, who already has 34 caps for the Italian national team at only 22 years old(!), looks destined to mind the net for the Azzurri for the next decade at least.
His heroics in the penalty shootouts in the final against England and semifinal vs. Spain will be remembered forever. Two great saves in the former, including the title-winning stop against Bukayo Saka, have cemented his legacy as a legend for his country with many more great moments to come.
Honorable Mention: Kasper Schmeichel, Denmark
What more can you say about Kasper at this point? Ten years the starter at Leicester City and forever compared to his famous father, the younger Schmeichel has emerged from Peter's shadow and has crafted an extremely legitimate career in his own right.
The semifinal run with Denmark would not have been possible without Schmeichel's influence and prowess between the sticks. Eighteen total saves, including an incredible nine against England in the semifinal, were good for a tie for second in the tournament.
This doesn't even take into account how his leadership skills were on display during the gut-wrenching scenes in Denmark's opening match vs. Finland in Copenhagen after Christian Eriksen's collapse. Between Kasper and Danish captain Simon Kjaer, a masterclass on on-pitch influence. Bravo.
Left Back: Luke Shaw, England
Shaw's performance for England at Euro 2020 was memorable, to say the least. A 180-degree career turnaround has seen the Manchester United defender, who was once an afterthought at his club, become one of the most productive players of the Three Lions and the only one since 1966 to score in a senior international tournament final.
He's been a revelation at the back, with many drawing comparisons to the great Brazilian Roberto Carlos for his buccaneering moves forward and delicious left-footed crossing ability. His goal against Italy in the final was something a forward would have been proud of. Easy pick at left-back.
Honorable Mention: Leonardo Spinazzola, Italy
One of Italy's best players, if not its best up until his Achilles injury against Belgium in the quarterfinals, Spinazzola deserves all the plaudits for tying together a lot of what the Azzurri did at the back, and it's clear his team valued his impact.
Center Back: Leonardo Bonucci, Italy
It's coming to Rome, he said emphatically following Italy's Euro 2020 success.
Bonucci, and center back partner Giorgio Chiellini, were integral to the success of the champions. Paired together for club and country over 300 times, the pair were immovable at this tournament.
It wasn't just his defending that should be lauded, though (despite it being very good and producing three clean sheets). Bonucci's distribution and ability to push the ball up the pitch for his team kept the pressure off the backline and spurred the attack. Massive.
Honorable Mention: Revealed at the bottom of the second center-back slide
Center Back: Aymeric Laporte, Spain
One of the surprises going into the tournament was the switch in national team allegiance by Laporte. Born in Agen, France, the Manchester City defender hadn't been getting the love from Les Bleus manager Didier Deschamps that he had hoped for and traded the blue for the furious red of Spain. Definitely not influenced by his Spanish club manager Pep Guardiola on this one.
Laporte came into a Spain squad that was arguably on a downswing and solidified the backline with young partners Pau Torres and Eric Garcia interchanging with him. With veterans Cesar Azpilicueta and Jordi Alba on the flanks, the leadership was there, but Laporte's transition into the team was seamless. So much so that he led the entire tournament in passes.
Honorable Mention: Giorgio Chiellini, Italy
The oldest player to start a European Championship final, Chiellini was a revelation for Roberto Mancini's squad. Making only 21 Serie A appearances for Juventus the last two seasons was of no consequence to Giorgio as he looked every bit the defender of his prime, even at the ripe old age of 36. A truly deserving captain and champion.
Right Back: Kyle Walker, England
There were few more consistent players at Euro 2020 than England's Kyle Walker. He was rock-solid at the back for England during its run to the final. His pace was still there and then some, but his awareness and composure on the ball were such steadying presences for the Three Lions. When you have people like Jose Mourinho calling him the player of the tournament, as a right back no less, he has to have been doing something right.
Being a rock at the back is one thing, but he also had the numbers to back it up. The 31-year-old deserves all the plaudits and should retain a regular place in the Manchester City starting lineup as it attempts to defend the Premier League title.
Honorable Mention: Joakim Maehle, Denmark
Left Midfield: Pedri, Spain
Voted the Young Player of the Tournament, the 18-year-old Pedri played all but one minute of Spain's semifinal run and boy was he outstanding. National team boss Luis Enrique heaped praise on the Barcelona wonderkid after their exit and rightly so.
The vision, the confidence, the composure. It was all there on display, particularly in the semifinal during which he completed 97 percent of his passes (100 percent through 90 minutes). Many are predicting Ballon d'Ors in his future, and it shouldn't come as a surprise...he's that good and will only get better at Barca as he plays a huge role in its upcoming campaign.
Honorable Mention: Dani Olmo, Spain
Playing in more of an attacking role than midfield, Olmo just needed to be included here as he was more often than not the player that created chances for Spain. Perhaps lesser known as he plays outside of La Liga with RB Leipzig in Germany, the 23-year-old may soon return home with one of the league's bigger clubs after the tournament he had.
Center Midfield: Jorginho
Pulling the strings for Italy throughout its championship run was Chelsea's Jorginho. Linking the defense to the attack and disrupting the opposition at every turn, the 29-year-old, who at one point last season wasn't a regular starter under Frank Lampard at Stamford Bridge, was everywhere.
You don't register more interceptions than the likes of Marcel Desailly and Daniele De Rossi unless you are tactically perfect in everything you do. His penalty to seal the semifinal victory over Spain was a thing of beauty as well.
Blues fans must be loving the prospect of another season of Jorginho and N'Golo Kante in midfield under Thomas Tuchel as they look to defend their Champions League title.
Honorable Mention: Granit Xhaka, Switzerland
The rumors about him leaving Arsenal surely come as a disappointment to many Gunners fans following the tournament he had. Influential doesn't really do him justice, as he was the engine that drove the Swiss to the quarterfinals.
Right Midfielder: Paul Pogba, France
It was a disappointing Euro 2020 for the heavily favored French, but Mr. Pogba was on another level throughout as his play across the middle of the park was at times breathtaking. Fluid movement, silky smooth passing and a little bit (OK, maybe a lot) of style, the Manchester United midfielder certainly upped his transfer value over the course of Les Bleus' participation.
United fans dream of the Pogba that plays for France to show up at Old Trafford, given the slight differences in production, but he is still a world-class player with unbelievable skills and showed them off at this tournament.
He also scored one of the goals of the tournament against Switzerland. Just making the difficult look extremely easy and cool.
Honorable Mention: Emil Forsberg, Sweden
Sweden didn't really get enough credit for its run to the knockout round, but it should have and Forsberg was central to everything it did. The RB Leipzig man tied for third in scoring at the tournament with four goals and will head into the new Bundesliga season full of confidence.
Left Attacker: Raheem Sterling, England
If Kyle Walker was England's best player, Sterling was its top attacker. Everything seemed to move through Sterling, who looked revitalized after a difficult season with champions Man City.
Growing up just minutes from Wembley Stadium, Sterling was at his best with the ball at his feet marauding forward toward defenses on its famous pitch. There were times he'd take on two, three, even four defenders to create opportunities for England, which seemed starved for chances at times. There's simply no way that the Three Lions make the final without his contributions, and that should give club manager Pep Guardiola plenty to think about going into the 2021-22 EPL season.
The running never stopped. The mentality was always aggressive and forward-thinking. An all-around massive performance by Sterling, and he should be proud of what he did for England, despite coming up short in the final.
Honorable Mention: Patrik Schick, Czech Republic
Five goals, including the goal of the tournament from just past midfield against Scotland, Schick was a massive force for the Czech Republic as it advanced to the quarterfinals. Cool and composed, he made waves on the biggest stage.
Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
Funny that the tournament's leading goalscorer (five goals) was even a question to make the first XI, but the Euro 2016 Silver Boot winner in France wasn't able to lift Portugal to victory in a difficult knockout-round match with Belgium.
As a winner in 2016, he almost single-handedly pulled Portugal to the final but then missed the majority of the match because of injury. This time around he didn't have the same impact despite the five goals and couldn't help his team past Belgium in the 1-0 defeat.
If this tournament was the last Euros that we see Ronaldo, he had quite an amazing run, playing in an amazing five of them, ending as its all-time leading scorer with 14 goals in 25 matches.
Truly a special player on the biggest stage, no matter his age.
Honorable Mention: Harry Kane, England
England's captain and focal point in attack was coming off of arguably his best EPL season but didn't provide quite enough, particularly in the pivotal moments of the final, to be part of the team of the tournament. Still scoring four goals en route to England's first major final appearance in over 50 years is worth something, and Kane should take that momentum to whatever team he plays for next season, whether it's back at Spurs or somewhere north of London.
Right Attacker: Federico Chiesa, Italy
Another Italian makes the team and rightly so. Chiesa was one of the best players—if not the best—for the Azzurri throughout the tournament and if he leaves Juventus this summer, he'll likely command the highest-ever fee for an Italian player.
Not a starter early in the tournament, Chiesa's influence was still massive, and he was integral in Italy's run to the title. Just look at these numbers for Chiesa's dribbling, a stat that is not always given the attention it deserves. Ball at feet is massively important to the sport, obviously.
He constantly had an eye for goal and pushed the attacking agenda for Italy, a side that won the tournament without a true attacking threat. Ciro Immobile looked off-color for most of the month and relied on Chiesa and Lorenzo Insigne's influence in the wider areas.
Honorable Mention: Kasper Dolberg, Denmark
One of the hottest young players at the tournament, Dolberg wasn't a consistent presence early in the competition but won his place in the side with determination, an eye for goal and his great finishing ability. Currently at Ligue 1 side Nice, a bigger club will likely come calling this summer.