I thought I round up my coverage of the Euros by offering my team of the Tournament. by Dan Smith
I may pick another one later with the criteria of only one player from each nation because as you can imagine this is Italian heavy.
Gk – Donnarumma
Pickford conceded two less goals, but the Italian gets the nod for his presence in two penalty shootout wins.
He’s so tall that if he guesses the correct way, he’s got a great chance of saving the ball. That possibly got into Olmo’s and Rashford’s head which is why they tried to place the ball too precisely, missing the target in the process.
Saved Morata, Sancho and Saka pens.
He is the first keeper to win Euro Player of the Tournament since its inception in 1996.
When we talk about Arsenal being more creative in the market, here is a goalie who is about to join PSG for free!
A free agent, a lot of clubs will rue not asking the question.
At 22, he will only get better.
Chiellini – CB
At 36 he deserves this honour at last.
Perhaps the message to come to out of Sunday’s Final was; while it’s great to have youngsters progressing, experience can get you over the line.
We waited all tournament for the defender to run out of legs …. we are still waiting.
After 120 mins, the reason his younger peers seemed out on their feet and not him was his know how.
Having missed the World Cup it was fascinating to see the Italian DNA back in a major tournament.
This squad grew up being taught that defending is an art. There was something beautiful about how they saw out wins against Austria and Belgium.
Their game management will be one of the memories of the last month. Some call it is cheating, others call it dark arts.
That culture was summed up by the foul on Saka when Chiellini pulled back the winger by the collar.
It’s not in the spirit of sport, yet it’s a mentality that a defender will do anything to stop a goal.
It’s an art form.
CB – Bonucci
You can’t have one without the other.
The Italian centrebacks have played together over 300 times for club and country.
They are the one constant, while Mancini tried new things, he stuck to the Azzuri ethos that you build from a strong defence.
Considered past their best due to their age, both were considered players you could target with pace.
Experience meant they rarely allowed themselves to be vulnerable.
They are Old school, in that they love defending and there is a generation of fans who need reminding that it’s an art.
Became pantomime villain by mocking the ‘It’s Coming Home” Chant, but that’s Italy in a nutshell. The more their backs are to the wall, the more of them against the world, it inspires them.
Maguire – CB
So many English players reputations will be bigger than it was pre-Euros.
The perception of Maguire has always been that he’s overpriced and overrated.
‘Slab head’ and ‘fridge freezer’ are not affectionate terms, are they?
Southgate was questioned for allowing the defender to build up his fitness during the group stages, contradicting earlier comments from the manager.
Yet, as Man United learnt at the end of the season, you notice a difference when Maguire was not there.
Defence was meant to be England’s weak area, but he was a colossus in the knockout stages and easily his countrie’s best player in the Final.
His leadership skills were evident as he tried to carry the ball up the pitch and you could see his frustration with his teammates.
Stones needs a commanding partner to allow him the license to do what he does with the ball.
So close to immortality….
Walker – RB
Remember the debate a month ago about who should be our first choice right back?
Remember the mockery Southgate got for taking 6 full backs and insisting they could be versatile.
I’ll admit to (before injury) wanting Arnold to start but Walker really couldn’t have done more to cement himself as first choice.
Pundits have done a great job of showcasing his recovery speed in one-on-one situations.
He’s one of the few players who will happily let a player be ahead of him because he’s confident he will catch them.
LB – Spinazzola
Up to his injury (5 games in) you could have made an argument the Italian was player of the tournament.
Attacking full backs have been crucial to Mancini’s tactics.
Essentially the game plan is to have the possession, wait for opposition to tire, before finding time and space in the wide areas.
By the time he was stretchered off against Belgium he had recorded two assists and been part of a defence which had conceded just two goals.
CM – Jorginho
Often called Chelsea ‘s version of Xhaka, in that managers trust the midfielder, but some fans won’t tactically notice what he offers.
Often, it’s when he’s not there, you notice what he brings to the team.
No player covered more distance in the tournament than the midfielder who was also one of the most fouled players, crucial in getting Italy out of tight possessions.
Mancini’s constant first choice, playing more mins than any other outfield player in the tournament.
Given he also won the Champions League, it’s been an incredible summer for the player.
This time last year was linked with a move to the Emirates.
Some gooners arrogantly hoped it wouldn’t happen.
Pedri – CM
The young player of the tournament.
Barcelona have warned us about their latest graduate from their famed academy for some time, but this will have been the moment the world took notice of the teenager.
Gave perhaps the greatest individual display of the whole tournament in the semi-Final, the most vulnerable Italy would look.
In what’s seen as a Spanish team in transition, Pedri’s progress will be a positive.
They just need to find a striker to finish the chances he creates.
RM – Sterling
Just a great story as a month ago some felt he shouldn’t be in the squad, yet alone the starting lineup.
Sterling was even subjected to racial abuse after a draw with Scotland.
His manager deserved credit for keeping faith in the talent and not bowing to peer pressure from media and fans.
With options including Rashford, Saka, Sancho, Foden and Grealish, previous Three Lions coaches would have caved.
Like Pep Guardiola has always insisted that Sterling is tactically a clever player, understanding when to run beyond Kane.
Scored his nations first three goals, showing a clinical nature as England didn’t make many chances per game
LM – Damsgaard
The youngster was brought in for Eriksen to provide some creativity.
It was more than being united by their captain’s ordeal that took Denmark to a semi-Final.
Their manager had ordered a shoot on sight policy, wanting a style of play that went against the traditional conservative Danish approach.
Step forward Damsgaard who at the age of 20 (turned 21 during the Finals) became his nation’s youngest scorer at a major tournament.
1 assist and 2 contenders for goal of the tournament, he could be the face of Denmark for the next decade
Schick – Striker
So I had to pick a striker so logically picked the joint top goal scorer.
No player scored more goals at Euro 2020 than Schick or Ronaldo, but 3 of Ronaldo’s 5 strikes were penalties.
While the Portugal star gets the Golden Boot based on an extra assist, it’s worth considering that Schick plays for a team who make a lot less chances than most.
His 5 goals had variety as well. A header, a cracker from the halfway line, a goal in Holland when the ball was behind him.
At 25, he could still yet meet the potential predicted for him when he was a teenager.
His conversion rate was superb.
Who would you pick in your team of the Euros?
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