Friday, July 16, 2021

European Championship: Team of the Tournament

The UEFA Euro 2020 Team of the Tournament includes five representatives from Premier League teams. Manchester City’s Raheem Sterling, a question mark as to whether he would have a starting role for manager Gareth Southgate entering the tournament, scored both goals by England during their undefeated group stage and delivered the opening goal in England’s defeat of Germany in the round of sixteen. Chelsea’s Jorginho, a winner of both this year’s Champions League and the European Championship, marshalled the midfield for champion Italy and had the winning penalty kick against Spain in the semi-final match which propelled the Italians to the final. Joining Jorginho in the midfield is Tottenham Hotspur’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg who played every minute for an inspirational Denmark team which made it to the semi-finals.

The Premier League placed two defenders on the Team of the Tournament. Manchester United center back  Harry Maguire’s commanding presence in the heart of England’s defense earned him a place despite his not playing in England’s opening two matches due to an ankle injury. Kyle Walker justified his starting selection at the crowded right fullback position for England as the Manchester City man continued to exhibit his trademark recovery speed at the age of 31.

In addition to Jorginho, Euro champion Italy placed forward Federico Chiesa, defenders Leonardo Spinazzola and Leonardo Bonucci, and goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma on the Team of the Tournament. Chiesa’s tournament performance has made the Juventus player, on loan from Fiorentina, a rumored transfer target for clubs such as Chelsea in the Premier League and Bayern Munich in the Bundesliga. Spinazzola, like Kyle Walker, displayed exceptional pace before the Italian suffered an Achilles injury versus Belgium. Bonucci anchored Italy’s defense along with long time center back partner Georgio Chiellini. Bonucci’s scrappy goal in regulation and successful penalty kick were critical to Italy’s final win. Italian goalkeeper Donnarumma was honored as Player of the Tournament after excelling in penalty shootouts versus both England in the final and Spain in the semi-final. Donnarumma becomes only the second goalkeeper to win the award, former Denmark and Manchester United keeper Peter Schmeichel having won in 1992. Donnarumma was named the top goalkeeper over England and Everton keeper Jordan Pickford who led the competition with his five clean sheets.

Rounding out this year’s Team of the Tournament was Spain midfielder Pedri, a young Barcelona player who had a breakout tournament, and Belgian striker Romelu Lukaku, the former Everton and Manchester United star now playing for Inter Milan. Controversial omissions from the squad were Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo and Patrik Schick of Czech Republic who tied for most goals in the tournament but failed to crack the Team of the Tournament line-up.

Manchester United’s Luke Shaw would have been another understandable selection after his three tournament assists and opening goal for England in the final. The Red Devil fullback often played a more attacking tournament role in England Manager Gareth Southgate’s scheme.

The Team of the Tournament was selected by 16 UEFA technical advisors from across the continent, including West Ham manager David Moyes. 

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