Manic Monday, Chiellini and more: Euro 2020's best

Saturday 10 July 2021 07:00

After a domestic season that took place in front of rows and rows of empty seats, what a joy the last month has been for football lovers.

Euro 2020 has really captured the mood of the nation, and not just because of England’s success. Sun-drenched stadiums across Europe have welcomed back supporters once again and what an atmosphere they’ve created, while the players on the pitch have rewarded us with slick attacking football and some of the finest international matches in recent years.

Of course, as with any tournament, we’ve had ups and downs and it would be remiss not to mention Christian Eriksen. The scenes at Parken Stadium in Copenhagen on the first Saturday of the Euros were truly shocking and the world hoped and prayed for good news – thankfully, it came later that night as we discovered the Inter Milan midfielder’s life had been saved.

The Denmark team’s actions – and particularly those of captain Simon Kjaer, who rushed to his team-mate’s aid – in shielding Eriksen will live on in our collective memories, but what else will we look back on from Euro 2020?

Here are our writers' standout moments so far…

Yann Sommer celebrates as Switzerland shock favourites France.


Sam Carney: I’ll be honest, I put my name down to cover Spain v Croatia and France v Switzerland for our live blog as I thought they’d be fairly straightforward affairs. How wrong I was! It was gone 11pm when I clocked off after an extraordinary day of tournament football – perhaps the most exciting of modern times. The four sides involved had traded 14 goals between them, across 240 minutes of football, with a penalty shootout thrown in to bring it all to a crescendo. There was an incredible Spain own goal, Paul Pogba’s worldie, a missed spot-kick and unlikely Croatia and Switzerland comebacks as the competition truly came alive – not that the group stage hadn’t been entertaining in itself. But I think it’s this day and these matches people will look back at in years to come when assessing this Euros’ place alongside the classic tournaments.


Adam Marshall: Germany were always going to be formidable foes for England, as always, despite being written off in some quarters before the tournament. Their demolition of Portugal served notice of their durability and, while a lot of people forget England beat them in Euro 2000, there is the sense that they have the upper hand in the rivalry. The round-of-16 encounter was typically tense, cagey and, to be frank, a bit of a hard watch. That was until Jack Grealish's introduction as he and our very own Luke Shaw started to wreak havoc down the left flank. Seeing the players and fans celebrate wildly, while knowing what a big step this was for the Three Lions, on a psychological level too was hugely enjoyable. England wins over so-called leading nations in major tournament knock-outs have been incredibly rare so, when they come around, they need to be savoured throughout the country. 

Harry Maguire celebrates England's win over Germany.


Mark Froggatt: Let me start by saying I am not a big England fan and have not been for a long time, which I appreciate is not a popular thing to say right now. But it is the truth. I have always cared so much more about United and have struggled to replicate those feelings towards the national team, probably because they have let me down so many times. And yet, despite my indifference, even I have been moved by Gareth Southgate’s infectious side this summer and seduced by Three Lions fever. It is impossible not to like this team, right? Admittedly, my renewed passion has been triggered by two of our own doing the club (and country) proud in Harry Maguire and Luke Shaw, whose link-up for the second goal against Ukraine had me smiling from ear to ear. That was partly from a content point of view - I reported on the game and that genuine moment of quality was solid gold for us - but also because it finally made me believe that football might be coming home again. And if it doesn’t happen now after 55 years of hurt, our boys can return to United knowing they’ve done us so, so proud. 


Joe Ganley: There have been plenty of outstanding performers at Euro 2020 – many of United's lads among them. Pogba, Shaw and Maguire have been sublime, while I thought James and Lindelof also had solid tournaments. But the player I've most enjoyed watching this summer has to be Giorgio Chiellini. (It's best I get this in early – before he breaks a load of English hearts!) We all know what Chiellini does: no-nonsense defending, bravery, leadership, grizzled resolve. But even if that's not your thing, the Juventus centre-back's appearances have been great for a different reason: the sheer pleasure he seems to have been taking from each game. He suffered an ACL injury in 2019 and would have missed the tournament had it actually taken place in 2020. But the delay granted him time to recover and, at 36, he looks like a man determined to squeeze every last drop out of his career. He's clearly been given a glimpse of the empty horizon that lies in wait for all professionals, and isn't about to let these last big games pass him by. So you see him laughing and smiling before penalty shootouts. Embracing chaos as Italy clung on against Spain. Celebrating clearances like he's just van Basten'd the tournament’s decisive goal. He's revealing the true joy of football, of competing, in everything that he does. And there's an inspiring lesson there for anyone willing to listen: make the most of every moment you spend doing what you enjoy. And take pleasure in trying to do it well. Even if it's blocking a ball with your nether regions!

The verdict on England from four United greats


Don't miss how Wayne Rooney, David Beckham, Gary Neville and Roy Keane have reacted to England's success.


Jordan Brown: A united nation, that, at times, shook the ‘Group of Death’ – most notably holding both Germany and France to draws. Off the pitch, their passionate support ahead of their opener with Portugal caught the eyes of many on-lookers from Europe and beyond. A near-capacity crowd descended the Puskas Arena, and despite the 3-0 defeat, the scenes before the game and in the terraces captured the imagination of many who hadn’t witnessed live football in what has felt like an eternity. Those emotions continued into their next game, and after taking the lead against France, the goalscorer, Atilla Fiola, celebrated wildly by flipping a reporter’s pitchside desk, before joining the vociferous Hungarian crowd. A draw against Germany in the final game - they were just six minutes away from progressing - wasn’t enough in the end, but they held their own after being written off entirely before a ball was kicked. These moments emphasise what football is all about – and we certainly have missed them!