The Best Players at the Euros

With Italy beating England in the Euro finals on 12th July 2021, they officially claimed their second Euro title and it was very well deserved. Italy have had an amazing comeback from not qualifying for the 2018 World Cup to winning the Euro 2020. From incredible comebacks to nerve wracking penalties, these Euros were very entertaining. Today, I will be sharing with you all who I felt were the best players at the tournament at each position – goalkeeper, defense, midfielder and attack.

Goalkeeper – Jordan Pickford (ENG)

Jordan Pickford had an incredible tournament with England, coming second and at the same time silencing all the critics who were unsure of his place in the tournament. Southgate did play a naturally defensive lineup with the English squad, normally playing a 4-2-3-1 formation with Rice and Phillips as defensive midfielders and this showed with England not conceding a single goal until the quarter finals. Many people would say because of the formation and mindset of the team goals were not scored, but the fact is that Pickford also had the most saves in the tournament (16) followed by Thibaut Courtois and Gianluigi Donnarumma. At the same time, Pickford had the most clean sheets (5) and the least goals conceded (2). Pickford has proved himself to be a top-notch goalkeeper and has rightfully won the Euro 2020 Golden Glove by topping every defensive chart.

Honorable Mentions

  1. Thibaut Courtois (BEL)
  2. Gianluigi Donnarumma (ITA)
  3. Yann Sommer (SWI)

Defender – Luke Shaw (ENG)

Luke Shaw was an impeccable player on the attack as well as defense this year for England. Southgate played Shaw as a wingback/LM and he fitted the position so very well. With the most assists in the tournament as well as scoring a goal, Shaw was one of the most successful defenders on the attack side with great decision making and I felt he utilized his speed very well to get past players. On the defensive side as well, Shaw was like a brick wall and he made 9 tackles and 8 clearances. This showed in England’s defense where they only conceded 2 goals throughout the whole tournament. All in all, Shaw was a great player and has proved himself to be a key player to the English side for the next few years. If England had won the Euros, I might have even gone far enough to call him the best player of the tournament.

Honorable Mentions

  1. Harry Maguire (ENG)
  2. Joakim Maehle (DEN)
  3. Leonardo Bonucci (ITA)

Midfielder – Marco Verratti (ITA)

Marco Verratti is the definition of a midfielder. He was an integral part of the Azzurri and even after missing out on the first 2 games of the tournament, he made his presence felt immediately by becoming one of the most creative playmakers on the field. A midfielder helps the team retain possession and set up wingers with great passes. This is exactly what Verratti did. With an incredible 93% passing accuracy (401/425 passes), Verratti gave way for wingers like Insigne and Chiesa to go up the wing and attack effectively. At the same time, he assisted thrice for Italy showing great vision and maturity on the field by finding space for good plays. Defensively as well Verratti was of great help by making 30 tackles and recovering 32 balls. Tackling is so important for a midfielder because it can change the pace of the game immediately and give great chances for counter attacks. Overall, I felt that Verratti played an extremely composed game and, in my opinion, be the best player at the tournament for the sheer effort he put in the attack as well as defense.

Honorable Mentions

  1. Jorginho (ITA)
  2. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg (DEN)
  3. Steven Zuber (SWI)

Forward – Patrik Schick (CZE)

For me, Patrik Schick was by far the most underrated player in the tournament. From scoring arguably the greatest goal in Euro history to beating the Netherlands in the round of 16, Czech Republic and Patrik Schick have had a historic tournament. The 25-year-old striker from Bayer Leverkusen was the joint top scorer of the tournament along with Cristiano Ronaldo. Unfortunately, Ronaldo has been given the Golden Boot of the tournament which I feel Schick should have been given since 3 of Ronaldo’s 5 goals were penalties *sad Bruno Fernandes noises*. Nevertheless, Schick was an integral part of Czech Republic’s success having some role in 83% of all of the country’s goals which is really impressive. He also had the most shots on target in the tournament. I felt he was very effective in aerial duels and his natural style of play leaned toward quick, short passes. Seeing him in the games I saw that he was very productive in doing layoffs, flick ons and short passes. This style really increased the pace of the game and also confused the defense a lot. Schick has a very bright future ahead of him and maybe should lean towards going to a team which plays more tiki taka since it suits his style.

Honorable Mentions

  1. Cristiano Ronaldo (POR)
  2. Harry Kane (ENG)
  3. Raheem Sterling (ENG)

Thank you for reading! Please let me know down in the comments who your best player was.

Euro Predictions: Group A

As you all know, the UEFA Euros are set to start soon from 11th June and this tournament is arguably the most prestigious international tournament after the FIFA World Cup for European countries. It provides an opportunity for nations to show their worth against opposing teams and also experiment with younger players and tactics in order to prepare for future games. Group A consists of Italy, Switzerland, Turkey, and Wales. I have also decided to add playing 11s for each country that I think will be their best squad in my opinion

4. Wales

It may be a surprise putting such a promising team dead last but I honestly feel the lack of experience in the squad may be their bane. The squad is quite young with most players playing around 10-15 games. Experienced players in the squad such as Chris Gunter’s performance have relatively declined and players in good form are too inexperienced. This sort of imbalance would not be very fruitful for them. Furthermore, key players of the team such as Ben Davies and Joe Allen are injured with a shinbone injury and hamstring injury respectively. The return of these players is uncertain and is a big blow to the team.

At the same time, few players are in very good form and I am quite interested in seeing how this young and old mixed attacking squad will play together. I really want to see how Tyler Roberts, the young Leeds striker plays with Bale on the right and Daniel James on the left. Harry Wilson is also in great form and I would love to see Giggs play him. The pace on the wing is incredible and the team is indeed very exciting but compared to other experienced teams such as Italy and Switzerland I think they won’t be able to succeed.

A Welsh squad which I want to see being played

3. Turkey

So I have been reading in a lot of places and Turkey seem to be the dark horse of the tournament with many gems in the squad and I completely agree. Soyuncu has been in incredible form, winning the FA Cup recently with Leicester and in my opinion the best player on the squad right now. The midfield trio of Calhanoglu, Kokcu and Tufan also look very dangerous and they have all been playing consistently well.

I think their weakness lies in the attack. With the likes of Akturkoglu, Under, Akbunar, Yazici, Unal, Dervisoglu, Yilmaz and Karaman I feel they have too many strikers playing really well and as the saying goes ‘Too many cooks spoil the broth’ I have a feeling that Turkey will play too much of an attacking team and that will backfire against them. I may be completely wrong but I have a gut feeling. Furthermore, I am certain that Turkey will play Under because of all the hype around him right now and Leicester’s success but he has been having a really poor season with 19 appearances for the club in all competitions and only 2 goals and 3 assists. I would really want to see Halil Akbunar, the winger from Goztepe, play instead of Under since he has been having a great season with 10 goals and 14 assists in his 42 appearances for the club. Unfortunately I do not think he will be getting the minutes he deserves. This placing has completely been done over gut feeling and I really want to see Turkey prove me wrong.

A Turkish squad which I think will play the best

2. Switzerland

I believe Switzerland will have a fruitful result out of this group mainly due to the experience on the side. Switzerland has much more chemistry than most of the teams on the group with the likes of Shaqiri, Sommer, Schar, Ricardo Rodriguez, Xhaka, Mehmedi, and Seferovic playing over 50 games representing the country. The chemistry between the players is, in my opinion, the best by far in Group A. Furthemore, the likes of Kevin Mbabu, Remo Freuler, Manuel Akanji and Seferovic have been having great seasons at VfL Wolfsburg, Atalanta BC, Borrusia Dortmund and SL Benfica respectively. This team is not to be messed with.

However, most players have been having really poor seasons and in fact, while making the team it was really tough since I could find very less players who were playing comparatively well. The experienced players as I mentioned like Yann Sommer, Fabian Schar, and Xherdan Shaqiri did not play well this past season yet due to their importance on the team, they will have to be played. Take Shaqiri for example; Liverpool have not had the greatest season and even worse, Shaqiri has only scored 1 goal and given 4 assists in his 22 appearances for the team. Players like this really need to roll up their socks due to their importance in the squad

My Swiss 11

1. Italy

Surprise, Surprise who would have thought 🙂 Italy are the favourites to top the group and I completely agree. The quality of players in the squad are just insane and the range of options they have for each position is top notch. Bastoni, Di Lorenzo, Barella and Pellegrini are just some of the players who have been in great form through the season. The team has a great mix of experienced players as well as new comers which provides a range of tactics for Mancini to deploy. You have players like Chiellini and Bonucci who have more than 100 caps each for Italy, you have Immobile, Insigne, Verratti and Florenzi who have around 40 appearances for the country, and then you have young talents like Chiesa, Bastoni and Locatelli who are new to the squad. This combination is a dream. The range of players for each position is absolutely amazing. Take right wing position for example. You have Chiesa, Berardi, Politano, and Bernadeschi all available to play. 4 quality players in one position is incredible and I am really interested to see how Mancini is going to make use of all these players and who is going to shine

I do feel Italy are lacking a bit on the attack side. Striker-wise Italy only have Immobile and Belotti who have not been having the greatest season so far. Belotti has only scored 13 goals and given 7 assists in his 36 appearances for Torino FC. Immobile has played decent but we all know he can play so much better. A big blow to the squad is also Verratti’s knee injury. Sources say he will be able to return by June 21 which basically means he will miss the group stage completely. This is a big blow to the midfield but I think they have enough options to replace him

An Italian squad I would love to see (What no Bonucci or Chiellini!)

So these are my predictions for Group A. Please let me know down in the comments what your predictions are for this group and how they differ. I will try to upload all my group predictions before the Euros start. Thank you for reading!