UEFA’s Euro 2020 – soul food for the people

UEFA, in their technical review of Euro 2020, have claimed the event was “food for the soul of football”, although few would consider the events on the day of the final at Wembley were anything but that. By that time, however, the competition had established itself as a worthy month of good football and a big step towards normality.

UEFA were saying all the right things in their report, insisting it was a “fascinating tournament of great diversity”, a reflection – to some extent – of the concept of multiple locations which may have seemed inappropriate in the current climate. In Scotland, for example, 2,000 cases of covid-19 were linked to one of the Euro 2020 games.

From an entertainment perspective, Euro 2020 was a success. It was the most goal-happy European Championship with a goals-per-game rate of 2.78 – a big jump from 2016’s 2.12 and higher than any competition since the Euros were expanded to 16 teams in 1996.

Ironically, in a year in which so many goals were scored, the player of the tournament was Italy’s goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma. Champions Italy provided five of UEFA’s team of Euro 2020, Leonardo Bonucci, Leonardo Spinazzola, Jorginho and Federico Chiesa joining Donnarumma in the line-up. England, the runners-up, provided three: Raheem Sterling, Harry Maguire and Kyle Walker. 

According to UEFA, Italy were one of the few teams in Euro 2020 to play with a three-man defence. Their use of full backs like the excellent Spinazzola was very notable. The fleet-footed Italian defender recorded a sprint of 33 kilometres per hour in one game. UEFA also highlighted how traditional centre forwards found the going tough thanks to very congested penalty areas. Patrik Schick of the Czech Republic not only scored the best goal of the tournament, but impressed throughout and ended joint top scorer in terms of goals scored. Cristiano Ronaldo won the award for leading marksman, though, on account that he played fewer games than Schick.

The Czechs covered more ground than any other team, an average of 113.97 kilometres per game. Russia (112.48) and Italy (111.28) were not far behind. Pedri of Spain, one of the outstanding players of Euro 2020, covered an average of 12.69 kilometres per game, slightly more than Italy’s Jorginho (12.35) and Austrian midfielder Marcel Sabitzer (12.19). 

By possession, Spain enjoyed the highest game average, a remarkable 71.9%. The finalists, Italy and England, recorded averages of 53.7% and 50.5% respectively. 

Euro 2020 demonstrated “great tactical flexibility and high level of competiveness” which could have produced a number of different winners. From UEFA’s point of view, they must have been pleased to get the tournaments out of the way after the trials and tribulations of the pandemic. It may also have been further evidence of a resurgence in national team football. With Moscow 2018 still fresh in the memory, a World Cup that restored faith in FIFA’s flagship bun-fight, Euro 2020 was an enjoyable month of football. In an age where elite clubs are desperately trying to mould the structure of the game to their advantage, we may eventually look back on Euro 2020 as a benchmark for future major summer competitions. We wondered if spreading the love across the continent was a good idea, but it seemed to work, didn’t it?

@GameofthePeople

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