Forza Azzurri. He arrives in Rome.
A tournament that started with legendary tenor Andrea Bocelli at the Stadio Olimpico in Rome, ended with Italian captain Giorgio Chiellini who won the European Championship trophy in London after a striking victory on penalties against Italy. England.
Italy, now unbeaten in 34 matches, was the worthy winner of Euro 2020.
The other tournament winners were European football fans, who briefly glimpsed normalcy after more than a year of strict coronavirus restrictions in stadiums.
Here’s a full review of the good, bad and weird of Euro 2020.
A is for acting. The Oscar for best diving went to Italian striker Ciro Immobile, who rolled to the ground in apparent agony, before being miraculously resurrected as teammate Nicolò Barella scored Italy’s first goal against the Belgium. While Italians have won hearts with a modern and appealing style of play, the moment has reminded them that they will never lose their taste for the dark arts.
B is for Baku. The Azeri capital – which hosted four unforgettable matches – has been one of Euro 2020’s most controversial venues, along with UEFA accused in some circles ignore the security situation in the country and turn a blind eye to the crackdown on the LGBTQ + community in Azerbaijan.
VS is for Crimea. Ukraine sparked controversy ahead of the tournament with a uniform that included the outline of a map of the country – including the Crimean Peninsula annexed by Russia. The kit, which also included the phrases “Glory to Ukraine” and “Glory to our heroes,” sparked a war of words between Kiev and Moscow, and UEFA eventually intervened and demanded that one of the slogans be deleted.
re is for Devils. Belgium Red Devils made it through the group stage and beat Portugal in the round of 16… but, with an aging and injured team, fell flat against Italy in the quarter-finals. Although Kevin De Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku remain dangerous, all the evidence suggests that the best days of the Belgian golden generation are behind them.
E is for christian Eriksen. The world watched in horror on the first weekend of the competition as Danish midfielder Christian Eriksen suffered cardiac arrest while facing Finland. Eriksen’s life was saved thanks to the immediate attention of his teammates and medical staff. In England, lawmakers and the Football Association working make fully funded defibrillators available to grassroots football clubs.
F is for farewell. Longtime German midfielder maestro Toni Kroos has retired from international football after England knocked out Germany from the tournament. Joachim Löw also bowed out as Germany’s national coach following the loss at Wembley, ending a 15-year reign that included a World Cup triumph in 2014.
g is for Gareth south door. So close, but so far, for the composed and well expressed English manager. His decision to let two of England’s youngest players take the last two penalties in the final shootout will be called into question, probably forever. But Southgate took his country to the World Cup semi-finals in 2018 and now to the European Championship final. The next step, English fans hope, will be to lift the World Cup in Qatar in 2022.
H is for pride. French midfielder Paul Pogba may regret his awe-inspiring celebration after putting Blues 3-1 ahead of Switzerland in the round of 16. The tournament’s big favorites were heading for victory with 10 minutes remaining, but France were held back by two late Swiss goals before losing on penalties. Analyzing the tournament on British radio, Roma manager José Mourinho mentionned: “When I saw the way they celebrated the third goal, I didn’t like it. I felt like these guys are already partying on the Eiffel Tower, dancing here, dancing there.
I is for Italy. Italy opened the tournament, sweeping Turkey to Rome. Italy also closed the tournament, edging England in London. His journey to Euro 2020 glory has seen some tense moments – a narrow loss to Austria in the round of 16; the nerve-wracking penalties against Spain in the semi-finals and England in the final – but, in the end, there was no doubt that Italy was the team of the tournament. And in giant goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma a new superstar and penalty hero was born.
J is for jackets. As well as being one of the teams in the tournament, Italy topped the Euro 2020 dress competition. No one looked better on the sidelines than Italian legends Roberto Mancini, Alberico Evani and Gianluca Vialli , dressed in their suave gray Armani suits. Stylish fashion has inspired some of the best tournaments memes, too much.
K is for kneeling. Ahead of the tournament, England players were booed by some of their own supporters for ‘taking the knee’ in favor of racial justice. Brexiteer leader Nigel Farage has pledged “a few horrible and confrontational weeks” if kneeling continues. But manager Gareth Southgate and the players did not back down, the pre-match kneel continued and football united England in a rare way. Southgate 1, Farage 0.
L is for Robert Lewandowski. The top Polish striker did his best to lead a disappointing Polish side through the group stage but, despite three goals in three games, including an imposing header against Spain, the Poles collapsed at the first hurdle.
M is for Magic monday. June 28 was one of the biggest tournament days in football… ever. Spain edged Croatia 5-3 in a messy match in Copenhagen, before Switzerland stunned France on penalties in one of the international games of the century.
NOT is for North Fruit salad. The lowest-ranked team in the tournament was embroiled in two controversies. First of all, the Austrian Marko Arnautovic, of Serbian origin, shouted “nationalist” abuses against an Albanian player from North Macedonia in the teams’ opening game. Arnautovic has been suspended for the next game. Then Greece took up another issue, demanding that North Macedonia abide by an agreement between Athens and Skopje and stop using the acronym MKD on its kit – requiring an acronym with the word “north”.
O is for oranje. The Netherlands, one of the historic powers of European football, have languished in the international wilderness for years – and the rough times continued with a lukewarm 2-0 loss to the Czech Republic in the round of 16. Dutch manager Frank de Boer headed straight for the exit, saying the pressure was “not a healthy situation for me or for the team”.
P is for Michel Platini. The pan-continental euro is the result of the idea of disgraced former UEFA president. Having multiple host cities across Europe seemed like a bad idea to design in 2012, and much worse in a 2021 pandemic.
Q is for the League of Nations qualifiers. North Macedonia, Slovakia, Scotland and Hungary have all qualified for Euro 2020 via a new route: the Nations League qualifiers. None reached the round of 16. And, with the exception of Hungary, none have performed particularly well. The disparity in quality does not bode well in the event of an extension of the European Championships.
R is for Rainbow. A row between Munich city council and UEFA over the highlighting of LGBTQ + rights dominated the second week of the tournament. Munich wanted to light up their stadium’s exterior in rainbow pride colors for the group stage match between Germany and Hungary after Budapest passed an anti-LGBTQ + law. UEFA rejected the request and was overwhelmed by a wave of criticism that eclipsed the last round of group matches.
S is for Patrik Schick. The Czech striker was one of the surprise stars of the tournament, sharing the Golden Boot with Cristiano Ronaldo. He left Scotland fans sick after scoring a goal from the halfway line in the teams’ first game of the tournament.
T is for Tartan Army. Speaking of Scottish supporters, tens of thousands of kilted infantrymen swarmed London for the group stage game against England. They saw Scotland’s best performance in the tournament – fighting the eventual tied finalists. But the trip to the match was later blame for a peak in coronavirus cases.
U is for underperforming. France and Germany were knocked out early, but perhaps no team has disappointed more than Portugal. Despite a dazzling array of world-class attacking talent and solid defense, the Portuguese peaked in their opener against Hungary and came down from there. They quickly left the tournament, with a disappointing 1-0 loss to Belgium in stifling Sevilla.
V is for variant. As Scotland discovered, the Delta coronavirus strain surged in Britain during the tournament, leading some EU lawmakers to call for the final matches to be removed from London. UEFA and the UK government have resisted the demands – but, as usual with COVID-19, the full effect of the move won’t be known for a few weeks.
W is for the water. H2O received a bizarre boost from Cristiano Ronaldo at the start of the tournament. In a viral moment, the Portuguese superstar deleted two bottles of Coca-Cola from his table at a press conference and told the assembled press to “drink water”. The move sparked a craze for liquids, with Frenchman Paul Pogba getting rid of Heineken bottles at his press conference; Russian coach Stanislav Cherchesov swallowing a bottle of Coke for the media; and Scottish midfielder John McGinn asked reporters why he didn’t have Coke bottles on his desk.
X is for granite Xhaka and Xherdan Shaqiri. The Premier League players in part helped inspire Switzerland to their spectacular victory over France – then came close to toppling Spain in the quarter-finals in St. Petersburg, before their teammates lost their temper in the a penalty shootout.
Yes is for youth. A handful of young players lit up the tournament. Under-21s Bukayo Saka of England, Jérémy Doku of Belgium and Mikkel Damsgaard of Denmark have been instrumental in the success of their teams. No star shone brighter than Pedri, however. The 18-year-old Barcelona player has been a pivot for Spain and invited comparisons with legendary Andrés Iniesta.
Z is for zero to the hero (and vice versa). Spain dominated Italy in the semifinals at Wembley and recovered from 1-0 thanks to a well-crafted goal that ended by substitute striker Alvaro Morata, who had been criticized for his lavishness at the start of the tournament. But his joy was short-lived. In a dramatic shootout, Morata’s weak strike was easily saved by Donnarumma and Spain made it home.