Euro 2020 - The Verdict: Highs, lows and best goals of the tournament

Gavin Cummiskey canvasses coaches, presenters and journalists for their opinions

The Italian national football team have received a heroes' welcome after they returned to Rome following their victory over England in the final of Euro 2020. Video: Eyepress

 

Brian Kerr – Former Republic of Ireland manager
High point

The re-emergence of Denmark. It came as a surprise to everyone else but not us, having played them six times over the last few years. The pre-tournament commentary was that they were not a great team without Christian Eriksen. How they recovered from his collapse to beat Russia, Wales and the Czech Republic has been the most enjoyable story of the Euros because we cannot really enjoy England celebrating how brilliant they have been.

Spain v Croatia, the 5-3 match, was sensational. Spain took a lot of criticism but I love watching them play. Busquets and Pedri, my Jaysus. Barcelona have been struggling to win big games but looking at Pedri this season and during the Euros, he is the one to inherit the Iniesta role – get the ball, move the ball, take it into feet regardless of how tightly marked you are and still find space in tiny pockets.

Low point

Not being there. I’ve been at every tournament since 1996. Before Covid I was planning on going to Copenhagen and Rome, be it for media work or just to go on my own. Just to be there. The Glasgow to Wembley train adventure would have been special. Or any train station for that matter as supporters invade a city.

I enjoyed wandering around Poland and the Ukraine in 2012 – even with Ireland getting stuffed in all three matches – more than watching Euro 2020 on the couch.

The most disappointing aspect of this tournament was the lack of crowds, the lack of atmosphere. It was desperate watching Spain play in an empty Seville. That big blue cloth blocking off the first 20 rows. Outside of Christian Eriksen, that was my low point.

Also, the Hungarian black shirts behind the goal in a fully packed Puskás Arena in Budapest. Why didn’t anyone say anything about them? They looked sinister to my eyes. There was some very right-wing stuff decided by the Hungarian judges during the tournament as well.

That the four semi-finalists had the least travelling to do shows the madness of the whole Euro 2020 concept. For me, at the time, it was a political move to ensure that Platini retained power, by spreading the games around different countries. Of course every nation picked to host – including us – were going to back the plan but the blatant unfairness of Wales travelling 5,400 miles back and forth to Baku and Rome should be unacceptable. But there you go.

I kept a few newspapers across the tournament and I was clearing them up the other day when I found the English reaction to the draw with Scotland. The doom and gloom was way over the top. Then we saw a change in vibe after they beat the Czech Republic. Then they beat Germany and became world beaters. The extremes of each reaction are so, so obvious, and we know what that really means.

I am happy for England. Well, kind of. My doubts before the tournament centred around how good they could be without Harry Maguire and who they would play midfield without Jordan Henderson. But they came through all that with Maguire making a major difference once he returned.

We should look to England and the emergence of all their brilliant, young, attacking players and say – if enough Irish players can compete in the Premier League then our future is bright.

Denmark’s Kasper Dolberg scores their second goal during the game against the Czech Republic in Baku. Photograph: Valentin Ogirenko/EPA
Denmark’s Kasper Dolberg scores their second goal during the game against the Czech Republic in Baku. Photograph: Valentin Ogirenko/EPA

Favourite goal

RTÉ had a goal of the tournament the other night and I was waiting for my favourite but it never came! Kasper Dolberg’s cushioned finish at the far post against Czech Republic after Joakim Mæhle crossed with the outside of his right boot. Braithwaite dived for it and didn’t get there but Dolberg came in behind him and guided it so precisely to the net.

I love that goal because it encapsulates what Denmark were about, especially the effectiveness of their wing backs.

Malachy Clerkin

High point

Switzerland v France was very possibly the greatest game I have ever seen. Genuinely taut and thrilling, incredible goals, magnificent arrogance at first lifting and then bringing down the French. And then penalties to finish it. Magic.

Italy defender Leonardo Spinazzola gets injured during the game against Belgium in Munich: Photograph: Matthias Hangst/AFP via Getty Images
Italy defender Leonardo Spinazzola gets injured during the game against Belgium in Munich: Photograph: Matthias Hangst/AFP via Getty Images

Low point

The Italian left back Leonardo Spinazzola pulling up against Belgium. I hadn’t come across him before the tournament and he had been deadly. What a cruel ending for him.

Favourite goal

Luka Modric v Scotland. Brilliant two-touch build-up play by the Croats around the Scotland box before a lay-off to Modric and a glorious finish with the outside of his right foot. Football as pure joy.

Alvaro Morata of Spain sees his penalty saved by Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma during the Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/AFP via Getty Images
Alvaro Morata of Spain sees his penalty saved by Italian goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma during the Euro 2020 semi-final at Wembley. Photograph: Facundo Arrizabalaga/AFP via Getty Images

Eoin McDevitt – Second Captains

High point

Absolutely everything Italy brought to the tournament from Andrea Bocelli nailing Nessun Dorma at the opening ceremony to Giorgio Chiellini bear-hugging a reluctant Jordi Alba before the shoot-out against Spain in the semi-final.

The fans in Copenhagen serenading their team with the Danish football anthem Re-Sepp-Ten during their 4-1 win against Russia to qualify for the last 16.

Magic Monday – 14 goals scored in two classic knock-out games, ending with the world champions eliminated and one of the sport’s superstars being made to look like just another chump who misses a decisive penalty. A perfect day of major tournament football.

Low point

Uefa tying themselves in knots trying to explain why they refused to allow the stadium in Munich to be lit up in rainbow colours for Germany’s game against Hungary.

Favourite goal

Karim Benzema’s outrageous touch and dinked finish against Switzerland.

Italy's Giorgio Chiellini celebrates during the penalty shoot-out againbst Spain. Photograph: Carl Recine/Getty Images
Italy's Giorgio Chiellini celebrates during the penalty shoot-out againbst Spain. Photograph: Carl Recine/Getty Images

Mary Hannigan

High point

Apart from Roy Keane revealing that he once had a row with a woman at a Neil Diamond concert because she was loudly singing along, as well as the sheer loveliness of seeing big crowds back at games again, just watching Giorgio Chiellini play football and how much he bloody loves defending was the highest of the highs.

Low point

Probably all those Tory politicians and columnists who had so roundly condemned the English players for taking the knee before games, then hailing the very same players as heroes and exemplary role models once they made it to the final. Home secretary Priti Patel took the biscuit.

Favourite goal

There were more than a few gems, but the move that led up to Kevin de Bruyne’s winner against Denmark, involving Romelu Lukaku, Youri Tielemans and a pair of Hazards, Thorgan and Eden, was sublime, as was De Bruyne’s finish.

Brianna Parkins – Ireland AM journalist

High point

Where I grew up in Australia football (soccer) was the sport of the kids who weren’t allowed to play rugby league (the one true football) because their mums were worried about them getting hurt. But for this Euros I was forced to appreciate the world game by my partner and his stubborn grip on the remote.

Goran Pandev of North Macedonia celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the match against Austria in Bucharest. Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images
Goran Pandev of North Macedonia celebrates after scoring his side’s first goal during the match against Austria in Bucharest. Photograph: Justin Setterfield/Getty Images

Low point

I drew North Macedonia in the office sweep. Some said this was not fortuitous but I screamed ‘??????????’ when Pandev scored the first ever goal like a true adopted daughter of my new country. His advanced age of 37 has given me false reassurance that I’ve loads of time to get my shit together and achieve something in my 30s.

Favourite goal

I think you should scrap the game and just let the whole thing be decided by penalty shoot-outs. Give the people what they want. I’ve learnt one thing though and that’s if Ireland aren’t in something then you have to go for whoever England is against. I asked someone why. They called me ‘a very south Brit’. I deserved that.

Italy head coach Roberto Mancini celebrates with players and staff after the victory over Spain in the semi-final at Wembley. Photograph: Claudio Villa/Getty Images
Italy head coach Roberto Mancini celebrates with players and staff after the victory over Spain in the semi-final at Wembley. Photograph: Claudio Villa/Getty Images

Emmet Malone

High point

The Germany v Portugal game. Joachim Löw's side had started the tournament poorly but came alive in that match, fighting their way back from behind despite the best efforts of Ronaldo and co. They’ve all been a bit too quick to write the Germans off here, I thought to myself. Yeah, 10 days too quick, as it turned out.

England forward Raheem Sterling falls to the ground leading to England's penalty in the semi-final against Denmark at Wembley. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/AFP via Getty Images
England forward Raheem Sterling falls to the ground leading to England's penalty in the semi-final against Denmark at Wembley. Photograph: Laurence Griffiths/AFP via Getty Images

Low point

That England penalty. This could just as easily be my high point of the tournament because the carry on since has been so hilariously predictable with England and the continent going at it over the way Raheem Sterling went down while in the general vicinity of Joakim Maehle. The more ridiculous aspect for me was the suggestion that England somehow deserved the break because they were generally the better team.

Favourite goal

I’ll happily go with Manuel Locatelli’s first against Switzerland which was a bit of a group stage delight.

Lisa Fallon – Galway United head coach

High point

Watching Italy! I love how they play, in possession and out of possession. Creative, dynamic and exciting going forward. Strong, resolute and fierce defensively. I love how high they press, how they celebrate tackles and their winning mindset. The team has the personality of their manager Roberto Mancini stamped all over them. They’ve been brilliant in the tournament. A joy and fun to watch.

Low point

Seeing Christian Eriksen struggle in Denmark’s opening game against Finland. I was on RTÉ commentary duty for that match and it’s something I don’t think we’ll ever forget. The humanity and protection he got from his team-mates and the medics will be an eternal part of Denmark’s identity and story from Euro 2020. Hopefully we’ll never witness something like it again.

Favourite goal

Luka Modric’s goal against Scotland. No matter how many times I watch it back, I still marvel at the technique. Ridiculous goal and love the fact that he practices that exact finish.

Jacqui Hurley – RTÉ presenter

High Point

Listening to Liam Brady off air during the Italy matches. You can hear how much he loves them. That and Duffer’s brutally honest punditry.

Denmark’s players escort Christian Eriksen as he is taken from the pitch on a stretcher after collapsing during the opening game against Finland at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen. Photograph: Friedemann Vogel/AFP via Getty Images
Denmark’s players escort Christian Eriksen as he is taken from the pitch on a stretcher after collapsing during the opening game against Finland at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen. Photograph: Friedemann Vogel/AFP via Getty Images

Low point

I was in the RTÉ studio with Liam and Damien Duff when Christian Eriksen collapsed. Stephen Alkin and Lisa Fallon took commentary for as long as they could before Steve Caffery, the producer, said to me, ‘Look, we are going to have to take this back to the studio and you guys have to talk over it.’ Liam did incredibly well to compose himself. It felt like an eternity before the coverage was replaced by a programme about bears! When we went back on air we decided not to analyse the football as most of our prep had centred around Eriksen, as he was playing so well.

Favourite goal

Ronaldo’s against Germany – 14 seconds after heading a German corner to Bernardo Silva he sprints the length of the pitch to score. Ridiculous.

Gavin Cummiskey – Soccer correspondent

High Point

Watching Jack Grealish come off the England bench to sink the Germans, end Harry Kane’s goal drought and cure Covid with one swing of those extremely marketable hips.

Seriously, every single second of Spain v Italy. An instant classic settled by that poor divil Álvaro Morata’s worst nightmare coming to pass and Jorginho revealing the secret to taking the perfect peno – never take your eyes off the goalkeeper.

Low point

This morning.

Also, Billy Gilmour’s majestic performance at Wembley instantly followed by a Covid positive ending his tournament. Do I not like that.

Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall fails to save Czech Republic’s second goal scored by Patrik Schick during the game at Hampden Park. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/Getty Images
Scotland goalkeeper David Marshall fails to save Czech Republic’s second goal scored by Patrik Schick during the game at Hampden Park. Photograph: Andy Buchanan/Getty Images

Favourite goal

Patrik Schick’s spectacular effort at Hampden Park. Football golf in its purest form. Runners up: Paul Progba’s insane finish against Switzerland and Federico Chiesa’s curler in the semi-final.

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