The group stage of Euro 2020 came to an end on Wednesday in thrilling fashion as France, Germany and Portugal advanced from the Groud of Death after a nail-biting finale. It provided a fitting end to the group stage that had no shortage of entertainment and with the knockout stage to begin on Saturday, the tournament promises more thrills and spills.
Here’s a look back at the group stages of the tournament played across multiple venues in Europe:
Group A: Italy, Wales, Switzerland
Group B: Belgium, Denmark
Group C: Netherlands, Austria, Ukraine
Group D: England, Croatia, Czech Republic
Group E: Sweden, Spain
Group F: France, Germany, Portugal
In recent times, the tournament had developed a reputation of being goal-shy and devoid of end-to-end excitement as the European style of football itself underwent changes. But Euro 2020, delayed by a year and taking place at the end of a long season for players, has been a welcome change.
A total of 94 goals were scored in the group stage, a big increase from the 69 goals scored during the group stage of Euro 2016, the only previous tournament with 24 teams.
The goals-per-game ratio of 2.62 goals was the second-highest in the group stage since the turn of the century. Only Euro 2000 had a higher goals-per-game ratio in the group stage as compared to the ongoing edition.
The Netherlands were the top scorers at the end of the group stage with eight goals followed by Italy, Portugal and Belgium.
Top scoring teams in group stage
Meanwhile, Italy and England did not concede a single goal in the entire group stage and lead the defensive records at Euro 2020 as it stands.
Teams with best defensive record in group stage
As far as the players are concerned, there were many usual suspects among the leading goalscorers in the group stage.
Cristiano Ronaldo once again proved why he is one of the greatest goalscorers the game has seen as he netted five goals in the group stage to lead the goalscoring charts and inch closer to the world record for most international goals. Belgium’s Romelu Lukaku and Poland’s Robert Lewandowski also feature in the top five.
Top goalscorers in Euro 2020 group stage
Cristiano Ronaldo became the first player to appear in five finals tournaments (2004, 2008, 2012, 2016, 2020) and also created the record for most goals in the history of Euros.
Most goals in Euros history (tournament proper):
12: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
9: Michel Platini (France)
7: Antoine Griezmann (France)
7: Alan Shearer (England)
There were however some surprise names among the top assist providers in the Euro group stages. Denmark’s Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg, who is essentially a defensive midfielder, made three goals during the group stage to help his side make a sensational late surge into the knockout rounds.
Top assist providers in Euro 2020 group stage
The record for the youngest player in Euro history was broken twice during the group stages.
Youngest player in Euros history:
17 yrs 246 days: Kacper Kozłowski (Spain 1-1 Poland, 19 June 2021)
17 yrs 349 days: Jude Bellingham (England 1-0 Croata, 13 June 2021)
18 yrs 71 days: Jetro Willems (Netherlands 0-1 Denmark, 09 June 2012)
Goran Pandev, who retired from international football (more on that later), became the second oldest goalscorer in the tournament finals history.
Oldest goalscorer in Euros history:
38 yrs 257 days: Ivica Vastic (Austria 1-1 Poland, 12 June 2008)
37 yrs 321 days: Goran Pandev (North Macedonia 1-3 Austria, 13 June 2021)
37 yrs 62 days: Zoltán Gera (Hungary 3-3 Portugal, 22 June 2016)
Denmark’s Yussuf Poulsen scored the second fastest goal in the tournament history.
Fastest goals in Euros history:
1 min 7 secs: Dmitri Kirichenko (Russia 2-1 Greece, 20 June 2004)
1 mins 39 secs: Yussuf Poulsen (Denmark 1-2 Belgium, 17 June 2021)
1 min 40 secs: Robert Lewandowski (Poland 1-1 Portugal (3-5 pens), 01 July 2016)
The best players
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
The Portuguese captain may have scored three penalties among his five goals, but his hunger in front of goals was unmatched. His presence lifted Portugal on several occasions during the group stage and made opponents wary due to his ever-present threat.
Apart from his goals, Ronaldo’s leadership was also on show during the group stage, motivating his teammates during difficult times.
Georginio Wijnaldum (Netherlands)
The now-former Liverpool midfielder showed his all-round quality during the group stages scoring three times for Netherlands. His energy in the middle of the park was key for the Dutch as they cruised through the group stage.
Another evidence of Wijnaldum’s worth was the off-pitch battle for his signature between Barcelona and PSG which the latter won. His performances at the Euros so far would have provided further assurance for the Parisians and a bit of agony for the Catalans.
Luka Modric (Croatia)
Form is temporary and class is permanent is among the most overused of cliches in sport, but it perfectly applies to Modric who through his utter brilliance lifted a below-par Croatia into the last 16.
Modric ran the show for Croatia in midfield and scored a beautiful goal against Scotland to send his team through. His celebration at the end of the game told everything about the incredible hunger to succeed.
Manuel Locatelli (Italy)
Sassuolo midfielder Locatelli only started Italy’s first two Group A matches due to the absence of the injured Marco Verratti, but he was one of the standout performers in the Azzurri’s sumptuous displays against Turkey and Switzerland.
The 23-year-old’s dynamism in the middle of the pitch was exemplified by how he started and finished the move which gave Italy the lead in the 3-0 demolition of Switzerland, securing a knockout spot for Roberto Mancini’s exciting side.
Denzel Dumfries (Netherlands)
The last time the Netherlands played at a major tournament was the 2014 World Cup. Back then, a teenage Dumfries had just made his international debut for Aruba, the tiny Caribbean island off the coast of Venezuela.
Now 25 and a regular in the Dutch orange, the PSV Eindhoven captain and right-back –- named after the actor Denzel Washington – has been one of the stars of their return to this level. In the 3-2 win over Ukraine he helped set up the first two goals before heading in the late winner.
Then, against Austria, Dumfries won a penalty that was converted by Memphis Depay before scoring the second in a 2-0 win, securing a place in the last 16 for Frank de Boer’s side.
Patrik Schick (Czech Republic)
Schick said he wanted to look like MMA fighter Nate Diaz when he posed with his muscles flexed and nose bloodied after scoring his third goal of the tournament from the penalty spot against Croatia.
But it was his stunning strike from nearly 50 metres, leaving Scotland floored on their return to the international tournament stage, that announced the Bayer Leverkusen forward as a breakout star of Euro 2020.
Robin Gosens (Germany)
Germany nearly suffered a repeat of their 2018 World Cup flop before scraping through to the last 16, but their qualification owed much to Robin Gosens’ star turn against Portugal.
The left-back who plays for Italian club Atalanta was once an aspiring police officer. Gosens earned his big break with a move to Serie A in 2017 and hasn’t looked back, making his Germany debut last September despite the rarity of never having played in the Bundesliga.
Joachim Loew’s switch to a 3-4-3 has brought out the best in the 26-year-old. He raided down Portugal’s right flank and got involved in all four goals, scoring the fourth to round off arguably Germany’s best display since winning the 2014 World Cup.
Emil Forsberg (Sweden)
The RB Leipzig attacking midfielder has been Sweden’s driving force as Janne Andersson’s side topped their group for the second straight major tournament.
The 29-year-old netted a penalty in the 1-0 win over Slovakia which eventually secured Sweden’s last-16 place, before grabbing an excellent double in the 3-2 victory against Poland that wrapped up top spot in Group E ahead of Spain.
The best goals
Patrik Schick vs Scotland
Luka Modric vs Scotland
Andreas Christensen vs Russia
İrfan Can Kahveci vs Switzerland
The best moments
Finland fans join Denmark supporters in Eriksen applause
Christain Eriksen’s collapse after suffering a cardiac arrest on the pitch during Denmark’s match against Finland stunned the footballing world. As football fans awaited concrete news about his health, fans from Finland joined their Danish counterparts in chanting Eriksen’s name at the Parken Stadium in Copenhagen.
The Finnish fans shouted ‘Christian’ which was followed by cries of ‘Eriksen’ by the Denmark fans. A beautiful moment during tense times.
Group F was the most thrilling of the lot as three heavyweights – France, Portugal and Germany clashed for places in the Round of 16. But Hungary, the big underdogs in the Group of Death, more than played their part in an exciting finale.
The Hungarians were undone by late Portuguese rally in their opening game but bounced back by holding world champions France in front of a packed house in Budapest. In their final game away to Germany, Hungary led twice and were in touching distance of the round of 16 but were thwarted by a German equaliser. Despite their exit, their fighting spirit was one of the highlights of the group stage.
Goran Pandev ends stellar international career
For North Macedonia, reaching Euro 2020, their first time in the continental championships was historic. It was a goal by Goran Pandev that earned them this golden chance. Pandev, a loyal servant of the national team for 20 years, had given it his all throughout his career.
It was only fitting that he scored the country’s first goal at the European Championships. North Macedonia lost all three matches at Euro 2020, but their hero was given a great sendoff as he ended his international career. His teammates gave him a guard of honour as he exited the pitch after being substituted.
(With AFP inputs)
Respond to this article with a post
Share your perspective on this article with a post on ScrollStack, and send it to your followers.