Euro 2020 has thrown up some real twists of both elation and despair for Jurgen Klopp’s tournament heroes. But who is having the best tournament?
Group stage exits:
Let’s start with our ever-reliable left-back, Andy Robertson.
The Scotland captain has reportedly impressed the club’s fitness gurus with his high energy levels during his country’s first major tournament since the World Cup at France, 23-years ago.
Scotland lost their opener 2-0 to Czech Republic following two goals from in-form striker Patrik Schick. The Bayern Leverkusen forward’s second was exquisite, as he caught goalkeeper David Marshall off his line and produced a stunning 50-yard lob from the halfway line. It currently ranks as one of the goals of the tournament.
Next came England at Wembley, as Scotland faced them for the first time at a major tournament since Euro 96. It was 25-years ago that Paul Gascoigne or Gazza scored a beautiful overhead flick and drive volley, one of England’s most famous tournament goals.
In the match itself, Robertson performed well defensively, and again looked dangerous going forward, as he was against the Czechs. He helped his side frustrate the hosts, holding them to a famous 0-0 draw at the home of English football.
However, this result was not enough for Scotland to qualify for the knockout stages as they finished bottom of Group D following a 3-1 defeat to Croatia in their final group game.
For Andy, he can hold his head up high after finally seeing his beloved Scotland back on the big stage.
Wales’ Neco Williams experienced both highs and lows at Euro 2020.
Stand in caretaker coach Robert Page, saw his Welsh side net an impressive one-all draw with Switzerland. Striker Breel Embolo put the Swiss ahead before an equaliser from Kieffer Moore salvaged an opening draw.
Neco was unfortunate not to come off the bench, but he did so alongside Liverpool midfielder Harry Wilson in his side’s impressive 2-0 win against Turkey after goals from Aaron Ramsey and Connor Roberts.
Four points out of six gave Wales a huge platform towards qualifying for the knockout stages.
A 1-0 victory for Roberto Mancini’s Italy against the Welsh courtesy of a first half strike from Matteo Pessina, was enough for Wales to come through in a respectable second place ahead of Switzerland in third. Meanwhile, Italy impressively topped the group with maximum points.
Neco and Harry’s Wales Euros journey came to an abrupt end in the knockout stages as they were outclassed by Denmark going down 4-0. Kasper Dolberg scored twice and late goals from Joakim Mæhle and Martin Braithwaite flattered the scoreline for the Danes.
The Welsh will be disappointed but attention now turns to next year’s World Cup in 2022. Appointing Page permanently and securing the future of talisman Gareth Bale, are Wales’ main priorities.
For Neco however, at only 20 years of age, he still has a good few major tournaments to look forward to in the future.
Although he has officially departed Anfield on Wednesday to become a Paris St Germain player, Gini Wijnaldum put in some stellar performances for the Netherlands to show Liverpool what they’re missing.
Against Ukraine, the Dutch captain opened the scoring before Wolfsburg striker Wout Weghorst made it 2-0. Manager Andriy Shevchenko’s team fought back to 2-2 with two goals in four minutes. Andriy Yarmolenko scored a stunner and Roman Yaremchuk levelled the match.
However, PSV Eindhoven full-back Denzel Dumfries popped up in the 85th minute to hand the Dutch a 3-2 victory. Wijnaldum was so impressive hustling all over the field in defence and attack and influencing the play. His hard work ethic is something Jurgen Klopp and Liverpool fans will sorely miss next season.
Gini then helped his country overcome Austria 2-0 in the second group game after a penalty from teammate Memphis Depay and another Denzel Dumfries goal on the counter attack.
Wijnaldum notched his second and third goals of the tournament in Holland’s 3-0 win against North Macedonia. First, Gini and Donyell Malen combined to set up Depay who slotted home.
Depay then turned provider for Gini to tap in for 2-0, as the telepathic connection between the two, showed.
The final goal came from clever play from Malen who put Depay in on goal and his shot was parried into the path of Wijnaldum who made no mistake to keep up his hot goalscoring streak.
It was almost reminiscent of his performance against Barcelona, two years ago in the Champions League semi-finals when he notched twice. Klopp has been guilty of supressing Gini’s attacking strengths. Yet for the national side, when he is allowed to attack and let off the leash, he is some player.
That’s what we have seen during Euro 2020. That Holland seem to utilise their captain much better than Liverpool have done the past two seasons.
Wijnaldum’s tournament came to a heart-breaking end though however, as Czech Republic stunned the Netherlands in the round of 16, winning 2-0 at the Puskas Arena in Budapest. Second-half goals from Tomáš Holeš’ fine header and, man of the moment Schick, condemned the Dutch as the first major casualty at this summer’s showpiece event.
All change for the Dutch
The shock exit means manager Frank de Boer was left with little choice but to resign after pressure from the KNVB and fans. Now a replacement, possibly former players Giovanni van Bronkhorst or Philip Cocu will be given the job. Although, past managers Marco van Basten, Bert van Marwijk, Louis van Gaal and Guus Hiddink cannot be counted out.
Safe to say on an individual level Wijnaldum can be proud of the tournament he had, especially in captaining his country in the injury absence of close friend Virgil van Dijk.
Defending champions out
Diogo Jota scored a consolation goal for Portugal as they lost emphatically 4-2 to Germany. Although, the Liverpool marksman enjoyed a stellar debut campaign, he has been a peripheral character for Portugal at these championships.
Fernando Santos’ team finished third in the group stages behind France and Germany to advance to the knockout stages but were ultimately beaten by a superior Belgium side. A stunner from Thorgan Hazard settled the contest.
Can England make the most of home advantage?
Club captain Jordan Henderson was taken to the finals albeit concerns over his fitness levels. He played his part in England’s 1-0 win against the Czech Republic, coming off the bench to score before being disallowed for offside.
Hendo then helped England to a historic 2-0 Wembley victory over old rivals Germany. Second-half goals from strikers Raheem Sterling and captain Harry Kane sealed the win.
It is the first time the Three Lions have beaten the Auld Enemy in a knockout round in 55 years. The last time being when England beat West Germany 4-2 on home soil to win the 1966 World Cup final.
This remains the last time England have won a major tournament. Now with so many big sides out of the competition, perhaps the stars are aligning for England to finally taste success again.
England swatted Andriy Shevechenko’s Ukraine aside with ease, triumphing 4-0 in the quarter-finals. Harry Kane opened the scoring at the Stadio Olimpico in the fourth minute to give the Three Lions the perfect start.
In the second half, a towering header from defender Harry Maguire, was quickly followed by Kane’s second of the night.
Henderson then stepped off the bench to nod in a fourth for Gareth Southgate’s team. The Liverpool captain celebrated wildly after finally getting his first ever England goal.
The win puts England into their first Euros semi-final for 25-years since Euro 96, where they will play Denmark at Wembley on Wednesday for a place in the final.
However, the player who has experienced the strongest individual and team success is Xherdan Shaqiri. Often berated as being injury prone, he has shown on his day that he is one of the most valuable players on the continent.
He helped Switzerland successfully reach the quarter-finals of a major tournament for the first time. The 5-4 penalty shootout victory over world champions France after an entertaining 3-3 draw was the team’s golden moment.
In the group stages though, Shaqiri scored two stunning goals in his team’s final game as Switzerland overcame Turkey 3-1. They drew with Wales and were well beaten by Mancini’s Italy going down 3-0 after two goals from tournament star Manuel Locatelli and a late Ciro Immobile strike.
With four of the best third placed teams going through to the knockout stages, the Swiss were pitted against France. They showed no fear though as they stunned the French coming from 3-1 down with late goals from Haris Seferović and Mario Gavranović forced extra time.
Shaqiri then helped his boys overcome France in a tense penalty shoot-out as Yann Sommer proved to be the hero saving from Kylian Mbappé to spark wild Swiss celebrations.
In the quarter-finals, Thiago Alcântara’s Spain narrowly overcame Switzerland with the game finishing one-all in normal time. Jordi Alba’s deflected strike off Denis Zakaria in the seventh minute put Spain in front.
Captain on the night in place of the suspended Granit Xhaka, Shaqiri produced an inspired display and capped it with a fine second half counter attacking goal. It was a pity he had to come off injured holding his calf.
The Swiss forced extra-time but it was not enough as they eventually lost 3-1 on penalties to put Spain into yet another major semi-final where they will play Italy at Wembley.
For Shaqiri, speculation says that Italian giants Lazio are chasing his signature. However, the absence of PSG bound Wijnaldum and his stunning Euro 2020 performances, Shaqiri may well have just played his way into Klopp’s midfield for next season.