From group stage thrillers to knockout phase goal fests, UEFA EURO 2020 has been jam-packed with pulsating contests from start to finish.
We decided to pick out our favourites ahead of Sunday’s final at Wembley Stadium – do you agree these were the choice cuts?
The Dutch returned to the finals after missing out in 2016 and, having scored two goals or more in their previous seven games, were keenly anticipated. The Oranje did not disappoint in their Group C opener, despite Georgiy Bushchan keeping them at bay in the first half. Frank de Boer’s men eventually broke through courtesy of Georginio Wijnaldum and Wout Weghorst, but Ukraine refused to go quietly with Andriy Yarmolenko’s stunning effort and Roman Yaremchuk’s header drawing them level.
Denzel Dumfries’ first international goal with five minutes left sparked wild scenes in Amsterdam and settled the highest-scoring EURO game to have been goalless at the interval.
Group F promised some mouth-watering action with France and Hungary pitched in alongside these two heavyweights. Any questions posed by Die Mannschaft’s tame loss to the world champions resounded once again after Cristiano Ronaldo’s opener in this Munich showdown – but the German response was emphatic.
Two own goals turned the tide before half-time, then Kai Havertz and Robin Gosens put the holders to the sword inside an hour – and left Portuguese hopes of progress in jeopardy. Incredibly, it was the first time Germany had scored four goals in a group match, and the stage appeared set for Joachim Löw’s side to kick on. However…
Despite their spirited 1-1 draw with France, Hungary were not expected to present a significant hurdle for the purring Mannschaft in Munich. Nevertheless, Ádám Szalai’s header quickly put the cat among the pigeons. It took Germany until the 66th minute to level through Kai Havertz, and even then their relief was fleeting because, 16 seconds after the restart, András Schäfer restored the underdogs’ advantage.
Löw’s charges mounted a siege but were within six minutes of elimination when Leon Goretzka pounced on Timo Werner’s blocked shot to rifle home – nudging Germany into the last 16 and leaving Hungary forlorn.
La Roja had finally clicked into gear by dispatching Slovakia 5-0 to reach the last 16, but few would have predicted them becoming the first team ever to score five in successive EURO fixtures. Especially after they fell behind in Copenhagen, but at least a comeback win seemed certain when Pablo Sarabia, César Azpilicueta and Ferran Torres overturned Pedri’s own goal. Then Croatia staged a fightback of their own, substitutes Mislav Oršić and Mario Pašalić striking in the last five minutes to force extra time.
Clinical finishes by Álvaro Morata and Mikel Oyarzabal – another sub – eventually sent Spain through in the second-highest-scoring finals match of all time.
The dust had barely settled on Spain’s victory when these two wrote the second chapter of ‘Manic Monday’ – the highest-scoring day of knockout action in the history of the finals. The script was eerily similar, with the underdogs going a goal up only for the favourites to roar back to lead 3-1, Karim Benzema scoring twice for Les Bleus before a moment of genius from Paul Pogba.
Switzerland, who might have led 2-0 but for Hugo Lloris’s penalty save from Ricardo Rodríguez, refused to surrender: Haris Seferović’s second header and Mario Gavranović’s last-gasp drive earned extra time, where the Nati held firm to take this Bucharest thriller to penalties. The shoot-out was first class too, with the first nine spot kicks converted before Yann Sommer kept out Kylian Mbappé to give the Swiss a first major tournament knockout success since the 1938 FIFA World Cup.
The tournament’s two form horses went head to head in the last eight and the fans in Munich were treated to an end-to-end classic. Belgium held sway initially but the Azzurri proved more clinical, going in front when Nicolò Barella wriggled through and fired past Thibaut Courtois. Italy soon doubled their money via Lorenzo Insigne’s brilliant curling effort from outside the box.
Although the fleet-footed Jeremy Doku won a penalty that Romelu Lukaku slotted home on the stroke of half-time, the on-fire Inter striker was among those denied after the break as Roberto Mancini’s men clung on to set a new record of 15 consecutive victories across EURO finals and qualifying matches.
There appeared little to separate these sides ahead of their meeting at Wembley Stadium and this last-four contest cemented that view. The first half was enthralling despite goalscoring opportunities being at a premium, the best coming when Emerson clipped the bar for Italy, who were protecting a 32-match unbeaten run.
Federico Chiesa’s pinpoint curling strike gave the Azzurri the lead on the hour, but Spain forced extra time when Álvaro Morata calmly dispatched Dani Olmo’s through ball past Gianluigi Donnarumma. La Roja could not make their dominance pay in the additional 30 minutes and Italy edged through in the shoot-out, Donnarumma’s save from Morata giving Jorginho the chance to roll in the decisive spot kick.