EURO 2020; Master of The Unexpected

By Muhanguzi Tola

Italy celebrate winning the UEFA European Championship at Wembley Stadium. PHOTO: UEFA EURO 2020

Former Arsenal vice chair David Dein once stated that “normality is boring”, when describing Arsene Wenger- one of the greatest managers to grace the city that hosted the European Championship’s final match on July 11. To put his words into context, the tournament has been one of the most surprise filled, feeding us with matches that kept us on our toes all through.

Many are stories to tell from it, as dreams were realized – and others crushed. Barcelona and Spain’s 19 year old Pedri proved to be a reincarnation of the midfield maestro Andres Iniesta, with performances that won him the Young Player of the Tournament award. This, among others gave the Euro 2020 a special feeling, as fans witnessed a revamped Italy led by the grandfather of defending Giorgio Chiellini scoop the Henry Delaunay trophy on their opponent’s home ground.

The Awakening of the Azzuri

Italy gave a masterpiece of a performance as they rose to win their first major tournament since the 2006 World Cup. The team had been on a decline that culminated with them failing to qualify for the 2018 World Cup, but the appointment of the classy Roberto Mancini has seen them go on to win the tournament, in the process extending their unbeaten run to 34 games.

The fall of England in yet another tournament extends their wait for an international trophy, the last being the 1966 World Cup.

The Demise of the ‘Group of Death’

Group F, which pitted France (reigning world champions), Portugal (2016 European champions) Germany (2014 World Champions) and Hungary lived up to its name, as all teams were knocked out of the tournament in the early stages.

France’s exit orchestrated by Switzerland in the Round of 16(R16) is the biggest upset, with the world champions having been the favorites to lift the trophy. Germany gave football fans a fitting end to an action packed group stage when they welcomed Hungary to Munich, but failed to produce the same momentum against England at the R16. Portugal went down to current toppers of the FIFA rankings Belgium in the same round.

Denmark’s Dream Tournament

Denmark’s journey started with unexpected events as the world was subjected to some uneventful scenes during their first match against Finland. The team lost the services of their star player Christian Eriksen who had to be transported to hospital mid match after suffering a cardiac arrest.

Theirs is however a wonder tale as they qualified for the knockout stages of the competition following a 4-1 thumping of Russia in Copenhagen in their final group stage fixture. The team put four past Wales in the R16, proceeding to the quarterfinals where they also triumphed following a 2-1 victory over the Czech Republic. Their hopes of replicating their 1992 performance when they won the title were dimmed by Gareth Southgate’s English army that saw them off in an action packed semifinal that went all the way to extra time.

This remains to be the one of the country’s best performances only coming close to their ’92 triumph after joining the tournament late on following the expulsion of Yugoslavia.

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