The UEFA Euro 2020 tournament kicks off in just a few days, and many are billing this as the most exciting tournament in years. Despite the grueling schedule that most soccer teams have had around the world this year, it looks set to be a tantalizing display of some of the world’s biggest footballing names.
The tournament’s favorite teams are filled to the brim with superstar players, some of which have had the best season of their careers so far.
Let’s take a look at the key players in this year’s top Euro 2020 teams.
Belgium brought in Roberto Martinez to rebuild this team after they were dumped out of Euro 2016. In his time at the helm, Martinez took Belgium to third place in the 2018 World Cup, but they’ll be looking to go all the way in this year’s Euros. With their current golden generation of players, they certainly look like they have the skills to do just that.
Goalkeeper: Thibaut Courtois
Courtois won the Golden Glove and was named FIFA’s Best Goalkeeper in the 2018 World Cup. He struggled initially in his subsequent move to Real Madrid, but he’s back to his very best and is going to be a key player in keeping clean sheets at the back for Belgium.
Defense: Toby Alderweireld
He might not be the athletic force he once was, but aged 32, Toby Alderweireld is a key component in Belgium’s backline. Tall, commanding, and with unbelievable accuracy and passing range, he’s this team’s best defender. Paired up with his longtime teammate Vertonghen, we should see the best of Alderweireld at the 2020 Euros.
Midfield: Kevin De Bruyne
Although De Bruyne normally plays in the forward line for Belgium, there’s simply no way to leave him out of this list. The right-footed attacking midfielder has been sublime for Manchester City this season, having just won a successive PFA Players’ Player of the Year Award for his exploits in baby blue. He has a deadly cross, a lethal eye for goal, and creative through balls that are simply unmatched by any other player. He is undoubtedly going to be at the heart of every Belgium piece of attacking play.
Forward: Romelu Lukaku
Lukaku’s move to Inter Milan has been the best thing that could have happened to him. After sorting out his nutrition and moving to a new training schedule, the big Belgian has been simply unstoppable this season. He scored 24 goals in Serie A, helping the Nerazzurri to the league title, and at 28, it looks like he’s just going to get better. With Kevin De Bruyne assisting him on the field, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he’s in the running for the Golden Boot award this year.
The Euros will be Joachim Low’s last tournament as Germany’s manager, and he’ll be hoping to go out covered in glory. The Germans need this win more than ever after their humiliating 2018 World Cup run. With older players jettisoned out and new talent emerging, this could be their chance to establish themselves as a major force in world soccer again.
Goalkeeper: Manuel Neuer
It’s safe to say that Neuer did not cover himself in glory at the 2018 World Cup, and many believed the veteran keeper’s time was up. However, he kept 24 clean sheets in the Bundesliga this season and bailed out Bayern more than a few times on their way to cleaning up trophies last year. His experience, level head, and athleticism in the goal will be key for Low this summer.
Defense: Joshua Kimmich
At one stage, Kimmich was expected to take over from Philipp Lahm at full-back, but he has become one of the best defensive midfielders in the world. Kimmich is pure class on the ball, with an eye for defense-splitting passes, and will run himself haggard in his defensive duties too. With 14 assists in 33 games this season, he’s essential for Germany’s forward play, as well as protecting the backline.
Midfield: Serge Gnabry
Gnabry had a miserable spell at Arsenal, but his move to Bayern has been an absolute revelation for him. He is fast, he is direct, and he is dynamic. With the ability to somehow always get himself in front of goal, he offers a great threat going forward. In fact, he already has 15 goals for Germany and will be looking to build his reputation even further during the tournament.
Forward: Timo Werner
After a poor debut season at Chelsea, Timo Werner has a point to prove on the biggest stage. Just 12 goals in his time at the Blues is pretty paltry for a player that scored 95 goals in 159 matches at RB Leipzig before his move to Stamford Bridge. He failed to score in the disastrous 2018 World Cup and this is his opportunity to silence his critics. If the real Timo Werner turns up at the Euros, he will be key in helping Germany to the finals.
England is on the hunt to end 55 years of trophy-less hurt this summer, and they finally might have the team to do just that. They have the second-youngest team in the tournament, but the youngsters are all playing at the highest level for their respective clubs. Gareth Southgate surely believes that Euro 2020 could be the tournament to finally lift silverware.
Goalkeeper: Jordan Pickford
The English squad includes three very good goalkeepers in Jordan Pickford, Sam Johnstone, and Dean Henderson. Although it seems like Southgate prefers Pickford between the posts. The keeper had a couple of bad seasons off the back of the 2018 World Cup, but he’s had a solid 2020/21 season with Everton, and is known for making big saves, as well as his great distribution. His experience will be important for this young Three Lions team.
Defense: John Stones
The loss of Harry Maguire for at least the first couple of matches is a massive blow for England, but luckily Southgate also has John Stones to rely on. Stones has been impervious for City this season, and was key in the Citizens’ Premier League title campaign. Without Maguire, Stones is going to have to step up and be the key man in the defense, and provide a sturdy anchor for England.
Midfield: Jordan Henderson
Henderson might just be coming back from injury, but he’s still going to be a crucial component in a midfield packed with talent. He might not even start every game for England, however, his experience and winning mentality are going to be key to help this young side get over the line. Whether he’s on the field or not, Henderson is the player to push his team all the way.
Forward: Harry Kane
England has an embarrassment of talent at the top end of the pitch with Sterling, Sancho, Rashford, Mount, and Grealish all providing a lethal threat on goals, but Harry Kane is going to be their match-winner. He won the Golden Boot award for the third time in the Premier League this season and he was the recipient of the same award at the World Cup 2018. It’s not just his goal-scoring antics that he brings to the team, but also the ability to drop deep and create space for England’s other faster forwards.
Portugal are the defending champions of this title from 2016, and they also hold the UEFA Nations League 2019 title. They’ll be looking to put their disappointing 2018 World Cup campaign behind them this summer, and Fernando Santos certainly has some of the best players in the world to help them push for glory.
Goalkeeper: Rui Patricio
Veteran keeper Patricio was a key component in Portugal’s Euro 2016 success, keeping four clean sheets and making 21 saves to take his team all of the way. He has been ever-present since signing for Wolves and has missed just one game in his two seasons at the Molineux. At 33-years-old, Patricio brings a winning mentality and experience to the squad. He is consistently ranked as one of Europe’s top-flight keepers and he will undoubtedly be a formidable figure at the back of Portugal’s impressive defensive lineup.
Defense: Ruben Dias
It takes a truly elite player to step up and fill the shoes of someone like Vincent Kompany, but Dias has done just that at Manchester City this season. In their Premier League-winning campaign, he was an absolute rock in defense and kept some of the world’s best strikers at bay. He’ll most likely be paired up with Jose Fonte, which will allow Dias to go further up the pitch and defend on the front foot. He’s unflappable in possession, strong in the tackle, and brings a style and solidarity at the back that will be key for Portugal.
Midfield: Bruno Fernandes
Despite only having two goals for Portugal in 27 caps, Fernandes has single-handedly changed the fortunes of Manchester United since he signed for the Red Devils. He scored 18 goals for United in the Premier League this season, but it might not be his goal-scoring exploits that he will be noted for this summer. Fernandes is going to be the key to producing the creative spark in midfield and getting those passes through tight defenses for the forwards to run onto.
Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo
Is there really a Portugal without Ronaldo? Well, given that he is 36 now, there might be in the near future, but for now, he is still the mainstay of the side. Ronaldo has had a glittering career wherever he has gone and has scored a stupendous 103 goals for his national team. He might not be as quick as he once was, but he’s still undoubtedly one of the most lethal forwards on the planet.
Current World Cup title-holders France will be out to avenge their 2016 Euros final defeat to Portugal this summer. Didier Deschamps will be looking to help this team become the reigning World champions and European champions for the second time in France’s history.
Goalkeeper: Hugo Lloris
Hugo Lloris can thank Alphonse Areola’s failure to challenge him as the main reason he is still France’s number one. Although he is undoubtedly one of the best shot-stoppers in the world, you only need to look at the World Cup final to see that he is prone to errors. Lloris will probably play very well at the Euros, but he needs to keep his head on straight to ensure he doesn’t repeat any howlers.
Defense: Raphael Varane
Varane needs to have a solid partner to perform at his best level. It was Umtiti in 2018 and now he must rely on Presnel Kimpembe to be the more organized of the two at the back. Varane is an undisputed leader; he is quick, strong, and practically flawless when he’s on the ball, and his solid partnership with Kimpembe should mean that we see the best of him this summer.
Midfield: Paul Pogba
Although N’Golo Kanté is undoubtedly a world-class midfield player, it’s Paul Pogba’s presence that is going to be the key component in the middle of the pitch for France. Although he’s had a few injuries to contend with this season, Manchester United has looked a different side when they have his quality to rely on, and he always plays better for his country than club it seems. He’s going to be pulling the strings in midfield and will be the difference-maker for Deschamps’ team.
Forward: Kylian Mbappé
If there is one player that has wowed the world this season, it has to be Mbappé. Despite ending the season trophyless at PSG, he has grown from a talented youngster into one of the best forwards in the world, and this is going to be the competition where we get to see the best of him on the big stage. He is incredibly fast, fleet-footed, and simply doesn’t miss in front of goal. The combination of Mbappé and Griezmann is sure to be one that strikes fear into even the most ruthless defenders.
Spain won the Euro Championships in consecutive tournaments in 2008 and 2012, with a 2010 World Cup victory sandwiched in between. However, the last Euros didn’t go according to plan and the aging team was knocked out in the round-of-16 by Turkey. Luis Enrique is now at the helm and he’s the man charged with getting a revamped team back to former heights this summer.
Goalkeeper: David De Gea
David De Gea has been absolutely resolute for Manchester United for the best part of a decade, but he tends to perform better for his club than nationally. He hasn’t had the best season for United however, and his number one spot looks set to be taken by Dean Henderson. Enrique will hope that De Gea brings his experience and undoubted world-class keeper skills that he’s known for, rather than what we saw in United’s Europa League final defeat.
Defense: Aymeric Laporte
Believe it or not, Laporte is yet to play for his country. However, with Sergio Ramos out of the Euros, it looks like he’ll be the man deputizing at the back for La Roja. This is going to be a make-or-break season for the center-back, who has seen his chances at City diminish in the wake of the partnership between Stones and Dias. All in all, he is a very capable, strong defender that has a calmness on the ball and he will prove a key aspect in this side’s success at keeping strikers at bay.
32-year-old Sergio Busquets has been the main conductor for the Spanish side for years, but Rodri has slowly but surely taken over as the master in midfield. Rodri’s importance could be even bigger now, given that Busquets had to leave the training ground after testing positive for COVID-19. Rodri is now a Premier League champion and during this season with Man City, he showed that he knows exactly what he’s doing. He defends solidly, passes sublimely, knows when to press, and can spray the ball forward cleverly for the forwards to latch onto. He is going to be the calm, quiet, but highly influential rhythm setter for Enrique’s team this summer.
Forward: Ferran Torres
Many would expect Alvaro Morata to be the man leading the line-up top, but it’s undeniable that it’s the youngster Ferran Torres that has been doing the most damage recently. At 21-years-old, he’s certainly not the finished product, but he’s slowly making his way up the pecking order at Manchester City. He scored a hat trick against Germany in November and his intelligent movement and crisp shooting technique could make him one of the most prolific goalscorers in this Euro tournament.
A World Cup tournament without Italy just felt different. The Gli Azzurri failed to qualify for the 2018 competition in Russia for the first time since 1958. The appointment of Roberto Mancini seems to have turned things around for the Italian camp however, and they qualified for Euro 2020 with a 100% record. This summer will be the moment of truth for Mancini, his team, and a country filled with people that live for soccer.
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Donnarumma
The No. 1 berth was deputized by Gianluigi Buffon for over 20 years and his absence was always going to be keenly felt. Luckily for Mancini, Donnarumma matured at the right pace and at just 22-years-old is already one of the world’s best keepers. He is the youngest player to have made 200 appearances in Serie A, where he is vice-captain at AC Milan. Mancini will be relying on his young shot-stopper to be a solid last line of defense for his team.
Defense: Leonardo Bonucci
If there are two words that could be used to describe Leonardo Bonucci, they would be “stoic” and “unquestioning” – both in his personality and his style of play. Bonucci is one of the core players that Mancini kept on when he took the reins and at 34-years-old, he is Italy’s most reliable center-back. This is a player that has been the mainstay of a rampant Juventus team since 2010. His experience, uncompromising style of play, and drive for success will be a huge asset for Mancini’s team.
Midfield: Nicolo Barella
The emergence of Nicolo Barella has been one of the most exciting developments for the Italian team in recent years. At just 24-years-old, he has been instrumental in helping Inter Milan win the Serie A title this season, and he might be the most important player on the pitch for Italy. Barella simply has everything: creativity, levelheadedness, a divine range of passing, vision, and a natural ball-carrying drive too. This is a player that is going to thrive on the big stage.
Forward: Federico Chiesa
On loan from Fiorentina, Chiesa has scored seven goals and assisted eight for Juventus this term, and it’s his versatility that could be key for Italy. He’s able to fill in on either flank, he moves intelligently, and he can pick out key passes that could be used to devastating effect. With either Moise Kean, Ciro Immobile, or Andrea Belotti to play alongside Chiesa, this team has a goal-scoring threat that has been absent for some years.
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