Whenever players find themselves in prestigious competitions like the Euros, you can count on seeing players show their real talent and rise to the occasion. Although not every player is able to impress the pundits and the fans, the few that we do see can be a marvel to watch.
You can always expect the top names like Cristiano Ronaldo, Kylian Mbappe and Harry Kane to steal the headlines, but we are looking for the ‘real’ top performers of this tournament.
Denzel Dumfries – Netherlands
Named after the famous actor, Denzel Washington, Denzel Dumfries seemed to take the Euros by the scruff of the neck from the moment he started the first fixture. Despite the Netherlands being knocked out by the Czech Republic in the Round of 16 after suffering a 2-0 defeat Dumfries really showed his class with his powerful attacking runs and key tackles. The 25-year old fullback had never scored for the Netherlands before the 2020 Euros began, but he quickly ended this statistic by bagging back-to-back goals against Ukraine and Austria which included his game-winner to see his side beat Ukraine 3-2.
If the Netherlands had managed to progress past the Czech Republic, we are convinced that Dumfries would have continued to impress the world that was keenly watching. Despite his unfortunate exit from the competition, the PSV defender is bound to have gained some serious interest from domestic clubs and has already been linked with Premier League side, Everton.
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Leonardo Spinazzola – Italy
Onto our second top performer of the competition and our second modern fullback, Leonardo Spinazzola has been at the hub of Italy’s success in the 2020 Euros putting in a series of fabulous performances. The Italian fullback has showed his class every game of the tournament and proved he can be effective in both attack and defence. Spinazolla had been causing all of his faced opponents real problems, with his direct attacking runs down the left handside, especially Turkey’s Zeki Celik.
Spinazolla once again showed his quality against Belgium after preventing Romelu Lukaku from scoring with a goalline block. However, Italy would encounter a huge blow in their fixture against Belgium as Leonardo goes down with an injury in the 80th minute which would put him on the sidelies for the rest of the competition. The flying fullback will now be watching from the stands as his side wait to face either Denmark or England in the finals of the 2020 Euros.
Luke Shaw – England
The Manchester United player found himself as one of the five fullbacks that England manager, Gareth Southgate had picked for his final 26-man squad. With a huge amount of position competition for the selected fullbacks, no one really knew who would get a spot in the final eleven. Despite not featuring in his sides first group fixture against Croatia and failing to have much impact in the following two group stage games, Luke Shaw managed to find a second wind and show his worth against England’s bitter rivals, Germany. The England fullback assisted Raheem Sterling for the first goal against Germany and then played a major role in the build up to Harry Kane’s first goal of the competition. Shaw’s form did not stop there, with him picking up a further two assists in England’s following game against Ukraine setting up Harry Kane and his Manchester United teammate, Harry Maguire. All of this attacking quality that Luke Shaw has displayed has been backed up by his impressive defensive performances also and he can be proud to say that he has played a role in Englands record breaking clean sheet record.
Luke Shaw seems to be happy under the management of Ole Gunnar Solskjaer and will be looking to extend his form into the start of the Premier League season.
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg – Denmark
Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg is a name you probably did not expect to find on this list, but this is exactly what this article is about! The Danish midfielder finds himself heading to the semi-finals where he will face England, meeting his domestic club teammate, Harry Kane. Denmark find themselves as the least favourites to win the competition, but no other team can match their desire after seeing Christian Eriksen on-field collapse. Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has played a crucial role in his sides success this tournament and this can be seen by assist tally. So far, the Spurs midfielder has had a hand in 33.33% of his slides entire nine goals. Over the five games that Denmark has played in the Euros, Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg has played every single minute and it will be no surprise to see him face the full 90 against England.
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Raheem Sterling – England
After a below average season for Manchester City, many England fans had lost some faith their winger and were unsure if Southgate had made the right decision in giving him a starting role. With the likes of Mason Mount, Marcus Rashford, Phil Foden and Jack Grealish all in contention for similar positions, you can see why many believed Raheem shouldn’t have been given the start. However, from the very first game, Sterling has proved all the doubters wrong and has shown them why he deserves to play. The talented Manchester City winger bagged his first goal of the tournament in England’s first fixture against Croatia which saw them win 1-0. After a dull 0-0 draw against Scotland, England would face the Czech Republic in their third game of the competition where once again Raheem Sterling would find himself scoring the only goal of the game. Sterling continued to show his quality with his problematic attacking runs and got his side off to a great start when his clever pass slotted in Harry Kane for a simple finish.
After playing such a crucial role thus far in the competition, there is no doubt the winger will once again be in the starting eleven that faces Denmark and possibly Italy if they manage to progress onto the penultimate final.