Euro 2020: From Italy’s dominance to UEFA’s rainbow ban, highs and the lows of group stage

·6-min read

After 13 days, Wales, Denmark, Italy, Austria, Netherlands, Czech Republic, Belgium, Portugal, Croatia, Spain, France, Switzerland, England, Germany, Sweden and Ukraine are the 16 teams that have progressed from the group stage of Euro 2020. Turkey, Finland, Russia, North Macedonia, Scotland, Poland, Slovakia and Hungary have been eliminated.

Before the action moves to the last-16 starting Saturday, we look at the highs and the lows from the group stage.

The Highs

Cristiano Ronaldo

Ronaldo scored twice in Portugal's 2-2 draw with France to go level with former Iran striker Ali Daei on 109 goals. A mindboggling number for a player to get in 178 games (0.61 goals per game). He has now scored five goals at this edition and tallied 14 goals across five editions to take a five-goal lead over Michel Platini. When he's not scoring, he's pushing his time to go for more, making things happen in attack or just being an absolute nuisance in the box. The headache for defenders continues in the next round €" against Belgium €" as well.

Italy

How incredibly good have Italy been? Three games played, three games won, nine points, seven goals scored, none conceded. The first time a team has gone through the group stage without conceding in the history of the men's European Championship. A quick rundown of their jaw dropping records: 30-game unbeaten streak, 11-game winning run, 11 clean sheets in the same time period, 32 goals scored without conceding. So many great individual performances to go with managerial masterclass by Roberto Mancini who has the best winning ratio among Italian managers.

Denmark national team

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41 minutes played in their first game of Euro 2020 and Denmark national team were in trouble. Not trouble caused by the opposition (Finland), but trouble to see one of their most experienced and lethal playmakers in Christian Eriksen collapse. He fell to the pitch and needed CPR to be resuscitated having suffered a cardiac arrest. At the time, it wasn't clear what led to Eriksen going down. What was clear, however, was that Denmark talisman was in distress. With eyes firmly set on what was transpiring in Copenhagen, the Danish national team showed presence of mind and care to form a circle around Eriksen who was getting some much needed and, as it turned out, lifesaving, treatment. Thereafter, props to the medical staff, both sets of fans, and Denmark squad for playing on and reaching the last-16.

Rui Patricio

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The common (and overused) saying with professional sport goes, "it's a game of small margins." It would be used correctly for Group F, the "group of death", which not only went right to the final day for all four places, it changed eight times over the course of 90 minutes, with a Rui Patricio save proving decisive. The Portugal keeper may have opted against listening to Pepe with the Karim Benzema penalty, but he made a big difference with a double save in the second half. He first moved sideways, leaping high to deny Paul Pogba's long range effort and then a follow-up from Antoine Griezmann. Had Patricio not kept that out, Portugal would have been in deep trouble.

The Lows

UEFA

If there was a competition for the most-hated sporting organisation, UEFA would be a strong contender to come up top. Just when they were getting some sympathy in the aftermath of the Super League debacle, they went ahead and made a right mess of their image. Munich asked to have the Allianz Arena, venue for Germany vs Hungary group game, lit in rainbow colours and UEFA refused. The backdrop of this: Hungary under Prime Minister Viktor Orban passed a law banning LGBTQ educational content for children. Munich city authorities wanted to "send a visible sign of solidarity" with Hungary's LGBTQ community.

After multiple barbs were traded all around Europe, UEFA in a statement said the request was "political" and added a rainbow to its logo. "We don't want to be used in populist actions," said UEFA chief Aleksander Ceferin to Die Welt newspaper in Germany. If there was a moment to send a message, a strong message to governments and countries that suppress a section of people, this was it. Alas, UEFA did what UEFA does when it comes to racism on the pitch €" zilch.

Christian Eriksen collapses

Two parties emerge in the negative from the Eriksen collapse: the broadcasters and UEFA. The camera crew and the broadcasters across multiple territories continued to show live coverage of the player on the pitch and fellow players in shock and distress. There are protocols for cameras to pan out and focus on fans if there's a streaker on the pitch but there is seemingly no contingency plan for such a scenario? That's baffling.

If that wasn't absurd enough, UEFA got the game up and running soon after stating the two teams were ready to play. First, why even give that option to players who had just witnessed a fellow pro collapse and be taken to the hospital? Second, the two options, per manager Kasper Hjulmand, were to play the same night or the next day at noon. A little sympathy would have gone a long way!

Turkey national team

What a turnaround of performance from the Turkish national team. They finished runner-up in their group during qualifying, conceding just three goals €" joint-best with Belgium. That is 3 goals from 10 games. And at the tournament finals, they conceded three in the first game (against Italy) and 8 in all. No wins, one scored and last place among the 24 teams made for a sorry look.

Own goals galore!

This European Championship has seen record penalties missed and record own goals scored. With two by Slovakia against Spain, that tally went up eight own goals. That's five more than the tournament record of three set at Euro 2016. In the last 40 years, since 1976 to 2016, only nine own-goals had been scored. And before this edition, there had never been a European Championship game with two own-goals. There have been two in the past week. Welp!

Also See: Euro 2020: Shock, prayers for Christian Eriksen after Danish footballer's collapse in Finland game

Euro 2020: Christian Eriksen 'was gone' before being resuscitated, says Denmark team doctor

Euro 2020: Denmark set for 'emotional' Belgium game as Dutch target knockouts

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