Game, set, match. We may have had to wait an extra year for EURO 2020 to arrive, but in the end, it was a tournament that was truly worth the wait. With surprise results, own goals galore, and the highest goal average in this tournament since 1976, the spectacular entertainment on display at EURO 2020 will live long in the memory.
Before the dust even began to settle on Sunday’s final, the conversations surrounding the tournament’s individual awards had already sprung into life, kick-started when Italy’s formidable goalkeeper Gianluigi Donnarumma received the Player of the Tournament award. But for every player to shine at the tournament, others were disappointed, and several of the individuals who were anticipated to star for their nations during the tournament’s build-up failed to live up to expectations.
With some household names and international superstars performing well below par at EURO 2020, it’s time to reveal the most disappointing XI of this summer’s festival of football.
EURO 2020 – The most disappointing XI
GK: Wojciech Szczesny (Poland)
Following a poor 2018 World Cup campaign, Poland suffered a dismal tournament for the second time in a row, crashing out with just a point to their name. Juventus goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny, one of the most talented and senior players in the Polish team, was one of many who had a tournament to forget.
A piece of dreadful goalkeeping in the team’s opening game allowed Slovakia’s Robert Mak to squeeze a shot past him at his near post, which would be punished further with the strike eventually being credited as a Szczesny own goal. It cost his team dear, and the goalkeeper was beaten once again at his near post from Sweden’s Viktor Claesson to definitively dump the Poles out of the tournament. Szczesny’s errors epitomised his team’s poor display at EURO 2020.
CB: Benjamin Pavard (France)
France’s Round of 16 exit to Switzerland was among the greatest shock results in EURO history, a tournament summed up by the fact that Les Bleus conceded six times in just four games.
On the right hand side of France’s leaky defence, Benjamin Pavard was certainly among the guilty parties. One of the breakthrough stars of the team’s World Cup triumph in 2018, this tournament was almost the complete opposite for Pavard. The Bayern Munich defender was caught out down his side when Attila Fiola scored for Hungary, and the cross from which Haris Seferovic scored Switzerland’s opener also came from the right. The Frenchman then conceded a rash penalty in the same match and was extremely lucky to be bailed out by goalkeeper Hugo Lloris.
Long considered first choice in Didier Deschamps XI, these displays could well threaten Pavard’s place in the team going forward.
CB: Merih Demiral (Turkey)
No team at EURO 2020 fell short of expectations quite as badly as Turkey did, who rapidly went from tournament dark horses to Group A whipping boys and were sent home after losing all three group matches.
At the centre of the Turkish disaster was central defender Merih Demiral. One of Europe’s most promising young defenders, the Juventus man was unwittingly caught out by Domenico Berardi’s cross to score an own goal in the tournament’s opening match, and was one of the defenders embarrassingly caught out in the second match as Wales walked it in from a corner. Three goals conceded in the final group game against Switzerland capped an awful tournament for Demiral and Turkey, with both his and his team’s reputation taking some chastening damage.
CB: Matthijs De Ligt (Netherlands)
Without star defender Virgil Van Dijk, the Netherlands were always going to be in for a relatively difficult time at this tournament. In his absence, the young but highly rated Matthijs De Ligt was expected to step up, and he navigated two relatively straightforward fixtures against Austria and North Macedonia easily enough.
However, in Oranje’s Last 16 match against the Czech Republic, it all came crashing down for De Ligt and his team. Following a ball over the top, the youngster slipped and tried to recover the situation with a brainless handball that led to a deserved red card. It was a moment of madness that cost his side dearly, as the Czechs made the most of their man advantage to seal a 2-0 win.
With his considerable talent, it’s a mistake that De Ligt will no doubt learn from, but it was a truly disastrous moment in the young defender’s career.
CDM: Toni Kroos (Germany)
EURO 2020 saw Joachim Low’s 15-year reign as Germany manager come to an end, although a poor tournament that served as a continuation of their below-par form in the last three years ensured that it was not the ending that Low would’ve hoped for.
Germany’s Round of 16 exit at the hands of England also marked an unhappy goodbye for midfielder Toni Kroos, who called time on his international career shortly after his side’s defeat. Still one of the best midfielders in the world, this was a tournament that Kroos couldn’t quite get a grip on, and struggled particularly to influence the match against England, resulting in Germany’s elimination.
Kroos has made some spectacular memories over the years wearing the black and white of Germany, but it simply wasn’t to be this time.
RM: Thomas Muller (Germany)
Toni Kroos wasn’t Germany’s only long term stalwart to disappoint at EURO 2020, with national team icon Thomas Muller also falling short of the mark.
The days of Muller bagging goal after goal at international tournaments now feel like an eternity ago, as he once again struggled to fire Germany to victory the way he has done in the past. After some fairly quiet performances in the group stage, the forward then missed an absolute sitter late on against England, which would ultimately cost his side their place in the tournament.
Incredibly, despite having 10 World Cup goals to his name, Thomas Muller has never scored in the European Championship despite appearing at three EURO tournaments, and it seems unlikely that he’ll be able to change that unwanted statistic in the future.
CM: Bruno Fernandes (Portugal)
Portugal were another nation that managed to fall short and succumb to elimination much earlier than expected, despite the record-breaking goalscoring exploits of the legendary Cristiano Ronaldo.
A number of Portugal stars disappointed in the finals though, among them Bruno Fernandes. Manchester United’s talisman throughout the whole of last season, Fernandes looked a shadow of himself at the Euros, turning in anonymous performances against Hungary and Germany, and also having little impact off the bench against France and Belgium.
Sometimes criticised for failing to turn up in big matches, his performances in this tournament will only have allowed such criticisms to grow louder.
CM: Hakan Calhanoglu (Turkey)
Much has been made of Turkey’s terrible defensive record at EURO 2020, but the team’s record going forward turned out to be equally dismal, registering just one goal to their name in the tournament.
All of Turkey’s attacking players fared extremely poorly in this tournament, perhaps none more so than attacking midfielder Hakan Calhanoglu. The key creative force in Turkey’s team, Calhanoglu struggled to make a notable impact at EURO 2020, creating little for striker Burak Yilmaz and contributing little attacking threat of his own.
Two bookings and only one attempt on goal effectively sum up the midfielder’s near anonymity at the tournament.
LM: Eden Hazard (Belgium)
It hasn’t been an easy ride for Eden Hazard since swapping London for Madrid two summers ago, the winger having struggled badly with form and fitness during his time in the Spanish capital.
Despite his struggles at Real Madrid, the winger is still a star player and the captain of Belgium, and was expected to deliver at this summer’s tournament. Unfortunately for him and for Belgium, Hazard’s club struggles continued on the international stage, with the winger performing below par and failing to find the back of the net as The Red Devils crashed out in the quarter finals.
During EURO 2020 Eden Hazard was decisively outshone by teammates Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku, and even his own brother Thorgan, in what could be another key indicator of Hazard’s shocking recent decline.
ST: Antoine Griezmann (France)
The return of Karim Benzema to the France National Team following a six-year absence was seen by many before the tournament as a potential final piece in the jigsaw for a side that looked destined to win the trophy. However, whilst Benzema thrived, the goals dried up from those around him, notably Antoine Griezmann.
The star of France’s excellent EURO 2016 campaign, with six goals, it was hoped that Griezmann would display the similar form at this tournament, especially after also being a key player in France’s 2018 World Cup triumph. Instead, Griezmann found the net just once this time around, in the draw with Hungary, and missed some excellent chances in that game.
In the Round of 16 humiliation at the hands of Switzerland, Griezmann once again failed to make the difference for his side, and much like Hazard, it seems that Griezmann’s poor club form has seeped through to his performances with the national team.
ST: Kylian Mbappe (France) (C)
Whilst Griezmann disappointed for France this summer, his failure seemed insignificant in comparison to compatriot Kylian Mbappe, who was unquestionably the most disappointing player at the entire tournament.
One of the best players in the world and a generational icon of French football, Mbappe just couldn’t hit his stride at EURO 2020, missing chance after chance in every match he played, most of which you would expect a player of his quality to score with ease. All in all, Mbappe had 14 shots at the tournament, failing to find the net with any of them.
The young forward’s missed a penalty in the shootout against Switzerland, which eliminated France and shocked the world, was a microcosm of Mbappe’s tournament. You certainly expect that he’ll bounce back from this and will deliver for France on the biggest stage in the not too distant future, but this will have been an extremely difficult experience for the 22-year-old, and one that he’ll want to forget.
Manchester City and England fan. Writer of opinion and features on all things Premier League and beyond.