Euro 2020 will go down as one of the most entertaining, captivating and unique international tournaments of all time.
There were 142 goals scored, which was 34 more than in 2016, including a record 11 own goals. There were incredible stories: the resilient and uplifting Danes, England advancing to the nation’s first final since 1966, Spain’s mesmerizing play and the revival of Italy, who, in the span of four years, went from missing the 2018 World Cup to becoming European champions.
However, there were also massive disappointments in the competition, from teams, players and managers who underachieved at the highest level. They were unable to rise to the occasion, causing heartbreak and dismay for the nations they represented.
Here are the biggest disappointments at the 16th European Championships throughout the last month.
The Nations Who Underperformed at Euro 2020
Turkey: The Fake Dark Horses
Turkey, oh Turkey. Senol Gunes’ side were considered by many as the ‘dark horses’ of Euro 2020, which was not without good reason. They took four points off France in qualifying and looked formidable in March when they eviscerated the Netherlands and Norway in back-to-back matches. With a young, talented squad, along with 35-year-old striker Burak Yilmaz, who had come off a title-winning domestic season with Lille, the Turks looked ready to challenge this summer.
Instead, Turkey put together a pitiful display, losing all three matches and scoring just one goal, while conceding eight (tied for most overall from the group stages). Yilmaz did not score, while Italy, Wales and Switzerland picked apart the unpredictable Turkish defence. The only other team to finish with zero points was North Macedonia, who made their major tournament debut. Considering the expectations of this Turkish side, along with their quality of players, this tournament was a catastrophic flop.
Germany: The Rebuild Continues
Germany’s Euro 2020 was a mixed bag, which was a microcosm of the last three years since their disgraceful World Cup exit in Russia. They had some moments of quality, such as their 4-2 triumph over Portugal, along with a lot of head-scratching moments, like their 2-2 draw against Hungary in Munich, which barely allowed Joachim Low’s side to sneak into the last 16. This led to their 2-0 defeat to England, which was the first German loss to the English in a major tournament knockout match since 1966.
In the end, Low’s tenure should have ended sooner, and the team looked lost with his lack of guidance. Wing-back Robin Gosens was a standout performer, but in the end, the Germans were unable to put together a string of confident, consistent performances. Of course, if Thomas Muller converted his golden chance against England, Germany’s tournament may have ended differently, but there is no guarantee they would have advanced much further. Another rebuild is necessary, this time with former Bayern Munich manager Hansi Flick in charge.
Portugal: Unable to Recapture 2016 Magic
Portugal could consider themselves a little unlucky to have lost to Belgium in the round of 16. They bombarded the Belgian goal in the second half, hitting the post on one occasion and probably should have scored. However, after a magical (and somewhat fortunate) run to the 2016 title, the odds were always going to be against Fernando Santos’ side recreating a similar storybook ending. Once again (like five years ago), Portugal’s group stage was underwhelming, as they finished in third and only won once (against Hungary). Even that win came from three late goals after the Hungarians ran out of steam following a semi-lucky deflected strike by left-back Raphael Guerreiro.
The German loss was abysmal, as Germany’s wing-backs (particularly Gosens) caused Portugal’s usually compact defence all types of problems. The 2-2 draw against France was much better and it led to qualification into the round of 16. However, finishing in third led to a bigger issue: a date with Belgium. Despite a great second half, the Portuguese could not score an equalizer, going out to Thorgan Hazard’s incredible first-half strike. Santos felt aggrieved following the elimination, but it still happened, and the defending European champions’ early exit made Euro 2020 a massive disappointment for Portugal. Even though Ronaldo finished with the most goals, this ridiculously talented squad should have done much better.
Belgium: Another Tough Ending for the Golden Generation
It may be harsh to consider a quarter-final elimination to the eventual champions a disappointment, but for this Belgian team, that is the case. Roberto Martinez’s side were the top-ranked nation in the FIFA World Rankings since September 2018, and with the so-called ‘golden generation’, Euro 2020 became a win or bust scenario. Prior to the Italy loss, Belgium had only lost twice since the World Cup semi-final defeat to France and had dominated most of their opponents. They were one of only two teams to win all 10 qualification matches, and they scored 40 goals overall (the most in Europe). It was all lining up perfectly for the Belgians.
The group stage went well—three wins (including an impressive comeback victory over Denmark in Copenhagen) and seven goals (tied for the second-most in the competition). Belgium overcoming Portugal 1-0 in the heat of Seville was also seen as a massive step towards finally lifting an international trophy. Then Italy blitzed their way to a 2-0 first-half lead, and despite late opportunities and incredible saves from eventual player of the tournament Gianluigi Donnarumma, it was not enough. Once again, Belgium’s talent fell short on the biggest stage. The fact that Italy won the tournament may bring some solace to Martinez and company, but it does not take away from the squad’s disappointment. As the best team in the world over the last three years, Belgium should have something to show for their efforts. Instead, they went home from Euro 2020 a week earlier than they envisioned.
Netherlands: The De Boer Experiment Fails
The Dutch started Euro 2020 exceptionally, winning all three group matches, scoring eight goals (the most), while playing exciting, attacking football. Georginio Wijnaldum and Denzel Dumfries were the standout players in the team, scoring five goals combined, along with astonishing midfield performances from Frenkie de Jong. It appeared all the early criticisms of manager Frank de Boer were overreactions, and with a favourable knockout round draw, a run to the semi-finals appeared on the cards.
Then, the Czech Republic match happened. De Boer and the rest of the Dutch team may have gotten unlucky with Matthijs de Ligt’s second-half red card, which changed the match, but their reaction was pitiful. De Boer subbed off Donyell Malen, his most threatening attacker, and the remaining players on the pitch looked lost and confused. Memphis Depay disappeared from the match, and the Netherlands’ fate was sealed after two excellent Czech goals. After a promising start, the tournament turned to ash for the Dutch, and De Boer resigned shortly after the defeat.
France: An Inexplicable Implosion
Without a doubt, the French collapse in the round of 16 to Switzerland was the most shocking result of Euro 2020. It also made France the most disappointing team in the competition. The world champions came into the tournament expecting to win the Euros with relative ease, having the most talented and deepest squad. The addition of Karim Benzema to an already potent attack seemed unfair. France playing in the so-called ‘Group of Death’ expected to help the team grow into the tournament, where they would then conquer their opposition like in 2018
Instead, France did not even make it to July, losing on penalties to a resilient Swiss side, despite leading 3-1 with under ten minutes left. To fall behind 1-0 was one thing, but to then score three incredible goals in 18 minutes, and then give up two late goals, was beyond shocking. Didier Deschamps was reactive, taking out Antoine Griezmann for defensive midfielder Moussa Sissoko, to hold on and win the match. Instead, Switzerland rallied and stunned the French, who must have thought their passage to the quarterfinals was already confirmed. Included in this mess was Kylian Mbappe’s miserable tournament and the comical infighting between Adrien Rabiot’s mother with the Pogba and Mbappe families. In the end, France’s Euro 2020 was a complete and total disaster.