The 2020 Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) European Football Championship, otherwise known as the UEFA Euro 2020, is an international football tournament featuring the men’s national teams from all around Europe. 

Given the unique circumstances, the UEFA Euros were held in 2021 instead of 2020, but nevertheless, the tournament went ahead this year, and athletes alike embodied the beloved spirit of football competition. 

Kicking off

The UEFA Euros consists of four stages before a team can reach the finals: the group stages, the knockout stage, the quarterfinals, and the semifinals. After two wins in the preliminary group stages, Italy showed up in the knockout stage as one of the favorites in the competition to win the championship, punctuated by three wins from the group stages. England was also considered a strong contender in the tournament. 

True enough, the two countries made it past the knockout stages and entered the quarterfinals, once again, as favored winners. Joining them in the quarterfinals stage were Switzerland, Spain, Belgium, Czech Republic, Denmark, and Ukraine. With eight of the best teams in the world competing at one of the highest levels of football, the quarterfinals of the Euros 2020 drew out the tenacity and grit of all teams.

Quarterfinal action

To kick off the quarterfinals of the Euro 2020, Switzerland and Spain went on to compete in a nail-biting game, each team ending the game with one goal apiece, forcing the game into penalties. As both teams took turns taking their shots, Spain came out ahead, edging out Switzerland, 3-1 to seal their slot in the semis. 

Italy also booked a slot into the semifinals of the tournament with a 2-1 win, keeping Belgium at bay the entire second half of the game. Denmark was also able to secure their spot in the semifinals by scoring two goals in the first half of their game, preventing Czech Republic from equalizing in the second half, with the game ending with a 2-1 win by Denmark. 

Unlike the other teams in the quarterfinals, England enjoyed a big win against Ukraine, cruising to a 4-0 victory. Harry Kane was the star of the match, scoring goals in both halves of the game, proving the undeniable strength of the team. Entering the semifinals, the English men were favored to come out on top. 

From heartbreaks to breakthroughs

With Italy failing to qualify for the 2014 FIFA World Cup, they were eager to finally make a return to the world’s biggest stage. Following their impressive display at Euro 2020, before the start of the match, Italy was expected to emerge victorious. Meanwhile, Spain was regarded as a shadow of its former self.

Penalty kicks eventually came to be the deciding factor once more, as it also played a major role when both teams battled it out in Euro 2008. This time, however, the Azzurris prevailed with Gianluigi Donnarumma keeping the Italian goal under wraps and Jorge ‘Jorginho’ Filho tallying the clinching goal in the shootout, edging Spain, 4-2 on penalties after a 1-1 draw.

On the other hand, England and Denmark also duked it out in the semis. The Three Lions wanted to seek revenge after a 0-1 defeat against Christian Eriksen’s penalty kick in their first meeting, while the Danes aimed to cruise their way to a second European Championship appearance.

After both teams failed to score one more in regulation, England’s Kane decided to step up and net a rebound goal in extra time, 2-1, after Denmark’s Kasper Schmeichel blocked the Tottenham striker’s first attempt. 

The crown comes to Rome

Italy hoped to end a 43-year drought at the European Championship after struggling since losing their previous two final appearances, 2-1 to France in 2000, and then 4-0 to Spain in 2012.

England started strong in the first half with Luke Shaw’s tap-in from a Kieran Trippier cross at the first two minutes of the match. However, Italy bounced back and regained tempo in the second with a close-range finish from Leonardo Bonucci after a corner kick scramble, tying it at the 67th-minute mark. Until the game entered extra time, neither side managed to score goals.

In the shootout, England managed to gain the lead when Harry Maguire converted his kick, 2-1. Bonucci then followed with his to even up the game at 2-2. Afterward, Federico Bernardeschi successfully converted a penalty kick against Jordan Pickford, 3-2. 

With the score in favor of Italy and a Donnarumma penalty save against Bukayo Saka to cap it off, the Italians finally emerged triumphant and bagged their long-awaited Euro title after a decade and a half.

By Annika Cañiza

By Dayne Aduna

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