UEFA Euro 2020 has reached the knockout stages, with the prestigious competition bringing together some of the best teams in Europe to fight for the coveted prize.
With France, Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands all out Belgium, England and Italy are regarded as favourites, but Spain are capable of springing a surprise.
Looking at the Euro 2021 fixtures schedule, we could expect to see the dreams of some big teams shattering even from the group stages.
Cristiano Ronaldo (21 appearances)
Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the biggest football stars in the world, who dominated England, Spain and Italy with his football brilliance. It looks unlikely that any other footballer would ever reach the levels of the Portuguese superstar.
Besides dominating almost every big competition in the world, Ronaldo also made his mark in the European Championship. Without including his matches at Euro 2020, Ronaldo has the distinction of making 21 appearances in the prestigious tournament, making him the highest appearance maker in the history of the European Championship. Recently, he also edged past Michel Platini to become all-time top scorer at the Euros after scoring two goals in Portugal’s opening game against Hungary.
Ronaldo marked his arrival on the international stage when he impressed everyone at Euro 2004. He bagged two goals and two assists to help his side reach the final of the tournament.
The next European Championship didn’t bring a lot of success for the former Real Madrid player as he scored only one goal in the tournament that saw Portugal going out of the competition in the quarter-finals. However, Cristiano came back stronger in the next European Championship in 2012, where he struck three goals to help his side reach the semi-finals. But eventual winners Spain prevailed over them on penalties.
The Juventus forward was a standout performer at Euro 2016. He earned his name on the scoresheet on three occasions, which included a superb header in their victory over Wales in the semi-final.
Portugal’s chances in the final against France received a big blow when Ronaldo was forced off the field with an injury in the first half. However, Fernando Santos’ side went on to pull off the incredible feat without their captain, with Eder popping up with the winner in extra time.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (18)
Bastian Schweinsteiger is considered one of the greatest midfielders of all time. He was highly successful during his time at Bayern Munich where he spent 17 seasons and won eight Bundesliga titles as well as a Champions League trophy. However, Premier League fans couldn’t see the best of him when he moved to Manchester United for a brief spell. But, considering his enormous contributions for both club and country, no one can doubt his great abilities.
Schweinsteiger played his first European Championship in 2004. The then-manager Rudi Voller featured him off the bench in all three group matches but Germany went out of the tournament in the first round following a defeat and two draws.
The ex-Bayern footballer was impressive for his country in their 2006 World Cup victory and was expected to do well at Euro 2008. However, he didn’t get the ideal start when Joachim Low didn’t include him in the opening match while he also received a red card in the second match.
But, after serving his suspension, the German returned in the quarter-final clash with Portugal and heavily contributed in their 3-2 victory by smashing a goal and creating two assists. He also played an instrumental role in their victory over Turkey in the semi-final. But Germany eventually lost against Spain in the final.
At Euro 2012, Schweinsteiger played all five matches for Germany who exited the prestigious tournament at the semi-final stage, with Italy prevailing over them by 2-1. The former Manchester United player also contributed well for his team at Euro 2016, despite largely being featured off the bench.
Gianluigi Buffon (17)
Gianluigi Buffon is widely regarded as one of the greatest goalkeepers of all time. It is not very surprising that he made it to this list considering that the Italian played for the national side for an extended period (between 1997 and 2018).
Buffon would have made more appearances in the European Championship if his injury hadn’t ruled him out of Euro 2000. However, he still managed to make 17 appearances for Italy, making him the third-highest appearance maker in the history of the European Championship.
Buffon, the greatest goalkeeper of the 21st century as per thefootballreports.com, was part of the Italy team who crashed out of the prestigious competition in the group stage in 2004. Following their 2006 World Cup victory, Buffon and co. headed to conquer the Euro 2008, but went out of the tournament after suffering defeat at the hands of eventual winners Spain in the quarter-finals.
The Italian goalkeeper was the captain of the national side at Euro 2012. He led his side to the final after defeating England and Germany in the knockouts. But they once again failed to defeat Spain who clinched back-to-back European Championship trophies. Italy made it to the quarter-finals at Euro 2016, with the veteran goalkeeper featuring in four out of five matches for the Blues.