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Euro 2020 Team of the Week – Cristiano Ronaldo, Kevin De Bruyne, Paul Pogba

The fates of the continent’s finest have been sealed following the final round of group matches at Euro 2020, as the elite 16 prepare for battle in the knockout stages while others bow out with their heads held high.

Roberto Mancini‘s well-drilled Italy outfit cruised into the knockout stages without shipping a goal and now gear up to meet Austria in the last-16 stage. Wales and Switzerland also progressed from Group A and will face Denmark and France respectively, but Turkey‘s miserable campaign ended without a single point accrued.

A straightforward 2-0 victory over Finland saw the world’s number-one ranked nation Belgium top Group B as they prepare for battle with reigning champions Portugal, while Denmark’s emotional victory over Russia saw the Nordic nation progress by the skin of their teeth.

Frank de Boer‘s Netherlands outfit swept aside the competition in Group C to progress as winners, with Austria also advancing for the first time ever while Ukraine qualified as one of the four best third-placed teams.

Scotland‘s continental campaign ended at the first hurdle as Croatia turned up the heat to seal progress, while another narrow victory for England over the Czech Republic guaranteed their first-placed ranking and another showdown with Germany.

In Group E, meanwhile, Sweden sprang a surprise to pip Spain to top spot and book their place in the last-16 alongside La Roja, while France, Germany and Portugal all managed to progress from the Group of Death as a resilient Hungary went down fighting.

Here, Sports Mole selects its Team of the Week for the latest round of Euros fixtures.


DEFENCE

Andreas Christensen celebrates scoring for Denmark against Russia at Euro 2020 on June 21, 2021

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The goals were flying in during a breathtaking week of European Championship football, and it was difficult to identify a number of goalkeepers who stood out in between the sticks. Switzerland’s Yann Sommer deserves a mention, but Danny Ward was one of the main reasons that Wales came out on the wrong end of a hugely respectable 1-0 defeat to Italy. The 28-year-old did not let the magnitude of the occasion phase him as he made five saves and could do very little about the Azzurri’s winner.

A packed stadium in Copenhagen were first forced to witness the horrific scenes of Christian Eriksen suffering a cardiac arrest, but supporters were treated to something truly sublime from Andreas Christensen when Russia paid a visit. With Stanislav Cherchesov‘s men threatening a comeback, Christensen pounced on a loose ball and fired a thunderous long-range effort into the roof of the net as Denmark did Eriksen proud.

Fingers may have been pointed at Mats Hummels for Hungary’s opening goal on matchday three, but the recalled centre-back was a constant threat at the other end of the field for Die Mannschaft. Hummels provided the assist for Kai Havertz‘s first equaliser and struck the woodwork himself, while also winning seven aerial duels, making five interceptions and finishing with a pass success rate of 95%.

In order to accommodate a wealth of stellar attacking performances, we have opted for a three-man defence for matchweek three, and Aymeric Laporte gets the nod on the left-hand side. Having already become a regular after declaring for La Roja, the Manchester City man notched Spain’s second of their five against Slovakia with a looping header, and 88 of his 89 attempted passes a came off – a staggering success rate of 99%. Thomas Vermaelen, David Alaba and Harry Maguire just miss out on spots in the defence.


MIDFIELD

France's Paul Pogba applauds fans after the Euro 2020 match with Portugal on June 23, 2021

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Following an underwhelming campaign with Paris Saint-Germain, Pablo Sarabia‘s selection against Slovakia raised a few eyebrows, but the winger certainly justified his inclusion on the day. Sarabia rattled the woodwork – which led to Martin Dubravka‘s calamitous error – scored one and assisted another on the day and has without question put his name in the hat for the knockout stages.

When it comes to midfield maestros, there are few as classy and elegant as a fully-fit Marco Verratti, and the PSG man made his return to Italy’s starting lineup with aplomb during their victory over Wales. Verratti drew the foul which led to the game-winning free kick as he assisted Matteo Pessina‘s winner, and with four tackles, five key passes and 95% pass success rate to boot, it was a spectacular all-around performance from the Italian.

Alongside Verratti is a man who is being tipped to link up with the Italian maestro at the Parc des Princes next term, Paul Pogba. No matter which direction his Manchester United career may be heading in, Pogba is always capable of producing on the big stage for his country and was pinging balls forward like there was no tomorrow against Portugal. Nine of his 11 long passes were accurate, he provided the assist for Karim Benzema‘s second and was only denied a spectacular winner by the reaches of Rui Patricio, who tipped the midfielder’s long-range effort onto the woodwork to preserve a point for his side.

Renato Sanches and Georginio Wijnaldum deserve special mentions, but Pogba and Verratti pulled the strings for their nations, and the possibility of both men playing on the same team next year is certainly an exciting prospect. The final spot in our midfield four is occupied by Switzerland’s Steven Zuber, who set up all three of his country’s goals in their 3-1 success over Turkey from the left-hand side and is one to keep an eye on as the Swiss prepare to face world champions France.


ATTACK

Cristiano Ronaldo in action for Portugal in June 2021

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Kevin De Bruyne‘s horrific eye injury has clearly not affected his vision, as the Belgium playmaker returned to the starting lineup against Finland and displayed his class throughout the 90 minutes. The Manchester City man laid on an assist for Romelu Lukaku‘s disallowed first goal before setting up his ex-Chelsea protege for a perfectly good goal in the dying embers, and his corner ultimately led to the Red Devils’ opener through Lukas Hradecky. With seven key passes and five tackles on the day, De Bruyne was simply unplayable.

The likes of Bukayo Saka and Memphis Depay deserve special recognition, but Emil Forsberg followed up his game-winning penalty against Slovakia with another inspirational performance to steer Sweden to top spot in Group E. The playmaker chalked up two of Sweden’s three strikes in their five-goal thriller with Poland – and his second on the day was expertly taken – and he has been the Scandinavians’ star man during a hugely successful group stage.

Robert Lewandowski is worthy of a mention following his ultimately insignificant brace on the day, but on a record-equalling and record-breaking evening, Cristiano Ronaldo was the only candidate to spearhead the attack. The Juventus man may have notched up both of his goals against France from the penalty spot, but in doing so, he equalled Ali Daei‘s record of 109 international goals and surpassed Miroslav Klose as the player with the most goals at the Euros and World Cup combined (20). The record-breaking 110th international strike is firmly within his sights, but at the age of 36, Portugal will soon have to prepare for life without their talisman.


SPORTS MOLE’S EURO 2020 TEAM OF THE WEEK

Euro 2020 TOTW 3

Sports Mole’s Euro 2020 team of the week (3-4-2-1): Ward; Christensen, Hummels, Laporte; Sarabia, Pogba, Verratti, Zuber; De Bruyne, Forsberg; Ronaldo


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