Romelo Lukaku, Harry Kane, Kylian Mbappe, Thomas Mueller, Cristiano Ronaldo, Marco Verratti… These were some of the men to watch out for this summer. Fans have been expecting performances from them as big as their names. Players have risen to the occasion and produced moments of brilliance out there for their countries, but who has been performing best?
According to the social tracker 2020 Football Festival, Italy have been receiving lots of mentions on the internet, especially as the Azurri defeated Spain on penalties to reach the final. In particular, one man has stood out: Marco Verratti, who has made into the 2020 Football Festival team of the week.
Verratti is a playmaker and, despite the uncertainty around whether he would serve the team, he’s come back from injury and made his mark. In the game against Wales, he made five key passes, attempted 110 passes and completed three out of four crosses. He also whipped in a cross to which Matteo Pessina put the finishing touches with a goal.
Then in the game versus Belgium, he made his impact felt, pressing high on the defence and also assisting in the opening goal. The yellow card he received is something of a ‘So what?’ moment in a fine performance overall from Verratti so far.
When Cristiano Ronaldo gets on the ball, you never quite know what’s going to happen. In the team’s opening game against Hungary, the Portuguese international got straight to work on delivering a fine performance for the defending champions, with two record-setting goals.
The goals took him past Michel Platini as the all-time top scorer. He then scored one against Germany and then two against France to put him even further beyond the reach of the other players. His finals goals tally stands at 14.
Ronaldo also holds the records for most appearances in the finals (24). The next closest person to him, Bastian Schweinsteiger, is quite away behind and has already retired from international football, he sits on 18 appearances.
It was a goal by Lukaku that put Belgium on their way to 2020. He’d been playing well for his club-level employers, Inter Milan, and he planned to carry on this good form when the national side arrived at the finals. Mission accomplished.
In Belgium’s opening game against Russia, Lukaku found the back of the net twice, laying down the gauntlet in the race for the Golden Boot. Cristiano Ronaldo had other ideas and English striker Harry Kane will also have plans for who should be the winner of that prize, however — and Romelo Lukaku, the Most Valuable Player in the Serie A, will feature in neither.
The Tottenham striker has been on the end of some harsh words from his critics, with calls to drop him from the English first eleven for his goalless performance in the group stage, part of a lacklustre group stage performance in general from the squad. Somehow, England and Kane have both managed to step up a gear and he’s managed to extinguish those calls and show the world just what he’s made of.
First, he got on the end of Raheem Sterling’s well-timed pass to put England ahead against their old enemy, Germany. Then he put two past the keeper in Rome in England’s 4-0 win over the Ukraine, allowing England to play in their own backyard of Wembley for the remainder of their tournament.
All of this has come amidst speculation around Kane’s future at Tottenham. Chelsea, Manchester United and Manchester are all thought to be interested in signing the striker, who won the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup. Reports on the summer transfer market will make interesting reading.
Kevin De Bruyne
The Danes may have persevered to the semi-finals, but they still had to contend with the awesome force that is Belgian attacking midfielder Kevin de Bruyne. The Manchester City midfielder is noted for his incisive passing and ability to see holes before they open. He’s also not scared of going for goal either and has proven himself perfectly capable of getting on the scoresheet.
De Bruyne has presence. It shows. At half-time, the side were down 1-0 to Denmark, after some poor defending had let the Danes take the upper hand, leaving it looking as if they’d be running the show.
On stepped De Bruyne in the second half and, within 10 minutes, Belgium’s fortunes started to change, as he laid on a pass that set up for Thorgan Hazard for an equaliser, suggesting that the fractured nose and eye socket from which he’d been recovering had mended safely.
De Bruyne wasn’t done. Twenty minutes from the end of the game, he finished a move started by Lukaku, by scoring the deciding goal. Before his entry into the game, Denmark had looked a shadow of the brilliant team they were in the second half. Both before and after his performance in the game, there was talk of De Bruyne being a potential Ballon d’Or winner.
It has been a thrilling tournament and has brought out the best in some of the top players. Honourable mentions should also Luke Shaw (England), Raheem Sterling (England) and Patrik Schick (Czech Republic).