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European Championship Player of the Tournament Winners

Fri 13 May 2022 | 4:30

Gianluigi Donnarumma is the first goalkeeper to win the Player of the Tournament award at the Euros. Read on to find out more about European Championship Player of the Tournament Winners.

The Player of the Tournament award is presented to the best player at each edition of the UEFA European Championship since 1996. However, before 1996 UEFA did have POT (Player of the Tournament), but the title was unofficial and not considered a

UEFA European Championship award

.

UEFA published on its website the Player of the Tournament in 1984, 1988, and 1992. The winners were Michel Platini, Marco van Basten, and Peter Schmeichel, respectively.

Since 1996, the title has been given an official status and the majority of winners are from the team that had successfully won the competition.

Also, starting from Euro 2016, the appearance of the trophy changed from a circle-shaped trophy to a simpler, smaller trophy with “Player of the Tournament” written on it.

European Championship Player of the Tournament Winners:

Italy won their second European Championship and sixth major trophy overall by beating

England

in the Euro 2020.

Gianluigi Donnarumma

’s heroics in penalty shootout ensured that he got his gigantic hands on the Player of the Tournament trophy shortly after the final whistle at Wembley.

Matthias Sammer, Germany – Euro ‘96 England

  • Full name: Matthias Sammer

  • Date of birth: 5 September 1967 (age 54)

  • Place of birth: Dresden, East Germany

  • Height: 1.81 m (5 ft 11+1⁄2 in)

  • Position(s): Defensive midfielder/Sweeper

The 1996 UEFA European Football Championship was the 10th UEFA European Championship, a quadrennial football tournament contested by European nations and organized by UEFA. It took place in England from 8 to 30 June 1996 and it was the first European Championship to feature 16 finalists.

In UEFA Euro 1996, Sammer played in the libero role he had been converted to at

Borussia Dortmund

. Germany was seeded in the Group C of the tournament alongside Czech Republic, Italy, and Russia. Germany opened the tournament very well as they beat Czech 2-0 at Old Trafford in their opening game.

The second game against Russia was even better and Germany won the game 3-0. Sammer scored the opening goal that day. With another draw, Germany advanced to the knockout stage as group C leader.

They faced Croatia in the quarter-finals and Sammer, although playing as a Libero and the last line of defense, was able to score the winning goal for Germany as they won the match 2-1.

In the semi-finals, Germany had to play against England. It was a hard-fought game and enjoyable to watch that ended with a 1-1 draw after 120 minutes and went through the penalties. There, Gareth Southgate missed England’s 6th penalty resulting in their loss and Germany’s win.

Czech Republic once again had to play against Germany, this time in the finals. Although Germany conceded the first goal, but two-goal from

Oliver Bierhoff

that one of them was the golden goal crowned Germany as the new Europe champions.

This was the first major competition to be decided using the golden goal method. This was also Germany's first major title won as a unified nation, adding to the two European Championship titles won by West Germany prior to reunification.

In the end, due to Sammer’s brilliant defensive and offensive performances, he was awarded with the first official “Player of the Tournament” title by UEFA. Sammar, as a libero defender was one of the pillars that prevented the team to concede more than 3 in the whole campaign and also scored 2 goals to help his team in attack.

Zinedine Zidane, France – Euro 2000 Belgium and Netherlands

  • Full name: Zinedine Yazid Zidane

  • Date of birth: 23 June 1972 (age 49)

  • Place of birth: Marseille, France

  • Height: 1.85 m (6 ft 1 in)

  • Position(s): Attacking midfielder

The finals tournament was played between 10 June and 2 July 2000, and co-hosted by Belgium and the Netherlands, the first time the tournament had been held in more than one nation.

Spain and Austria also bid to host the event. The finals tournament was contested by 16 nations; with the exception of the hosts, Belgium and the Netherlands.

Zidane

and France entered the tournament as world champions as they have won the lucrative FIFA World Cup, two years prior to the Euro. On an individual note, Zidane also won the Ballon d’Or in 1998 and many believe that Zidane was definitely in his prime during that period.

France started the Euros very well in the group stage. They won both their matches against

Denmark

and Czech Republic, 3-0 and 2-1, respectively.

Zidane, playing as an attacking midfield, had to control and construct each attack and he did it perfectly every time, game after game. France lost the last game in the group but they had already reserved their spot in the quarter-finals.

The blues had to face Spain in the quarter-finals. Zidane opened the game by scoring a beautiful curling shot from a free-kick into the corner of the net as France won Spain 2-1.

Next, France had to face Portugal. It was an even game as both teams were displaying attacking football and the game finally ended with a 1-1 draw in the 90 minutes, so they had to play another 30 minutes with the golden goal rule before going to penalties.

While everyone thought the fate of the game would be decided by the penalties, the referee blew his whistle in the 116th minute of the game and gave a penalty to France.

Luckily for France, they had Zidane, one of the most composed players on the planet. Zizou stood behind the ball and put it into the net, winning the game for his country.

The final was set to be played on July 2, 2000. France had to go head-to-head against Italy to determine the new champions in Europe. Zidane shined brightly, casting a spell on his opponents with clever flicks, mesmerizing stepovers, slaloming runs, and masterful vision.

He was controlling the game like no others. Just like the semis, the game ended with a 1-1 draw and France was able to win the game, thanks to Trézéguet’s golden goal, and became the first team to win the European championship while being world champion since West Germany in 1974.

Zidane himself believes he was at his peak during the tournament, while the UEFA website states, "In Belgium and the Netherlands, Zidane dominated a major championship in a way no individual had managed since

Diego Maradona

in 1986. From the opening game against Denmark to the final against Italy.” And at the end, UEFA named Zidane “Player of the Tournament”.

Theodoros Zagorakis, Greece – Euro 2004 Portugal

  • Full name: Theodoros Zagorakis

  • Date of birth: 27 October 1971 (age 50)

  • Place of birth: Lydía, Kavala, Greece

  • Height: 1.78 m (5 ft 10 in)

  • Position(s): Central midfielder

The tournament was rich in surprises and upsets: Germany, Spain, and Italy were eliminated in the group stage while defending champions France were knocked out in the quarter-finals by Greece.

Portugal recovered from an opening defeat against Greece to reach the final, eliminating England and the

Netherlands

along the way. For the first time in a major European football tournament, the last match featured the same teams as the opening match.

Theodoros Zagorakis played an important role in Greece's win in the 2004 European Championships as their captain. Greece was seeded in group A alongside, the host, Portugal, Spain, and Russia. The group opened with a shock as Greece, ranked outsiders from start, defeated the hosts 2–1.

Greece then drew 1-1 with Spain before losing 2-1 to Russia in their last group stage game. Greece advanced to the quarter-finals as runners-up, ahead of Spain on goals scored. Zagorakis played all three games from start to finish as one of the central midfielders in Greece’s classic 4-4-2 formation.

The Greeks continued to stun everybody. Firm defensive play and an Angelos Charisteas goal in 65 minutes helped Greece defeat

France

1–0 and progress to the semi-finals. This victory made Greece the first team to defeat both the holders and the hosts in the same tournament. Greece had to face Czech Republic in the semi-finals.

The Czech Republic looked the likely candidate to face the hosts in the final. They were favorites to take the trophy, having won all four of their games. However, they would have to see off the upstart Greeks to do so.

The game remained goalless until the dying moments of the first half of extra time when Traianos Dellas headed home the winner, the first and only silver goal in a European Championship.

The final was a repeat of the opening game of the tournament and Portugal was hoping to avenge their defeat.

Portugal

attacked and dominated possession but once again, with the help of Zagorakis, firm defending and goalkeeping from Greece kept the hosts off the scoreboard.

Greece won the match 1–0 and was crowned European champions. Greece's triumph was unexpected, considering that they had only qualified for two other major tournaments, the UEFA Euro 1980 and the 1994 FIFA World Cup, where they failed to win a single match.

Theodoros Zagorakis was given the title of “Player of the Tournament” after the final match due to his impeccable leadership and fantastic character on and outside of the pitch.

Xavi, Spain – Euro 2008 Austria and Switzerland

  • Full name: Xavier Hernández Creus

  • Date of birth: 25 January 1980 (age 42)

  • Place of birth: Terrassa, Spain

  • Height: 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)

  • Position(s): Midfielder

  • Current team: Barcelona (manager)

The tournament was won by Spain, who defeated Germany 1–0 in the final. Spain was only the second nation to win all their group stage fixtures and then the European Championship itself, matching France's achievement from 1984.

Spain was also the first team in Germany in 1996 to win the tournament undefeated. Spain was in group D of the competition alongside the defending champions Greece, Sweden, and Russia.

Greece failed to reproduce the form of their shock 2004 win and ended the tournament with no points. Russia qualified at the expense of Sweden, after beating them in a final game decider, joining Spain in the knockout phase.

Spain, with the help of their new and improved squad, was able to win the group with maximum points. They scored 8 goals and conceded 3.

Xavi

started the first two matches alongside Senna as Spain’s double pivots and was able to control the attacks and put a stop to opponents’ attacks with his intelligent positioning. Xavi was rested by the late Luis Aragonés in the third group game.

In the quarter-finals, Spain was facing world champion, Italy. After 120 minutes of football, the game ended goalless and Spain was able to go through after De Rossi and Di Natale missed their penalties for Italy. Spain, also, won the semi-final against Russia by three goals to nil, earning their first appearance in a major final for 24 years.

Xavi scored the first goal that evening for Spain and had a huge influence before coming off in the 70th minute. In the final against Germany, after half an hour, Xavi played a pass in behind Germany's backline towards Torres, who outmuscled a hesitant

Philipp Lahm

and clipped the ball over the diving Jens Lehmann and just inside the far post.

That goal proved to be the only goal of the game, which Spain dominated despite Germany having the majority of the possession, and Spain was crowned UEFA Euro 2008 champions.

Xavi was named Euro 2008's “Player of the Tournament” after the finals. He was dominant in midfield, where his passing and reading of the game were pivotal to Spain's success, as he led his nation to their first silverware since the 1964 European Championship.

Andy Roxburgh, head of UEFA's Technical Committee, said, "We have chosen Xavi because he epitomizes the Spanish style of play. He was influential in the whole possession, passing and penetrating kind of game that Spain played."

Andrés Iniesta, Spain – Euro 2012 Poland and Ukraine

  • Full name: Andrés Iniesta Luján

  • Date of birth: 11 May 1984 (age 38)

  • Place of birth: Fuentealbilla, Spain

  • Height: 1.70 m (5 ft 7 in)

  • Position(s): Midfielder

  • Current team: Vissel Kobe

Euro 2012 was the last European Championship to employ the 16-team finals format in use since 1996; from Euro 2016 onward, it was expanded to 24 finalists.

Spain became the first team to win two consecutive European Championships, and also three straight major tournaments (Euro 2008, 2010 World Cup, and Euro 2012).

One of the famous names on the list of the

European Championship Player of the Tournament winners

is

Andrés Iniesta

, who was awarded the man of the match award for his performances in three different matches at UEFA Euro 2012. He was also selected as the man of the match in the final. In winning the award, Iniesta became the only Spanish player to win the award at least once in each of Spain's three consecutive successful tournaments.

Spain, managed by Vicente del Bosque, was a cheat code that year. They basically played without the main striker throughout the tournament. Spain was performing a symphony of passes each game, playing a 4-6-0 formation and basically passing their way to the opposition’s goal, and Iniesta was the choirmaster.

His balance, ball control, and agility in close spaces, allied with his skill, composure, and flair on the ball, saw him make progress as an attacking midfielder and infiltrate the opposition’s defense to either score or assist.

Spain won Group C of the competition, where the pool consisted of Spain, Italy, the Republic of Ireland, and Croatia. Spain scored 6 and conceded only one goal against Italy in the first match. Surprisingly, that goal was the only goal they conceded during the whole tournament.

Iniesta played as a left-winger during that time in Spain’s squad and he was the one who, unselfishly, passed the ball to Jesus Navas in the 88th minute in the game against Croatia to his country to win the last game of the group stage.

Spain’s road was very hard in the knockout phase but Andres and his mates were there to defend their title. In the quarter-finals, they faced France and after a great game, Spain won the game 2-0. Next, they were able to beat Portugal and one of the deadliest versions of

Cristiano Ronaldo

, in the penalties after the game ended in a goalless draw, putting them in the finals.

The match was played at the Olympic Stadium, Kyiv, Ukraine, on 1 July 2012, and was contested by Spain and Italy. Spain took the lead in the 14th minute when Andrés Iniesta played a through-ball to Cesc Fàbregas, who ran past Giorgio Chiellini to the by-line before pulling back a cross for David Silva to head in from close range.

Spain doubled their lead before half-time and

Fernando Torres

and Juan Mata scored the third and fourth goals in the last 10 minutes of the game as Spain battered Italy 4-0. Iniesta was chosen as the UEFA Euro 2012 Player of the Tournament, afterward.

Antoine Griezmann, France – Euro 2016 France

  • Full name: Antoine Griezmann

  • Date of birth: 21 March 1991 (age 31)

  • Place of birth: Mâcon, France

  • Height: 1.76 m (5 ft 9 in)

  • Position(s): Forward, attacking midfielder

  • Current team: Atlético Madrid (on loan from Barcelona)

For the first time, the European Championship final tournament was contested by 24 teams, having been expanded from the 16-team format used since 1996. France was chosen as the host nation on 28 May 2010, after a bidding process in which they beat Italy and Turkey for the right to host the 2016 finals.

France, as hosts, was seeded in group A of the tournament with Switzerland, Albania, and Romania.

Griezmann

was majorly played as a shadow striker behind the main striker in Didier Deschamps’s 4-2-3-1, giving him the ability to create and build the attacks while also using second balls and inside runs to score.

Griezmann was chosen for France as they hosted UEFA Euro 2016, and started the opening game, with a 2–1 win over Romania. For their performances, he and Paul Pogba were benched for the next game against Albania at the Stade Vélodrome; Griezmann came on in place of Giroud in the second half and headed Adil Rami's cross with the first shot on target in the last minute to open a 2–0 win. Antoine Griezmann’s name is on the list of the

European Championship Player of the Tournament winners

.

France was prevented another win by Switzerland in the last group match and with that tie, Switzerland was able to qualify for the knockout stage alongside, the group’s winner, France.

In the last 16 against the Republic of Ireland in Lyon, Griezmann scored twice during three minutes as the French recovered from a half-time deficit to a comeback and win the game 2–1. He was also fouled by Shane Duffy who was given a straight red card in the 66th minute.

On 3 July, Griezmann assisted Pogba and Dimitri Payet before scoring himself in a 5–2 quarter-final win as they battered Iceland in the quarter-finals of the tournament.

In the semi-finals against the country of his father's birth, Germany, four days later, Griezmann scored both goals in the 2–0 victory to lead France to their third European Championship final.

In the finals, however, France came up short and was defeated 1-0 by Portugal in a dramatic game. Griezmann was named

Euro golden boot winner

, with the amazing statistics of six goals and two assists in seven games.

He was named the “Player of the Tournament”, also being named to the team of the tournament. His tally of six goals at the tournament was second only to the nine goals by compatriot Michel Platini at UEFA Euro 1984.

Gianluigi Donnarumma, Italy – Euro 2020 Europe

  • Full name: Gianluigi Donnarumma

  • Date of birth: 25 February 1999 (age 23)

  • Place of birth: Castellammare di Stabia, Italy

  • Height: 1.96 m (6 ft 5 in)

  • Position(s): Goalkeeper

  • Current team: Paris Saint-Germain

The tournament was originally intended to be played between 12 June and 12 July 2020. However, due to the COVID-19 pandemic affecting Europe during that year, the tournament was postponed to June and July 2021, while retaining the name UEFA Euro 2020 and hosting venues.

Alongside special rules regarding COVID-19, UEFA also allowed more substitutions and implemented video assistant referee (VAR) for the first time.

While big teams such as Belgium, England, Portugal, Germany, and world champion, France were considered favorites, it was a balanced Italy team that won the tournament, well-deservingly.

Among

European Championship Player of the Tournament winners

is Gianluigi Donnarumma who was included in Italy's squad for UEFA Euro 2020. In his first game in the competition, on 11 June against Turkey, he kept a clean sheet in a 3–0 win for Italy. Gigi continued his clean sheets and Italy continued winning throughout the group stage with a 3-0 against Switzerland and a 1-0 win over Wales.

In the round of 16 played at Wembley Stadium, Italy struggled against Austria, and it was only in the first period of extra time that Italian substitutes Federico Chiesa and Pessina each delivered a goal to give Italy a 2–0 lead.

Despite substitute Saša Kalajdžić salvaging a goal for Austria in the second half of extra time (the first goal conceded by the Italians at the tournament), Italy held on to reach the quarter-finals.

Italy's quarter-final encounter against Belgium, saw strong Italian domination, as Nicolò Barella beat Thibaut Courtois to score in the 31st minute before Insigne doubled Italy's lead in the 44th minute; Belgium's

Romelu Lukaku

then converted a successful penalty past Donnarumma during stoppage time of the first half. Italy once again held the score line to eliminate the Belgians with the score being 2-1.

The victory set a new record for the longest European Championship winning streak at 15. In the semi-final against Spain on 6 July, following a 1–1 draw after extra-time, Donnarumma saved

Álvaro Morata

's spot-kick to help Italy to a 4–2 penalty shoot-out victory, which allowed Italy to advance to the final of the tournament.

On 11 July in the final against England at Wembley Stadium, following a 1–1 draw after extra-time, Donnarumma saved two spot-kicks during the penalty shootout, including Saka’s decisive final kick, to win the tournament for Italy for the first time since 1968.

His calmness after saving the penalty was almost frighting to see and was instantly translated to his humongous confidence by the media, while Gigi, himself, corrected that he didn’t have any reaction simply because he wasn’t sure whether the game was over or not.

Nevertheless, for his performances throughout the competition, including keeping three clean sheets, making nine saves, and conceding only four goals in seven appearances, he was named

Euro 2021 Player of the tournament

and by UEFA. It was the first time a goalkeeper had won the award.

  

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