For every forward taking part in the tournament there’s another target that will be uppermost in their minds: finishing as top goalscorer.
Topping the pile of sharp-shooters at a major tournament is an achievement that is remembered for generations and the deadliest goalscorers of the 15 European Championship tournaments to date are listed within this feature.
So, when you hear strikers saying all that matters in big competition matches is how the team performs you can bet that’s not exactly how they feel.
A strand of selfishness is built into every striker’s DNA. Without it they wouldn’t be the prized commodity they are and it’s that desire to finish top of the tree that is driving dozens of forwards to aim high as they enter EURO 2020.
They will all want their teams to succeed and go as deep into the competition as possible. But if they can get on the scoresheet a few times and put themselves in with a chance of winning the Alipay Top Scorer award, then that adds considerable gloss.
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The man who they are all trying to follow is Antoine Griezmann. Indeed, Antoine Griezmann will be trying to emulate the Antoine Griezmann of 2016, the year he became only the second player – after fellow Frenchman Michel Platini – to score more than five goals in one EURO finals.
The Barcelona forward will be out to retain the crown he earned in his home nation five years ago where he showed his full range of finishing skills to finish three clear of his nearest rival. Unfortunately for him and France, he couldn’t save a goal for the final and Portugal won the Henri Delaunay Cup.
So, if Griezmann doesn’t repeat the magic this time around, who is most likely to steal his crown?
The first place he should look for rivals should be among his own team-mates.
Still only 22, Kylian Mbappé took the 2018 FIFA World Cup by storm and looks ready to go to the next level at EURO 2020. Free-scoring in Ligue 1 in a star-studded Paris Saint-Germain team, his lightning pace and fierce finishing have already been seen many times in the colours of France.
Such is the strength in the French squad that top goalscorer in qualifying, Olivier Giroud, wasn’t guaranteed selection for EURO 2020, while Karim Benzema has not been involved with the national team since 2015. Should either of them be selected, nobody would be surprised to see them repeatedly on the scoresheet.
Beyond France there are some real big-hitters vying to be Griezmann’s successor.
Step forward Cristiano Ronaldo.
The Juventus man has done almost everything in the game and comes into the tournament as the joint-highest goalscorer in European Championship finals history with nine goals across four editions.
However, he has never topped the charts outright in any individual international tournament, though he finished joint-top in 2012 with five others.
Who will win the Golden Boot? Let us know in the comments here.
A man as supremely talented as Ronaldo doesn’t often have to share top spot and this may be his last chance to stand alone as the leading scorer at a EURO.
Another obvious candidate is Robert Lewandowski.
The Bayern Munich goal machine is Poland’s most-capped player of all-time, as well as the highest goalscorer in his country’s history.
He has enjoyed another prolific season in the Bundesliga and if Poland can progress in the tournament, Lewandowski is almost certain to get among the goals.
Indeed, in order to put yourself in the frame for the Alipay Top Scorer award, it’s likely that your team will need to go a long way in the competition.
Since the tournament was increased in size to include eight teams in the finals in 1980, all seven players to have finished outright top scorer have reached at least the semi-final stage.
With that in mind, playing for tournament specialists Germany must be an advantage.
Timo Werner scored freely for RB Leipzig and earned a move to Chelsea while Serge Gnabry was the top goalscorer in qualifying (with eight) for a Germany team that has been sharing the goals around.
England made it to the semi-finals at the 2018 FIFA World Cup with a young team that has been progressing nicely under Gareth Southgate.
Making it to the last four was partly down to the predatory instincts of Harry Kane, who top-scored in Russia with six goals.
Kane was at it again in EURO 2020 qualifying, topping the goalscorers list with 12 and will hope to lead the way in the tournament itself.
Do you think Kane can win the Golden Boot? Or could it be Lewandowski? Let us know in the comments here.
Fellow World Cup semi-finalists Belgium started the year as the world’s number-one-ranked international team and will be one of the favourites to become EURO 2020 winners.
Their goal-getter-in-chief is Romelu Lukaku, who has made an impressive impact during his time in Italian football with Internazionale.
The strength of the current Belgium team is demonstrated by the fact the two top goalscorers in their country’s history – Lukaku and Eden Hazard – are still going strong and in the prime of their careers. Either one of them could easily win this year’s Alipay Top Scorer award.
And what about Ciro Immobile?
Italy are another nation that could be described as tournament specialists and will be tipped to go far. Immobile has been scoring goals galore in a resurgent Lazio side. If given a chance to lead the line, could he have designs on individual glory?
Russia were the first European champions back in 1960 and have a strong record at the EUROs. Their team contains Artem Dzyuba, who hit nine goals during their qualifying campaign, and the talented Denis Cheryshev.
Less fancied possibilities might include Finland’s Teemu Pukki, who struck 10 times in qualifying, or Austria’s Marko Arnautović, who has the ability to destroy any opponent on his day.
Players like Gareth Bale and Christian Eriksen will want to show their class on the big stage while Turkey’s Cenk Tosun scored five goals in six qualifying games.
Other names to look out for are Sweden’s Robin Quaison, who has really made an impact at international level in recent times, while the same could be said of Czech forward Patrik Schick.
While we would naturally look towards the strikers when trying to predict the players who will score most frequently at EURO 2020, there is plenty of goal potential in some of the midfielders at the tournament.
The main threat from the Netherlands may well come from deeper areas. Liverpool ’s Georginio Wijnaldum scored eight goals in qualifying for the Netherlands – a total matched by England’s Raheem Sterling, who operates in forward areas but who could hardly be described as a striker.
Sterling’s Manchester City team-mate Kevin De Bruyne is best known for his assists but with a laser-like shooting boot and deadly accuracy from set pieces, his four goals in qualifying could be bettered in the tournament itself if Belgium go well.
The beauty of EURO 2020 is that there is such strength in depth across all the participating teams that it is difficult enough to pick the team that is likely to win the tournament, let alone the individual who will have the quality, opportunism and good fortune to finish above the rest in the Alipay Top Scorer race. The eventual winner may not even have been mentioned in this feature.
What is certain is that whoever finishes top of the pile will have carved himself a permanent place in European football history and the sub-plot will be fascinating to watch.
May the best man win.
*EXCLUSIVE FEATURE SHARED FROM THE UEFA EURO 2020: OFFICIAL TOURNAMENT MAGAZINE