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Steve Howell, creative partner at creative agency Dark Horses, has had the novel idea of picking the 11 best ads of this year’s Euros. He’s even assigned them a formation and starting position – and frankly, who were we to try stop him? Here he talks us through his picks.

It’s that moment in time that happens every couple of years, give or take a pandemic, when we all become football managers and discuss who to play, how to play and ask the big questions like ’Why do we have four bloody right backs?’

We’ve all seemingly got an opinion that we feel is the antidote to the barren national trophy cabinet.

So in that same vein, feel free to dissect, decimate and start tweeting for my head on a block as I pick my starting XI of Euro 2020 ads. I will probably never be a football manager, but I can arrange ads into competition-winning formations for my own amusement. (And before you start criticizing, I’ve gone for a traditional, if a little unimaginable, 4-4-2, but with a diamond midfield. It’s tried and tested at the highest level.)

Here’s my team. 

Goalkeeper

Goalkeepers are crazy. So the Dutch betting brand Toto is going in net. Because seeing ex-player Wesley Sneijder rapping and dancing to happy hardcore for nearly two minutes is as crazy as you can get. This is an ad that will come forward for corners with 20 minutes left to play. Absolutely bonkers. 

[Editor’s note: We can’t embed this one for boring technical reasons, so please watch it on YouTube here. It’s absolutely worth your time] 

Right back

I’ve got The Sun’s ‘Eur All Invited’ at right back. You don’t always have to like a player to play them. There’s a bit of nostalgia and some feel-good vibes that makes you give it a shot this time out. 

 
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Centre back

The BBC’s ‘Our Wait is Over’ is at the back. It loves to play a bit of route one football with a big hoof down the middle. And with its animatic style, it’s the sort of player that performs in the game exactly as it does in training. 

Read a making-of here.

 
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Centre back (Captain)

At the heart of the defense and captain of this team is The International Committee of the Red Cross with its commercial featuring French footballer, Blaise Matuidi. This is a rare intelligent footballer that sees the game differently to everyone else. It leads by example on and off the pitch, hence the captain’s armband. Solid performance guaranteed. 

 
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Left back

On the left of defense is William Hill’s ‘Let the Good Times Roll’. The laddiest lad in the team. Maybe too laddy. The sort of player that’s going to go out the night before a big game and have photos of their dentist chair shenanigans splashed all over the newspapers the next morning. Hardy. Like Jamie Vardy. 

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Defensive midfield

The workhorse midfielder of this team is Nike’s ‘The Land of New Football’. It might not have the silky skills they did a few years ago, but it does everything asked of it. Expect maximum effort. 

Read more here. 

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Right Midfield

BT’s ‘Hope United’ is pure quality. Technically gifted, this player has honed the craft and it shows as they deftly turn defense into attack with a standout performance. Expect a Player of the Match award at the end of the game. 

More here. 

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Left Midfield

Sports Direct’s ‘Just a game?!’ is flying down the wing. Full of talent and put together nicely, it’s got a zip and energy that will trouble a few defenses. 

More here. 

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Attacking Midfield

Irn-Bru’s ‘Tournament Virgins’ is the sort of player that does all the step-overs and dummies, sending the defense the wrong way, before slotting it home from the edge of the box. Top tekkers. Top bins. 

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Centre Forward

Sometimes you need an out and out goal-poacher. Someone who’s going to be there waiting for the tap-in. And Snickers’ ‘Bothlands’ does it better than most. Don’t underestimate that role – plenty of people easily miss an open net – but its ’Officially awkward sponsor of both England and Scotland’ sticks it away with reassuring confidence. 

More here. 

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Centre Forward

Tennent’s ‘Five Million Reasons’ is that bit of creative flair every team needs up front. They’re the talisman. The player signals to the crowd to cheer louder. The one who’ll grab the game by the scruff of the neck and single-handedly lead you to victory. You never know, they could even end the tournament top scorer. 

 
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Phew, that’s that. Now who makes the bench?