The end of Euro 2016 is upon us and the spoils go to the underdogs Portugal who overcame the hosts in extra time of the final. No one thought they would get as far as they did, let alone win the whole thing, making up for their heartbreak in 2004.
There are no real surprises in the best 11 of the tournament, with the French being the most represented with four players in total.
No one from Belgium or England have been selected because the teams simply should have done better. Also, no Icelandic players made the cut because they played as a team, not as individuals.
The captain of the runners-up Hugo Lloris has been selected as the best goalkeeper of the tournament, piping Manuel Neuer to the position. He kept 3 clean sheets, joint-second best, but he also made vital point-blank saves against Romania and Germany that kept his team on their path to the final. He was there for his team when called upon, a sign of a truly world-class keeper.
Germany’s first player in the 11 comes in the form of Jonas Hector at left back. Whilst they should have won the whole thing, Die Mannschaft have found the answer to their problems on the left side of their stubborn defence in the Cologne man. He was a danger in both attack and defence and scored the decisive penalty in their quarterfinal win over the Italians.
Centre back was a tough pick, with Leonardo Bonucci, Jerome Boateng, Ashley Williams and Laurent Koscielny and Pepe all considered for the two positions. The Italian and the Portuguese were ultimately chosen for their determined displays.
Pepe has struggled with fitness and injury throughout the whole tournament but played as if nothing was ever wrong, starting all but one of the seven games for the winners. Inspired those around him and deserved to lift the trophy at the end of it all.
The Italian warrior Bonucci symbolised his coaches’ philosophy at Euro 2016. With a mixture of determination and passion, he was solid defensively and still managed to score a goal and register an assist in Italy’s five matches. His performance against Spain was one of the best individual outings of the tournament.
The right back position was another tough pick, but Portugal’s Cedric Soares has been chosen. He has been quietly brilliant at this tournament and is likely to be the next big player out of Southampton this summer after his performances over the last few weeks. Cedric was solid on the way to the final with his country and lifted the trophy at the end.
Toni Kroos was an easy selection as one of the holding midfielders. He once again showed his class in all six of Germany’s games, dominating the tempo and possession for Joachim Lowe’s team. He completed 581 passes, nearly 190 more than any other player at the tournament.
Paul Pogba joins Kroos in midfield. Although the 23-year-old started the tournament slowly, he has dominated for the French during the knockout stages. His goal against Iceland was key and he played an integral part in their second goal against Germany. Has only added to his growing reputation at Euro 2016.
The attacking trio in midfield have picked themselves, with Dimitri Payet, Antoine Griezmann and Gareth Bale taking the places.
Payet’s early performances were central to the hosts qualifying from their group, with world class goals against both Romania and Albania which has aroused interested from all over Europe. Only Kevin De Bruyne made more key passes than the West Ham player who was inexplicably substituted before the hour mark in the final against the Portuguese.
The man of the moment Gareth Bale showed how he can perform with both individual excellence and as part of a united team. He scored three in as many group stage games to qualify the Dragon’s for the knockout stages in their first tournament since 1958. He did his country proud and exemplified the determination and passion of Chris Coleman’s team.
The host’s poster boy and top scorer Antoine Griezmann has lit this tournament alight. His goals have all had an element of real quality about them, be it scoring under pressure, with his head or one-on-ones, he did them all. The Atletico Madrid man’s tally of six goals is the most scored by a single player at a European Championship tournament, and is only three behind Michel Platini and Cristiano Ronaldo’s total tally of nine.
Upfront is Cristiano Ronaldo, who has played a different role in this tournament to what he is used to. Although the Real Madrid man finished as Portugal’s joint top scorer, he really took on his role as captain and leader, inspiring those around him to the final, where he was heartbreakingly injured after just 17 minutes. Vital goals against Hungary and Wales helped his team to the final, where he lifted his first major international trophy in the most dramatic of matches.
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