The football carnival in Europe came to a close yesterday after Eder’s strike crowned Portugal as the champions. Although the tournament was not the best in terms of quality, it surely had some big individual stars. Here is our team for the tournament.
Three at the back was the flavour of the tournament with Wales, Italy, and Germany using it at some point of time in the tournament. Although the finalists played four at the back, we have gone for three central defenders in a 3-4-3 formation.
1. Manuel Neuer
The sweeper keeper was part of the tight Germany defence that conceded just three goals in their run to the semis. In fact, just one of those goals came from open play with the other two being penalties. The Bayern Munich man’s performance in the nail-biting and long penalty shootout against Italy in the quarter-final – he saved kicks from Bonucci and Matteo Darmian - helped him edge out other favourites for the spot like Hugo Lloris and Gianluigi Buffon.
2. Jose Fonte
Till Jose Fonte’s arrival in the Portugal back line, Fernando Santos’ team had conceded four goals in three matches. He replaced veteran Ricardo Carvalho from the knockout stage, and from there on, Portugal conceded just one goal on their way to the title. A lot of accolades have been thrown at his centre back partner Pepe, but the Southampton man has been the silent warrior in the Portuguese defence.
The Juventus defender was a big part of Antonio Conte’s impenetrable Italian defence that conceded just two goals in the tournament. Standing tall at the centre of the back-three, the 29-year-old kept the forwards under control as Conte scripted a tactical masterpiece on the field. Apart from his heroics at the back, he also stepped up to beat Neuer from the spot in the match against Germany to take the time to extra-time. Although he failed to do the same in the shootout, his performance at the centre of the defence has made him an unavoidable name in the team.
4. Jerome Boateng
The German defender will be known for his handball, which gave away the penalty against Italy, in the tournament. But, his performances at the back along with different partners and in different formations have shown his immense value. After working under Pep Guardiola for three years, adapting to different formations would have been a piece of cake for the Bayern Munich defender, but it is his ability to keep his calm at the back that has helped him get the spot ahead of other contenders. To add to his defensive display, he also chipped in with a 25-yard strike against Slovakia in the round of 16
5. Renato Sanches
Appearances: 6, Goals scored: 1
The Young Player of the Tournament awardee was a sensation at the Euros and exceeded expectations by playing much better that many international stars. After three substitute appearances in the first four matches, the 18-year-old started for Portugal in the quarter-final against Poland and scored his first goal for the country to level things up in the match. From there on, there was no looking back, and the new Bayern Munich player also broke teammate Ronaldo’s record of being the youngest-ever finalist.
6. Aaron Ramsey
Wales had a fairy-tale run to the semis of the European championship, which was ended by eventual champions Portugal. But, one man missing on that night against Cristiano Ronaldo’s team was Aaron Ramsey. Ramsey’s second booking of the tournament, which he received against Belgium, proved to be a big blow for Wales as they went down 0-2 in the semi-final. With one goal and four assists from the centre of the midfield, the Arsenal man ran the show for the Welsh side along with Gareth Bale, who scored three goals in the tournament.
7. Toni Kroos
Kroos was the star for the Germany in the midfield as they made it to the last four of the tournament. The Real Madrid midfielder pulled the strings in the middle and gave the ball to his attackers to pump in the goals. With not too many goals and assists to his name, it is easy to undervalue Kroos’ presence in the middle, but the small passes he made during the tournament helped the World Champions remain potent in both attack and defence.
The West Ham man was France’s best player in the group stages as he scored two late goals to take the hosts into the knockouts. Although his performance levels dipped a bit in the knockout stages, particularly in the final and semi-final, the 29-year-old was integral
9. Gareth Bale
Just like Ramsey, Gareth Bale was also a big presence in Wales’ run to the semis. The Real Madrid man scored three goals in the tournament, all of which came in the group stages, and also played a part in the goal against Northern Ireland to help his team. However, his heroics came to a halt in the semis after he ran into his Madrid teammate Ronaldo.
Appearances: 7, Goals scored: 6, Assists: 2
The Golden Boot winner was inches away from giving France the lead in the final, but his miss from six yards proved to be costly for the hosts. Although he had a final to forget, the Atletico Madrid forward is arguably the player of the tournament as he pumped in goals for fun throughout the tournament. A second-half brace against the Republic of Ireland in the round of 16 and the brace against World champions Germany in the semi-final showed the importance of Griezmann in France’s run to the final.
Also read: Remembering the Greek Miracle of Euro 2004
11. Cristiano Ronaldo (Captain)
It all looked like a disaster for Portugal in the final after Ronaldo was stretchered off the field after picking up the injury. But, the Real Madrid man, who powered his team to the finals with three goals and three assists, inspired the team from the bench to help them clinch their first-ever European championship title. After his heroics as the skipper for the Portuguese side, it is only logical to give the armband to CR7 to lead the team of the tournament.