Euro 2016 came to an end on Sunday at the Stade de France as Portugal clinched a hard fought game in the dying moments with a superb strike from Eder. I made my Worst Team of the Tournament last week. Now it’s time to look at the best players of the tournament. There maybe a few surprise inclusions and exclusions. But I believe that I have done justice with my team selection. Here’s a look at the best XI at Euro 2016.
Hugo Lloris (France)
The French shot-stopper was simply superb in this tournament. He made a brilliant save on the line in the opening exchanges vs Romania and was generally solid in dealing with crosses as well. In the semi final against Germany, the French skipper made some outstanding saves from Can and Kimmich and that was the difference as they held on to reach the final. He couldn’t do anything about the powerful strike from Eder in the final as his side just missed out on complete glory. But he was one of the key players in France’s run into the final.
Jonas Hector (Germany)
I’ll be honest. I have never heard of this guy before. But after Euro 2016, pretty much every club will be gunning for his signature. The left back was very effective defensively and galloped forward at every opportunity. He used the ball intelligently and his run and pass for Ozil’s opener against Italy was simply brilliant. He was solid in the game against France as well, but was let down by his teammates. Nevertheless, he has left France as one of the best full backs in the tournament.
Jerome Boateng (Germany)
Germany were quite nervy in the opener against Ukraine. Just when it seemed that the opposition might just score, Boateng produced, what in my opinion is, the greatest goal line clearance in my living memory. And that set the tone for his tournament with 4 straight clean sheets and Germany never conceded a goal from open play when he was on the pitch. He almost undid all of his good work with the handball vs Italy but took his penalty superbly in the shootout and marshalled the backline quite well. Slowly and steadily, Boateng has now cemented his spot as one of the top centre backs in Europe.
2 years back in Brazil, Pepe headbutted Thomas Mueller and got sent off as Portugal crashed out at the group stages. He had let his country down and many called for his axe. Fast forward to the present and here he is, the best Portuguese player in the tournament and he had held on as they claimed a hard-fought victory over the French. At the end of the final, Pepe vomited out of exhaustion and that showed how much he pushed himself to lead the backline. His aerial presence and distribution were excellent and in my opinion, he was the player of the tournament at Euro 2016.
Raphael Guerreiro (Portugal)
Portugal came into the tournament as the ‘dark horses’ because they had a group of young talents that were ready make their entrance on the big stage. And Raphael was the best of that bunch. He slotted in well at full back, defending well and providing a good option in attack as well. His crosses were good and he almost stole the headlines in the final when his free kick crashed against the crossbar. With talents like him coming through, the future of Portuguese football looks bright.
Aaron Ramsey (Wales)
It’s been a journey to the top for the 25-year old, who recovered from a broken leg after a horror tackle by Shawcross 6 years back and endured calls for his exit by his own fans and is now one of the best central midfielders in Europe. He was the engine of the Wales team as he drove them forward at every given opportunity. He was highly influential in the group stage matches against Slovakia and Russia and produced his best performance in the comeback 3-1 win over Belgium where he assisted the first 2 goals. His work rate was as astounding as his hair cut and it’s fair to say that his absence was a major setback for his team as they crashed out against Portugal in the semis.
Toni Kroos (Germany)
Toni Kroos came to the tournament in great form after winning the Champions League with Real Madrid and he continued his fine form as he completely bossed the midfield for the Germans. He completed the most passes in the tournament with a 93% accuracy. He was the man of the match in their opener and used the ball intelligently in midfield throughout. His delivery from set pieces was brilliant throughout and linked up play well. He will be the key player for the team as they will look to put aside the loss and focus on the World Cup qualifiers.
Gareth Bale (Wales)
The Welsh forward was at his very best in France. He was a constant menace with his explosive pace and powerful shooting. His free kick technique has improved tremendously with a technique that is a slightly modified version of Cristiano Ronaldo’s as he scored a couple of stunners against Slovakia and England. He was always involved in the game as performed his defensive duties diligently. His dangerous cross gave Wales the winner in a tightly fought contest against the Northern Ireland. His side fell just short by losing in the semis, but Bale and his team will be legends at home forever.
Dmitri Payet (France)
One year back, hardly a handful of people had known of Dmitri Payet. But a breakthrough season with West Ham has seen him become one of the best players in Europe. He got his national team call up and in his major tournament debut, scored a sensational winner in the 89th minute vs Romania. He went on to score 3 goals and give 2 assists as France made their way into the final. He put a poor show in the final with his most notable moment being the tackle which injured Cristiano Ronaldo. But his performances were what got France to the final in the first place and that’s why he makes it into this team.
Eden Hazard (Belgium)
Now I know that many of you will question this inclusion. But Eden Hazard had a great tournament individually as he showed the form that won him the PFA Player of the Season a year back. He scored 1 goal and gave 4 assists as he was directly involved in more than 50% of his teams goals. He also completed the most dribbles in the tournament with 23. His dribbling and movement were a joy to watch and he showcased the best individual performance of the tournament in the 4-0 victory over Hungary which included a stunning solo strike. He was one of the best wide players in France and a better coach would have probably helped him and his side achieve more from the tournament. Conte will be pleased that his star man is back in form as he takes over at Chelsea.
Antoine Griezmann (France)
Ronaldo equalised Platini’s record by scoring his 9th goal in his 4th European Championship. Griezmann has 6 in just 1 tournament. That’s just how phenomenal the forward was in front of his home crowd. He had a disappointing start vs Romania but improved as the tournament progressed. His stunning one man shows vs Ireland and Germany were brilliant and he even contributed a lot through his passing and link up play. The tournament ended in disappointment for the him as he squandered a few good chances and lost his second European final in a space of 2 months. But he will only become better from now and has a huge future ahead of him.
And this is how they line up –
Raphael Pepe Boateng Hector
Bale Payet Hazard
Players who just missed out:
Neuer proved why he is considered the best keeper in the world with some brilliant performances. His one mistake led to the second goal for the French in the semis and that is where he missed out.
The Italian Centre Back was at the heart of one of the best defenses in the tournament and even scored the first goal against the defending champions in the R-16. He deserves the spot as much as Boateng and Pepe do and just misses out narrowly.
The young German is dubbed the next ‘Lahm’ and in France, it was justified. He was brilliant in the German back 4. His error led to the French second goal and that shows he still has some way to go. But time is on his hands and he will eventually become one of the best.
The German wizard had another good outing with the national team. His fitness was a bit questionable though. His passing was brilliant as expected and he scored in a crucial match against Italy. But two missed penalties will count against him as he just misses out.
Can you just keep Cristiano out of the action? He puts up poor performances and when you question him, he comes alive and proves everyone wrong. He was unlucky to get injured in the final but his passion and leadership won over people’s hearts as Portugal were crowned European Champions.
Do you agree with my team selection? Feel free to drop in your feedback (and your like too). Link to my blog. Follow for more!