It might not have been the most thrilling tournament ever, but I think that we can still look back on Euro 2016 as an entertaining month of football. We witnessed dark horses capture the hearts of the continent, late goals galore and strikes of the highest quality as Portugal stunned Europe to lift the trophy by beating France in the final. England suffered their most embarrassing competitive defeat ever, losing to Iceland in the quarter-finals, but the less said about that the better so I’ll begin quickly with my review of Euro 2016…
My Team of the Tournament
UEFA have named their team of the tournament, as shown below…
But I’d like to make a few changes, so here’s my team…
- GK: Hugo Lloris – The French captain came so close to lifting the trophy on home soil, but there was nothing he could do about the winning goal in the final, and it shouldn’t overshadow what a great tournament Hugo Lloris had. He did not concede in open play until the quarter-final, and made numerous saves throughout the tournament. He did not have the most confident defence in front of him, so did well to keep three clean sheets, a tally only bettered by Manuel Neuer and Rui Patricio.
- RB: Jerome Boateng – Except for his strange flailing hand that gave away a penalty against Italy, Jerome Boateng had a strong tournament, and I’ve fitted him into this team out of position at right-back. When the Bayern Munich man was forced off against France it was clear that the German defence became shaky, as it lacked Boateng’s confident presence. Boateng also managed to get on the scoresheet with a superb goal from outside the box against Slovakia, and his almost impossible goal-line clearance against Ukraine was stunning.
- CB: Pepe – Pepe does not have the best reputation in football due to his sometimes aggressive nature, but at Euro 2016 he silenced his critics and proved that he is one of the world’s best centre-backs, getting better as the tournament went on at the age of 33. Consistently solid as part of the triumphant Portugal back four, no one made more interceptions than Pepe (19), whilst the Real Madrid defender also made 37 clearances and blocked six shots. And just the one yellow card in sight!
- CB: Ashley Williams – Leading Wales’ remarkable run to the semi-finals was skipper Ashley Williams, who led with courage and passion which summed up the Dragons’ superb team spirit. He played every minute, and made seven blocks and 43 clearances, more than anyone else in Chris Coleman’s squad. The 31 year old got the equalising goal against Belgium in the quarter-final with a powerful header to make his tournament even better, and for someone who was playing in non-league eight years ago, it’s quite an achievement.
- LB: Jonas Hector – FC Cologne’s Jonas Hector began Euro 2016 as virtually unknown to the majority of fans outside of Germany, but a number of impressive performances mean that he is now on the radar of Barcelona, Liverpool and Tottenham Hotspur. The 26 year old made more open play crosses than any other player at Euro 2016 as he proved an attacking threat down Germany’s left hand side. He also scored the winning penalty in his country’s quarter-final shoot-out win over Italy.
- RM: Eden Hazard – A strange choice perhaps, considering that Belgium only made it to the quarter-finals, but I thought that Eden Hazard was back to his brilliant best at Euro 2016. He terrorised defences at the tournament and showed off his pace and trickery, completing a total of 23 dribbles – more than any other player. No one got more assists than Hazard’s four, and the 25 year old will be now be hoping he can light up the Premier League once again in 2016-17.
- CM: Toni Kroos – Toni Kroos quietly goes about his business in the Germany midfield that he has become the heartbeat of, turning defence into attack in the blink of an eye, so you literally don’t notice just how ridiculously good the 26 year old is. Nobody at the tournament made more passes than Kroos (642), whilst his pass accuracy of 92% was not bettered by any other quarter-finalist. The main reason that Italy were able to take Germany to extra-time in the quarter-finals was the fact that they completely surrounded Kroos, as they knew how big a danger he was.
- CM: Aaron Ramsey – Arsene Wenger take note. Aaron Ramsey plays his best football when played in the middle, not out wide. The Welshman was superb at Euro 2016 as he controlled his side’s football, bursting forward brilliantly to create chance after chance and bring others into play with his excellent awareness. Along with Hazard, Ramsey got the most assists at the tournament (4), and as predicted, Chris Coleman’s team really struggled without the 25 year old’s influence against Portugal in the semi-final when he was suspended.
- LM: Dimitri Payet – He may have fizzled out slightly towards the end of the tournament, but Dimitri Payet was by far the best player in the group stages, which he began with a bang by scoring a stunning late winner in the opening game against Romania. The West Ham midfielder was France’s key creative outlet, and he ended the tournament with three goals and two assists, as well as 21 chances created, a tally only bettered by Kevin De Bruyne. Why has it taken him this long to reach the top level?
- ST: Cristiano Ronaldo – Love him or hate him, it’s hard to deny that Cristiano Ronaldo is one of the greatest players of all time, and now he has an international trophy to his name. The Real Madrid forward scored three goals and got three assists as Portugal claimed victory, making him the joint highest scorer in European Championship history, and he has also now made the most appearances. It was sad to him go off so early in the final, but his brilliant impact on the touchline will be a key memory.
- ST: Antoine Griezmann – The opposite of Dimitri Payet. Antoine Griezmann made a stuttering start to the tournament, but finished it having proven his world class ability, top scoring with six goals as well as getting two assists. This was mainly due to the fact that he was ineffectual out wide, but when moved to the centre and partnered with Giroud he was lethal. Fast and skillful, the 25 year old deservedly picked up the golden boot and golden ball after not quite managing to fire France to glory.
My Player of the Tournament
Antoine Griezmann – France
Euro 2016 didn’t start all that well for Antoine Griezmann. Started on the wing against Romania and dropped against Albania, things weren’t quite going the 25 year old’s way. But when brought on against the latter with just over 20 minutes to go, he scored a last minute header (despite being one of the smallest on the pitch) that won the game for the hosts. Griezmann’s tournament really took off in the knockout stages, as he scored twice in four minutes against Ireland to complete a comeback win for the hosts before grabbing two assists and a goal in the 5-2 demolition of Iceland. His finest moment perhaps came in the semi-final, when he scored either side of half-time to see off Germany 2-0. It meant that the Atletico Madrid striker finished the tournament with an impressive tally of six goals and two assists, making him the fourth highest scorer in European Championships history. Only compatriot Michel Platini has scored more in a single tournament, which shows just how good a tournament Griezmann had in front of goal.
2nd – Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
3rd – Toni Kroos (Germany)
My Young Player of the Tournament
Renato Sanches – Portugal
Renato Sanches was hitting the headlines before Euro 2016 even began, as Bayern Munich beat Manchester United to sign him for €35 million (which could rise to €80 million) and at the tournament we got a taste of the immense talent that the German champions have just bought. The 18 year old broke Cristiano Ronaldo’s record of the youngest player to be selected by Portugal at major tournament, before becoming the youngest ever person to start for his country at the Championships against Poland. By netting in this game, Sanches became the youngest player to score in a knockout game at the European Championships and the third-youngest overall. He was named Man of the Match in this game, an accolade he also won in the Round of 16 clash with Croatia. It really was an impressive tournament from the teenager, who played with great desire and confidence to suggest he has a huge future ahead of him.
2nd – Raphaël Guerreiro
3rd – Joshua Kimmich
My Goal of the Tournament
Dimitri Payet vs Romania
2nd – Xherdan Shaqiri vs Poland
3rd – Hal Robson-Kanu vs Belgium
My Game of the Tournament
France 5-2 Iceland
France scored five to bring a brutal end to the Iceland fairy tale and set up an intriguing Euro 2016 semi-final against world champions Germany. There was almost a sense of disbelief around the Stade de France at the break as the host nation walked off with a 4-0 advantage, two of the goals coming in the closing minutes of the half. Olivier Giroud’s low strike and Paul Pogba’s powerful header from a corner had settled early French nerves and put their side in control. Dimitri Payet scored his third goal of an increasingly memorable tournament for the West Ham playmaker with a precise low strike from 20 yards that skidded across the greasy surface before Antoine Griezmann deftly lifted the ball over Iceland goalkeeper Hannes Halldorsson.
After the restart Kolbeinn Sigthorsson stabbed home at the near post from Gylfi Sigurdsson’s cross as Iceland refused to give in before France restored their four-goal advantage when Giroud headed in a free-kick. Still, there was more to cheer for the excellent Iceland fans when Birkir Bjarnason headed a second for his side in the final stages of what has been a remarkable tournament debut for their team. Read the full BBC report here.
2nd – Hungary 3-3 Portugal
3rd – Wales 3-1 Belgium
Disagree with any of my choices? Let me know in the comments below or on Twitter!
There’s still two more Euro 2016 articles to come – an A-Z of the tournament and my top ten moments.