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Euro 2016: Best XI of the group stage

McGovern’s splendid goalkeeping display was one major reason behind Northern Ireland’s qualification to the last 16ne
 
 
 
Neelabhra Roy

Belgium and Ireland both struck late winners to beat Sweden and Italy respectively and qualified for the knockout stages along with Italy. Their victories drew the curtains on the group stages of Euro 2016and the tournament has so far witnessed a number of exciting and dramatic encounters with many unheralded nations like Northern Ireland and Iceland qualifying for the last 16 and much-favoured teams like Sweden,Romania, Austria and Russia being shown the door.

The final 16 have some pretty exciting encounters including the rematch of the 2012 final between Spain and Italy and Croatia’s encounter against Portugal. With a couple of days left before the commencement of the knockout stages, let’s take a look at the best XI of the tournament in the group stages.

Formation: 4-4-2

Goalkeeper- Michael McGovern, Northern Ireland

Northern Ireland did begin their campaign with a 1-0 defeat against Poland but had it not been for their goalie Michael McGovern, the margin of defeat would have been a lot worse. The 32-year old kept a clean sheet in Northern Ireland’s 2-0 win over Ukraine, denying scoring opportunities to the likes of Yarmolenko and Konoplyanka time and again.

However, the best of McGovern was to come in Northern Ireland’s final group game against World Champions where he put up an excellent performance between the sticks which included some wonderful saves from close range to deny the likes of Mueller, Gomez and Gotze from scoring.

The goalkeeper's heroics paid off as Northern Ireland qualified for the knockout stages of their first European Championship as one of the best third-placed teams.McGovern might be without a club right now but based on his performances in the Euros, clubs would really be looking forward to signing him.

Defenders

Left Back- Jonas Hector, Germany

Hector has been sensational for Germany in the left flank

Jonas Hector made his international team debut during the qualifiers and performed well on the left flank defensively in addition to providing a few assists for his teammates. He put up a decent performance in Germany’s Euro opener against Ukraine, making a number of crucial tackles and interceptions in an eventual 2-0 win for Germany.

Against Poland, Hector put up another solid defensive effort against Poland and did a good job to shut out the likes of Lewandowski and Milik as Germany held the Poles to a goalless draw. He continued his good form in the team’s final game against Northern Ireland where he was brilliant on the left flank, setting up attacks and providing a couple of crosses in the match as Germany kept another clean sheet in the tournament.

Hector’s performances in the left flank has been a key factor in Germany not conceding a single goal in the tournament so far.


Centre Back- Giorgio Chiellini, Italy

Giorgio Chiellini
Giorgio Chiellini has been immense at the back for Italy

Chiellini has been an essential component in Italy’s backline over the past 5-6 years and was ever present during qualifying, scoring two goals.

The Juventus star began his Euro 2016 in good style, producing a spectacular display at the back in Italy’s 2-0 opening win over Belgium. Chiellini marshalled the Italian defence and was instrumental to making sure Italy did not concede a single goal throughout the match and also saw off the aerial threats posed by the Belgian frontline.

Chiellini continued his good form in the tournament with another splendid performance against Sweden where he made a number of crucial tackles and never allowed the likes of Ibrahimovic to cause much trouble. His performances helped Italy to a 1-0 win and subsequent qualification to the last 16. Due to a yellow card against Belgium, Chiellini was benched in Italy’s final group game against Ireland and his presence was felt as the Irish beat Italy 1-0. Chiellini has been in terrific form for Italy so far in the tournament and his presence in the backline will be very crucial as Italy now take on Spain in the knockout stages.


Centre Back- Jerome Boateng, Germany

Boateng has been Germany’s best defender in the tournament so far

The Bayern Munich defender has been a key player in Germany’s backline and was in brilliant touch in Germany’s tournament opener against Ukraine where he made a crucial goal line clearance from Yevhen Konoplyanka in the first half in addition to setting up attacks from the back.

In Germany’s goalless draw against Poland, Boateng’s tenacity on the pitch never allowed the likes of Lewandowski and Milik to be much of a goal threat. He made many crucial tackles throughout the match, the most notable of which was one to deny Lewandowski from the edge of the box. He was adjudged the Man of the Match for his performances.

The centre-back continued his good form as he didn’t allow any of the Northern Ireland frontline to cause much trouble in an eventual 1-0 win. Boateng’s presence in defence has been a major reason why Germany are yet to concede in the tournament so far and will be hoping to maintain his consistency in the knockout rounds.


Right Back- Darijo Srna, Croatia

Croatia’s captain has performed brilliantly on the right flank

The Croatian skipper didn’t have an easy start to the tournament personally as after a brilliant showing against Turkey, he had to leave the team to attend his father’s funeral. He returned to the team in their second match against the Czech Republic and was sensational on the right flank in addition to making a number of crucial tackles in an eventual 2-2 draw.

Srna produced another fine defensive performance against Spain, where his presence at the right flank baffled the Spaniards and never gave the Spanish forwards much scoring opportunities as Croatia won the match 2-1, subsequently winning the group. Croatia’s most capped player has been in fine form in the tournament so far and his presence at the back in addition to his leadership skills will be required now more than ever as Croatia face Portugal in the last 16.

Midfielders

Central Midfielder- Andres Iniesta, Spain

Barcelona’s skipper has been in sensational form in the tournament so far

Spain’s World Cup hero in 2010 and last edition’s Player of the Tournament began Euro 2016 in sensational style, assisting Spain’s winning goal in their tournament opener against the Czech Republic while troubling them with his skillful play. He continued his good form with another stellar performance against Turkey where he orchestrated the flow of the game and baffled the Turkish players through his trickery.

He was also involved in the build-up to Spain’s third goal by Alvaro Morata. It was Iniesta’s long ball that found Alba who then set up Morata to score the goal. Eventually, Spain won the match 3-0 and advanced to the knockout phase.

Spain lost their final group game against Croatia but Iniesta put up a decent performance as he marshalled Spain’s midfield, setting up attacks for his teammates. Iniesta has been in sensational form for Spain and has been named the Man of the Match in two of Spain’s group games. His form will be crucial as Spain now face a resilient Italy side in the round of 16.


Central Midfielder- Granit Xhaka, Switzerland

Xhaka has been Switzerland’s best player of the tournament so far

The Swiss midfielder who will be moving to Arsenal soon after the Euros has been Switzerland’s best player of the tournament so far. Switzerland began their Euro campaign against debutants Albania where Xhaka was up against his older brother Taulant. The younger Xhaka orchestrated the midfield beautifully and was crucial in breaking the play and setting up attacks.

Switzerland won the match 1-0 and Xhaka was awarded the Man of the Match for his performances. The 23-year old followed this with another Man of the Match performance against Romania where Switzerland came from behind to draw the game 1-1.

In Switzerland’s final group game against France, Xhaka played most of the game as a defensive midfielder as he shielded the backline time and again. He was involved in breaking the play and orchestrated the flow of the game. Xhaka has been in fine form so far and he will have to be at the top of his game if Swtizerland are to defeat Poland in their round of 16 clash.


Left Winger- Dimitri Payet, France

Payet has been in scintillating form for the hosts in the group stages

The West Ham midfielder was coming to the Euros at the back of a terrific season with the Hammers where he was named in the PFA Team of the Year for his league performances. Payet has been in scintillating form in the Euros right from the beginning as he provided the assist for France’s opening goal and scored a spectacular long ranger in France’s 2-1 victory against Romania in their tournament opener.

He continued his good form in the tournament as he scored France’s second goal against Albania which helped France qualify for the knockout stages.Payet was initially benched for the third game against Switzerland but was brought on in the second half as a substitute and looked lethal as he hit the crossbar with a powerful volley.

The former Mariseille man was adjudged the Man of the Match in France’s opening two games and is a top contender for both Player of the Tournament and Top scorer. If Payet can maintain his consistency then he might inspire France to a record-equalling third European Championship.


Right Winger- Ivan Perisic, Croatia

Ivan Perisic
Perisic has been dead so far

The Inter Milan winger was Croatia’s top scorer in the Euro qualifiers with six goals. Croatia began their Euro campaign with a 1-0 win over Turkey and Perisic put up a decent performance in the game as he was involved in setting up attacks in addition to taking a number of shots at goal, hitting the crossbar once.

In Croatia’s second game against Czech Republic, Perisic opened his account by scoring Croatia’s opening goal of the game in an eventual 2-2 draw.

However, his best performance came in the team’s final group game against tournament favorites Spain. Perisic set up numerous attacks throughout the game and provided the assist for Nikola Kalinic’s equalizer in the 45th minute after Spain had taken the lead in the 7th minute of the match.

With three minutes left on the clock, he scored the winner through a left footed shot past Spanish goalkeeper David De Gea to win the match for Croatia. Croatia subsequently topped their group and Perisic was awarded the Man of the Match for his performances. Perisic is currently Croatia’s top scorer of the tournament and Perisic will be expected to continue his good form when Croatia face Portugal in the round of 16.

Forwards

Centre Forward- Gareth Bale, Wales

Gareth Bale
Bale has scored in every single match of the tournament so far

The most expensive player in the world has certainly lived up to his price tag as of now with some mesmerizing performances for Wales in Euro 2016, their first appearance at the European Championships. In Wales’ opening match against Slovakia, it took only ten minutes for the Real Madrid man to make his presence as he scored via a thunderous free-kick to score the opening goal of the match in an eventual 2-1 win.

Wales lost their second encounter against England but Bale did make an impact in the match by again scoring from a free kick, this time from 35 yards. In Wales’ all-important group game against Russia, he assisted Wales’ second goal scored by Neil Taylor and scored the third goal himself.

Bale’s performances have helped Wales top their group ahead of England and he is currently the tournament’s top scorer with three goals in as many matches. If Bale can maintain his consistency then Wales can make a bigger impact on the tournament than what was expected from them.


Centre Forward- Alvaro Morata, Spain

Alvaro Morata
Alvaro Morata has been Spain’s main man at the top

Morata had a pretty decent game in Spain’s tournament opener against Czech Republic but couldn’t find the net. Against Turkey, Morata had a couple of early chances before heading in Spain’s opening goal thanks to Nolito’s assist. He netted a second in the match thanks to Jordi Alba’s assist. Spain’s win helped them advance to the knockout stages and Morata was awarded the Man of the Match.

Morata continued his goal scoring prowess as he scored the opening goal in Spain’s final group game against Croatia in the seventh minute. He took a number of shots at goal but couldn’t find the net as Croatia came from behind to win the match 2-1. Morata is currently tied with Gareth Bale as the tournament’s top scorer with three goals and his goal scoring prowess will be crucial for Spain as they now face their 2012 final opponents Italy in the round of 16.

Edited by Staff Editor

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