On the 10th of July, a new European Champion was crowned at the Stade de France as Portugal beat France 1-0 to win Euro 2016 and in the process, became the tenth different nation to win the UEFA European Championship. Eder’s goal in the 109th minute gave Portugal their first ever major championship in their footballing history and subsequently drew the curtains on the 15th edition of the Euros which has been a rather exciting contest.
The tournament saw less popular nations like Wales and Iceland script fairy tales in the tournament and heavily favoured teams like England and Spain catching an early flight home. However, one thing that cannot be overlooked in the competition has been the brilliant display of goalkeeping shown in the tournament.
Many unknown goalkeepers like Hannes Halldorsson of Iceland and Michael McGovern of Northern Ireland have made a name for themselves through their brilliant performances throughout the competition. Let’s take a look at the top 5 goalkeepers of Euro 2016.
#1 Rui Patricio
The Sporting CP goalkeeper was arguably Portugal’s star of the tournament as his brilliant performances between the sticks helped Portugal lift Euro 2016 and as a result, he was inducted in the Team of the Tournament for his heroics on goal.
Throughout the tournament, Patricio was solid in the Portuguese goal and conceded only five goals in the tournament, two of which came off deflections. After being a little shaky during the group stages, Patricio’s best was seen during the knockout rounds.
In Portugal’s quarter-final victory over Poland, Patricio made the all-important save from Jakub Blaszczykowski’s spot-kick in the penalty shootout which helped Portugal advance to the semi-finals.
After putting up a decent performance in the semis, Patricio put up his best performance of the tournament in the final against France. France were dominant throughout the game in terms of possession and attempts but whenever they had an attempt on target, Patricio was up to the task and was equal to whatever the French threw at him.
His saves from Moussa Sissoko and Olivier Giroud outlines an outstanding performance.
Portugal eventually won the match 1-0 and were crowned the champions of Euro 2016. Pepe might have been adjudged the Man of the Match but had it not been for the 28-year old custodian’s heroics, Portugal might have ended the tournament as runner-up.
Patricio definitely was the best keeper of the tournament and has now established himself as one of Portugal’s all-time best keepers.
#2 Gianluigi Buffon
Aged 38 now, Gigi Buffon still has a lot left in him and this has been proven by his performances in Euro 2016. The Italy captain conceded only once in the four matches that he played in the tournament and was one of Italy’s best players of the competition.
Through his agility and brilliant reflexes, Buffon kept on negotiating the opposition attack time and again. In the knockout stages, Italy face Spain and Germany and both sides kept on testing Buffon but the Juventus custodian kept on frustrating the opposition through his shot stopping ability.
In the quarter-finals against Germany, Buffon made a brilliant save from Mario Gomez during regular time and made a save from Thomas Muller during the penalty shootout but wasn’t helped by his strikers on the other end as Germany won the shootout 6-5 and Italy were out.
However, Buffon showed that he still has a lot left in him and will be hoping to take one last shot at tournament glory at the 2018 FIFA World Cup in Russia.
#3 Manuel Neuer
Widely regarded as the best in his position at present, Manuel Neuer has been in terrific form lately and was one of the best goalkeepers of the tournament through his shot-stopping ability and his agility. The Golden Glove Winner at the World Cup two years ago conceded only three goals throughout the entire tournament out of which only one was scored in open play.
Throughout the tournament, Neuer commanded his goal with authority and made some amazing reflex saves from close range but his best performance of the tournament perhaps came against Italy in the quarter-finals where he made two saves in the penalty shootout to help Germany progress to the semi-finals where they were beaten by France.
Barring his misjudged punch in the semis which led to France’s second goal, Neuer put up a brilliant display of goalkeeping throughout the tournament and provided he maintains his consistency, then Germany would well be a heavy favorite to win the 2017 Confederations Cup and the 2018 World Cup.
#4 Hugo Lloris
France’s captain had a brilliant outing in his second European Championship as he led France to their first Euro final since 2000. Lloris had played a crucial role in France’s run to the final and conceded only five goals throughout the competition.
In France’s opening game against Romania, Lloris made one of the saves of the tournament when he denied Bogdan Stancu from close range in the fifth minute of the game. In the semi-final against Germany, Lloris was tested by the German strikers time and again but was equal to whatever was thrown at him by the opposition, making a brilliant save from a header in the twilight of the game.
In the final against Portugal, Lloris made a few decent saves but couldn’t reach out to Eder’s shot in the 109th minute as France lost 0-1.
France may have ended the tournament as runners-up but for a team that was in turmoil six years ago, a runners-up finish is no less than a success and Hugo Lloris has played a huge role in it as a player and as a captain.
#5 Lukasz Fabianski
The Swansea City goalie was benched for Poland’s tournament opener against Northern Ireland but was given a place in the starting eleven after first choice goalie Wojciech Szczesny suffered an injury.
Fabianski cemented his place in the playing XI by putting up a well-deserved clean sheet against Germany and kept another clean sheet in their final group game against Ukraine as Poland ended their group unbeaten at a major tournament for the first time since the 1982 FIFA World Cup.
In Poland’s round-of-16 encounter against Switzerland, Fabianski finally conceded his first goal of the tournament but made a string of fabulous saves; most notably from Ricardo Rodriguez’s free-kick and Eren Derdiyok’s header from close range.
Poland eventually won the match to set up a quarter-final meeting against Portugal which was decided by another penalty shootout. However, this one didn’t go Poland’s way as Portugal won the shootout 5-3 with Fabianski unable to make a single save in the shootout.
Fabianski conceded only two goals in the tournament and made a total of 19 saves. He helped Poland to its best finish at the Euros and has surely cemented his place as the first-choice goalkeeper ahead of the World Cup qualifiers.