My UEFA Euro 2016 Team Of The Tournament

Goalkeeper: Rui Patrício

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Country: Portugal

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Club: Sporting Clube de Portugal

Age: 28

Rui Patrício has been formidable throughout the tournament. Despite keeping only one clean sheet during the group stages and conceding three goals against Hungary, the keeper has been difficult to beat, conceding only once in the knockout stages in the Quarter-final against Poland. In the same game, the keeper made the crucial save in the penalty shootout from Jakub Błaszczykowski allowing Ricardo Quaresma to seal the victory and send Portugal into the Semi-finals. The keeper also made terrific saves from Gareth Bale in the Semi-final and played a magnificent role in helping Portugal to win the European Championship in the Final. The keeper produced fine saves to deny Antoine Griezmann, Olivier Giroud and Moussa Sissoko on a number of occasions to keep Portugal in the game before Éder’s strike won Portugal the tournament.

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Left-back: Raphaël Guerreiro

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Country: Portugal

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Club: Borussia Dortmund

Age: 22

One of the main reasons to why Rui Patrício had a good tournament was due to Raphaël Guerreiro’s debut tournament being an impressive one. The Portuguese left-back made his name after scoring the winner in his full debut in a friendly with Argentina in 2014. He is known for his marauding runs up field and he demonstrated this time and time again during this summer’s tournament. He was one of the reasons as to why players found it difficult to beat Patrício, although he was one of the culpable players which were at fault for Iceland’s equaliser in their opening Euro 2016 match, although it could be argued that this was due to his some miscommunication – as the youngster speaks very little Portuguese. However, since losing his starting place to Eliseu in the draw with Hungary, the French-born left-back must have impressed Fernando Santos to regain his place in the starting line-up. Since, he’s been in fine form; managing to contain the likes of Gareth Bale, Moussa Sissoko and Paul Pogba in the latter stages of the tournament and very nearly scored the winner in the Final when his freekick rattled the bar in Extra-Time.

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Raphaël Guerreiro nearly put Portugal ahead with a stunning freekick but he’s denied by the crossbar. Image from: EMPICS Sport

 Centre-back: Giorgio Chiellini

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Country: Italy

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Club: Juventus

Age: 31

Giorgio Chiellini has had a good tournament. Despite being knocked out to Germany on penalties, as you do, the Juventus centre-back has been a rock at the heart of the Italian defence. Italy’s only defeat in the group stage was to the Republic of Ireland, who were the only team to score against the Italians before Germany in the Quarter-finals, and that was possibly because he wasn’t even playing. The defender has produced a fine defensive wall alongside fellow Juventus teammates Leonardo Bonucci and Andrea Barzagli, who have defended resolutely throughout the tournament, even against Belgium who were favourites to beat the Italians. He also scored the opener as the Italians defeated the defending Champions Spain in the Round of 16. The defender is in his thirties, but with age comes experience, and his experience has played a pivotal role for the Italians, whose impressive results made it look as though they were heading to the Semi-final had it not been for Germany. Exiting at the Quarter-final: not so bad for considering the Azzurris were dubbed the ‘worst ever Italian side.’

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Centre-back: Pepe

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Country: Portugal

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Club: Real Madrid

Age: 33

Pepe’s terrific performances in this summer’s tournament are one of the main contributions to Portugal’s success. The Real Madrid centre-back epitomises Portugal’s disciplined, well-drilled and gradually improving defence. He’s put in a number of man of the match displays including against Poland and in the Final against France. The centre-back hasn’t found the net unlike in 2008 and 2012, but his centre-back partnership with José Fonte is growing and proved to be crucial in this summer’s tournament. Their defence-pairing could be the foundations of a great back-line for years to come, although both players are nearing the end of their careers, with Fonte making his tournament debut appearance against Croatia at the age of 32. However, the two have covered each other well and since Fonte’s introduction, Pepe has found his confidence and has replicated his good club performances with the national side, which has subsequently led to Portugal being crowned European Champions. It followed on after helping Real Madrid win the Champions League.

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Pepe celebrate after witnessing Ricardo Quaresma slot home the winning penalty in the Quarter-finals against Poland. Image from: EPA

Right-back: Joshua Kimmich

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Country: Germany

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Club: Bayern Munich

Age: 21

Joshua Kimmich has demonstrated youthful exuberance throughout this summer’s tournament. The youngster participated in his debut tournament this summer and has been brimming with confidence.  In fact, his pace and attacking awareness draws comparisons to Germany legend Philipp Lahm. The youngster got forward at every attempt and created a number of opportunities for Die Mannschaft. However, he was one of the culpable players to blame for France’s second goal, which eventually lead to his side being eliminated. In his defence, the Germany full-back  has been converted from his usual centre-back position for Bayern Munich. This type of alteration is difficult for any player to adjust, but the 21 year old has demonstrated that this transition can be quite straightforward. In fact, Kimmich  was deemed to be the best centre-back in the world by former boss Pep Guardiola, highlighting the potential the youngster has. The German also scored one of the penalties in the thrilling penalty shootout against Italy.

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Joshua Kimmich in action for Germany against France. Image from: AP

Left central-midfield: Emanuele Giaccherini

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Country: Italy

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Club: Sunderland

Age: 31

Emanuele Giaccherini may be somewhat of a surprise inclusion to many, but the Italian has been instrumental for the Azzurris. The so-called ‘Sunderland flop’ has looked a different player to the one at the Stadium of Light. He’s been positive and seems to be a clear favourite of departing boss Antonio Conte’s, who started the Italian in all but one match at the tournament (he was rested against the Republic of Ireland). Conte likes to play defensive-counter-attacking football and Giaccherini does his fair share of both. He’s been rejuvenated under Conte and he portrays an energetic figure on the pitch, tracking back and breaking with pace. Given that the Azzurris were deemed to be the ‘worst ever Italian side’ it seems ironic after they exited in the Quarter-finals on penalties to Germany, where they had their fair share of chances. Italy won their opening game against dark-horses Belgium with Giaccherini opening the scoring for the Azzurris, he also did well to get forward for the second goal which sealed the victory against the Belgians. He also proved to be quite a threat in matches against Spain and Germany.

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Right central-midfield: Renato Sanches

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Country: Portugal

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Club: Bayern Munich

Age: 18

Renato Sanches has had a remarkable season. Not only did the youngster win the Portuguese League with Benfica, but his impressive performances in the Champions League have resulted in a move to European giants Bayern Munich. The 18 year old midfielder has set the European Championships alight with his energetic bursts forward and his fierce strikes. The youngster, like his new teammate Kimmich, has a lot of youthful exuberance. He plays without fear and isn’t afraid of getting stuck-in to a challenge or two.

The youngster received the Man of the Match award for his positive display in Portugal’s Round of 16 clash against Croatia. The midfielder came off the bench and combined well with teammates and nearly took the game by the scruff of the neck when he fired an effort wide of the target after some intricate one-touch play. The performance helped cement his place in the starting line-up for the next game against Poland in the Quarter-finals. The youngster managed to find the net against Poland, firing an effort home via a slight deflection. The goal was a crucial one too, as it levelled the scores after Portugal trailed Poland after two minutes. The youngster then had the courage to take a penalty in the shootout which he scored.

He also performed well in the Semi-final against Wales before being substituted after the break in the Final against France, although he had played his part. The youngster was nominated the best young player of the tournament, and additionally, he becomes the youngster ever player to win the Euros.

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Left-wing: Dimitri Payet

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Country: France

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Club: West Ham United

Age: 29

Dimitri Payet has had a fantastic season. The Frenchman helped West Ham qualify for the Europa League and helped the Irons finish in fifth, their highest ever position in the Premier League. He’s scored some fantastic goals too and his shooting capabilities have been demonstrated in this summer’s European Championships. His fine effort, a minute from time from outside the area gave Les Bleus their opening victory in the tournament in a hard-fought match against Romania. The former Marseille player also netted against Albania with another late goal to seal a 2-0 victory and also fired home against Iceland.

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The West Ham midfielder has been sensational throughout the tournament; sending in the largest number of crosses into the penalty area overall (32). His deliveries from set-pieces were superb and caused defences a number of problems. He produced two assists including in the first match against Romania, from which Olivier Giroud headed home and in their Quarter-final match against Iceland, which Giroud also headed home in similar fashion. However, to some Payet can be deemed to be a villain after his robust challenge on Cristiano Ronaldo left the Portuguese skipper on a stretcher in the Final which Les Bleus lost, although it seemed to be a fair challenge.

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To many, it was remarkable that this summer’s tournament was Payet’s debut tournament after he missed out on the 2012 European Championship and the 2014 World Cup squads, which based on current form seems to be a mystery. Following his impressive displays at the tournament, his club indicated that he wouldn’t be sold for anything under the £50 million price-tag to fend off interested clubs, although it would be difficult for Payet to turn down moves to European giants like Barcelona and Real Madrid. This tournament won’t be his last and the experience gained will undoubtedly help him in future competitions with Les Bleus.

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Right-wing: Gareth Bale

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Country: Wales

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Club: Real Madrid

Age: 26

Gareth Bale’s debut tournament for Wales has been a success. The Welshman spearheaded the Dragons’ attack this summer and scored three goals in the tournament and helped his country reach the Semi-finals of the tournament, the furthest Wales had ever got. The Real Madrid winger scored three goals in consecutive games. Two freekicks, one in their opening game against Slovakia and one in the next game against England. He also found the net against Russia to help the Dragons top Group B ahead of England.

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Bale also played his part in getting his country into the Quarter-finals after his cross in the Round of 16 tie against Northern Ireland was inadvertently turned home by Gareth McAuley whose own goal set up a mouthwatering clash between Wales and Belgium. Although Bales didn’t score against Belgium, his pace and energy were too much to deal with as the Dragons came from a goal down to defeat the World Number 2 opposition 3-1.

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A distraught Gareth McAuley watches on after his own goal from Gareth Bale’s cross puts Wales ahead. Image from: EPA

Their next game was against Portugal where Bale faced his Real Madrid teammate Cristiano Ronaldo, who decided the game scoring a goal and assisting another as Wales exited the tournament. Despite the defeat, Bale played very well and went close to finding the net on a few occasions. Although they bowed out of the competition, Wales did themselves proud and went the furthest of all the home nations in the tournament and Bale had contributed to that success. The tournament experience gained for Bale will be significant as he will look to replicate the success and attempt to not only help Wales qualify for the 2018 World Cup but also help them go beyond the Quarter-finals where they exited at the expense of eventual winners Brazil in 1958.

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Gareth Bale is consoled by his club teammate Cristiano Ronaldo. Image from: Getty

Striker: Antoine Griezmann

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Country: France

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Club: Atlético Madrid

Age: 25

Antoine Griezmann has had a mixed tournament. The striker netted six times in the competition and assisted twice to receive the Player of the Tournament and Golden Boot awards but despite the accolades, the striker once again fell short at the final hurdle to Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe who also won the UEFA Champions League, beating Griezmann and Atlético in the Final. The striker scored once in the Group Stage and netted five times in the Knockout-stages but was unable to inspire Les Bleus to European Championship glory.

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He was denied by Rui Patrício in the first-half of the Final before spurning a good opportunity in the second-half when he headed over the bar from close-range. However, the Frenchman can be proud of his achievements. He scored a number of crucial goals in the tournament including a late goal against Albania, a brace against the Republic of Ireland in the Round of 16 to help France come from behind and win as well as finding the net in France’s 5-2 victory over Iceland. He also got both goals against Germany to send Les Bleus into the Final. Griezmann became the joint-third highest scorer in European Championship history with six goals. Regardless of the result in the Final, Griezmann has a promising future ahead of him and with the World Cup two years from now, eyes will be focused on the former Real Sociedad forward to help France win twenty years from their first success on home-soil.

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Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo

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Country: Portugal

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Club: Real Madrid

Age: 31

Cristiano Ronaldo has always been one of the main talking-points of the European Championships since making his tournament debut in the 2004 competition. The boy from Madeira will vividly remember that tournament as his country lost the Final on home-soil to underdogs Greece. The then 19 year old was understandably distraught and couldn’t hold back the tears, but twelve years on, the tears have transformed into tears of joy as he successfully led his country to European Championship glory, scoring three goals and collecting three assists on the way. However, the three-time Ballon D’Or winner didn’t get off to the best starts in the competition, failing to score in the first two Group games against Iceland and Austria, the latter of whom he missed a penalty against.

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Cristiano Ronaldo sends Robert Almer the wrong way but is denied by the woodwork which comes to Austria’s rescue. Image from: Getty

He finally got off the mark against Hungary, who he scored a brace against and assisted Nani.

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He also assisted Ricardo Quaresma as Portugal overcame Croatia in Extra-Time. Ronaldo scored in the penalty shootout against Poland before scoring the opener and teeing up Nani against Wales.

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At that point, Ronaldo had become the joint top-scorer of the European Championships with nine goals, equalling Michel Platini’s record and he had a good opportunity to break the record against France in the Final. However, Ronaldo’s tournament was over 25 minutes into the Final after an injury caused by Dimitri Payet. There were tears as he left the pitch on the stretcher and it looked as though Portugal’s dreams were going to be dashed, just as they were 12 years ago. It also looked like Ronaldo’s final chance of winning a title with his country were dented.

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A distraught Cristiano Ronaldo leaves the field on a stretcher as his 2016 European Championship campaign comes to a sad end. Image from: Getty

However, Ronaldo didn’t let the injury get to him as he barked down instructions from the sidelines and helped inspire his side to stun the hosts and win a record first title thanks to Éder’s goal in Extra-Time.

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Portugal players celebrate after winning their first ever major tournament title. Image from: Getty
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