With the first round of the knock-out stages of the competition done, there are now eight teams that remain in the hunt for European glory, including hosts France and heavyweights Germany and Italy. With the quarter-finals around the corner, TheHardTackle analyses and attempts to field the best XI from the recently concluded round of 16.
The round of 16 dished out some fascinating battles, great individual performances, and one of the biggest upsets in the tournament’s history as well. France led by Antoine Griezmann escaped from the jaws of an embarrassing defeat to the Irish while Belgium’s Eden Hazard shined as a captain and led the Red Devils to an authoritative 4-0 victory over Hungary.
Antonio Conte has brought to the fore the ideals Italian football is based on — tactics, team work and consistency. Barring their defeat to the Republic of Ireland in the final game of their group campaign, Italy has perfectly executed Conte’s plans by garnering some convincing victories over Belgium, Sweden and defending champions Spain. Germany put up a commanding display against Slovakia to make it to yet another quarter-final. Meanwhile, Lukasz Fabianski was the hero for Poland, who just scraped past Switzerland by virtue of a penalty shoot-out after the game ended 1-1 at the end of normal and extra time.
Croatia were impressive in the group stage and were tipped to go the distance in the competition. However, they were stopped in their tracks by Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal, when a 116th minute winner from Ricardo Quaresma secured a passage to the top eight for the Seleção.
In the Wales vs Northern Ireland match, a Gareth McAuley own-goal did the trick for the Welsh who continued their dream run in the competition.
England probably received the easiest game of the lot in the round of 16 by drawing tournament debutants Iceland. However, Wayne Rooney’s opener did not help England as Ragnar Sigurdsson and Kolbeinn Sigthoursson’s goals handed the Three Lions one of the most embarrassing losses in their history.
TheHardTackle has now formed the Best XI from the past week based on player performances.
Formation : 4-2-3-1
Goalkeeper : Łukasz Fabiański
If not for Fabianski, Poland’s run in the competition would have been cut short. Barring an incredible goal off a bicycle kick by Xherdan Shaqiri, the Swansea goalkeeper did well to keep the Poles in the game against Switzerland. It was a pick between him and Gianluigi Buffon, but considering the fact that he had more saves to his name and the fact that he came through a penalty shoot-out, tips the balance in favour of the Polish shot-stopper
Left-Back : Ricardo Rodriguez
He is part of an eliminated side, but Ricardo Rodriguez was the best in his position, showing his strength in both attack and defence for the Swiss. He effected seven crosses, took five shots and managed a successful tackling rate of 67%. He also successfully scored his penalty in the shootout.
Centre-Back : Giorgio Chiellini
Chiellini is regarded as one of the world’s best defenders and his performances throughout this tournament have proven this claim. Italy kept a clean sheet in every game the Juventus defender featured in. He scored a goal and managed to keep out the Spanish attackers as Italy ended the eight-year European reign of Vicente Del Bosque’s men.
Centre-Back : Jerome Boateng
Germany has the enviable luxury of two world-class ball-playing centre-backs in Mats Hummels and Jerome Boateng. The latter put up a superb display against Slovakia to help his side to a 3-0 victory even scored the goal that started the proceedings. The Bayern Munich centre-back remains a big part of Die Mannschaft’s bid for their first European crown in 20 years.
Right-Back : Mattea De Sciglio
De Sciglio had a brilliant game against the Spaniards shutting out any semblance of a build-up in his zone of play. His positioning and passing accuracy were all on point against the Spanish. With a good success rate on tackles and aerial proficiency, De Sciglio well and truly warrants his selection at right-back.
Centre-Midfield : Toni Kroos
The hub in centre-midfield for Joachim Low’s German side, Toni Kroos has marshaled the midfield for the Die Nationalmannschaft, in the absence of Bastian Schweinsteiger. Only a goal was missing from what was an excellent performance from the Real Madrid midfielder against Slovakia.
Center-Midfield : Grzegorz Krychowiak
The key to Poland’s success so far in the tournament is down to their defensive resilience. Playing in a deep role, Krychowiak was key to holding the midfield and defence together for the Polish. In their victory over the Swiss in the round of 16, an attacking Swiss line-up was faced with breaking down a solid midfield led by Krychowiak who effected 8 clearances and 7 tackles along with a successful passing rate of 86%. His intricate control over the ball often helps him win fouls as well forcing set pieces from promising positions.
Right Attacking Midfield : Jakub Błaszczykowski
30-year-old Jakub Błaszczykowski has grown into an inspirational idol for the Polish through his exploits in the last few weeks. Blaszczykowski has unexpectedly emerged as his country’s most effective player in the competition, scoring a goal against both Ukraine and Switzerland.
Centre Attacking Midfield : Kevin De Bruyne
Belgium’s creative engine, De Bruyne along with Eden Hazard was instrumental in tearing down Hungary’s defence in the round of 16 fixture enroute their 4-0 thrashing of Bernd Storck’s men. The Manchester City midfielder already has three assists to his name in the competition
Left Attacking Midfield : Eden Hazard
Eden Hazard was sensational against Hungary, causing their defence all kinds of problems. He also scored a goal and assisted one in their 4-0 win. The Chelsea man also showed the first signs of being a good captain and led his men from the front.
Striker : Antoine Griezmann
It’d be difficult to fathom where France would be without the Atletico Madrid man in their set-up. Griezmann scored an injury time winner for Les Bleus against Albania in the group stages and followed it up with a spectacular brace that saved them from impending defeat at the hands of the Irish at Lyon. If the French are to have any chances at lifting the Euros on home territory, they’d have to rely on performances like that from Griezmann.