Written by Alex Kay
We’ve watched through the first round of the Euro 2016 group stage, and we’ve witnessed some big team and player performances. There’s been upsets, screamers and last minute point-snatchers. Amongst all the drama, some players have stood out and look ready to make their names known. Here’s a look at my team of the tournament starting XI so far:
Goalkeeper – Yann Sommer (Switzerland)
Although the Swiss man didn’t have lots to do in the 1-0 win over Albania, some will consider him the match winner. The Mönchengladbach keeper pulled of two outstanding saves to keep Switzerland ahead in what was a cagey affair, and ended up saving the points for them. Not only this but his command of the area denied any dead ball hopes for Albania. His distribution was also good and helped spark attacks for the Swiss in what was an important and hard earned 3 points.
Right Back – Kyle Walker (England)
The spurs full back had an outstanding game against Russia, bombing up and down the right hand side causing attacking threats and putting out Russian attacks. His pace allowed him to to be everywhere at once and showed a dominant performance, probably his best so far in an England shirt. He has really made a move to stick down a previously vacant position within this England set-up.
Centre Half – Vedran Corluka (Croatia)
The Croat had an outstanding game against Turkey but felt the force of it for his troubles. The defender put his body on the line time after time and was rewarded with a reoccurring head wound, meaning he had to go off three times to get it looked after. The man mountain was the real rock in the Croatia team and looked determined to keep hold of the win, and so he prevailed making sure his and his teammate’s hard work didn’t count for nothing.
Centre Half – Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)
One of a 3 man defence, the Italian stallion showed a real grit to hold the clean sheet as well as a lot of know how and experience when on the ball. The 3-back Juventus defence looked solid at all times, but Bonucci really was the pick of the three with his range and quality of distribution throughout the game. His superb ball in the first half gave Giaccherini the chance to open the scoring which he did in what was a superb assist. He also made necessary fouls when his time called and picked up a yellow card for his efforts.
Left Back – Robbie Brady (Ireland)
Brady had a really effective game from full back. In a game where Ireland had the majority of the play, Brady was one of the most attcking players looking to cause a real threat delivering crosses but also wasn’t affraid to have a go himself when he cut in on his weaker foot to beat the keeper and narrowly smash an effort over the bar. He was also sound at the back, not making any real errors and solidifying the left hand side of the Ireland set-up. He looked a different man to the one relegated with Norwich just a few months ago and has really put his name out there as one to watch.
Defensive Midfield – Luka Modric (Croatia)
The whole Croatia squad had an outstanding game, but none of them as much as him. He was faultless on the ball and even made it look easy at times. Possession rarely left his boots and he was neat and tidy to ensure his side kept possession. Then you come to his goal. What a hit it was. The ball hung up in the air about 30 yards out and he hit it first time in a dipping effort that left everyone, including the goal keeper, standing and watching in awe of him. It is certainly goal of the tournament so far and will take a lot to beat it.
Centre Midfield – Andres Iniesta (Spain)
The Spaniard may have had a frustrating time in this game, creating chance after chance but it looked to be to no avail. Despite this he was able to, as always dictate the tempo and carve open the Czech Republic defence even when drowning in Czech markers. His class on the ball eventually did pay off when he received the ball on the edge of the box, and lofted in an inch perfect ball for Gerard Pique to grab an 87th minute winner and earn the deserved points. This display earned him Man of the Match and a place in my team.
Centre Midfield – Toni Kroos (Germany)
The German did what he always does, dictate everything that goes on within the game. In a Germany squad where sometime he is overlooked, Kroos decided at what speed the game was to be played, who was to get the ball and whether Germany would attack or retain possession, and did this all without running it seems. He had the most dominant individual midfield performance so far making it look like training most of the time. Something he has made a name for is his set piece delivery, and proved it again when whipping in a free-kick for Mustafi to nod home for the opener. A sublime assist to mark a sublime performance.
Attacking Midfield – Dimitri Payet (France)
The West Ham favourite made his competition debut against Romania, and has gone out to prove he is up with the big names immediately. He’s a match winner by trade proving it in the open game of the tournament. In a lacklustre France team he really stood out even against the likes of Pogba and Griezmann as France’s most attacking, exciting prospect. Whipping in the ball for Giroud’s opener and scoring an 89th minute stunning winner, Payet had a direct hand in both goals managing to snatch all three points for the home nation, however France won’t be hoping for him to dig them out next time round.
Centre Forward – Arkaduisz Milik (Poland)
Poland had a really hard time against new boys Nothern Ireland, who set out to defend and frustrate from the off. Playing 5 and even 6 at the back at times, it was obvious who Nothern Ireland were trying to neutralise when marking Lewandowski out of the game, but perhaps they focused on him too much. Milik was causing a threat dropping in the hole and picking the ball up, he was involved in some nice link up play and should have opened the scoring a lot earlier than he did missing a great chance in the first half firing over the bar. However he did get the winner, when the ball was played across the edge of the box and found him on his left foot, he made sure he wasn’t missing this one and found the back of the net with a determined effort and the match winner,a good display.
Centre Forward – Adam Szalai (Hungary)
I don’t think many people would have thought this man would be making any headlines at the tournament. Previously going 39 competitive matches without scoring, the target man didn’t seem much a threat before the game. But in what was a nothing game for most of it, he found himself in a two-on-two chance on a Hungary breakaway the ball came to him and he managed to slide in to beat the keeper, scoring a historic Hungarian goal and scoring his first goal in a year and a half. After that goal he seemed a threat on the break and holding the ball up with his teammates almost trying to get him another goal. He eventually stood out in a bland, but great win for Hungary.
Do you agree with this team of the tournament so far? What changes would you make? Let us know in the comments below!