As we head into the knockout stages of what has been an interesting competition on the field and at times controversial one off of it, I have picked the below eleven as my team of the group stages. Do you agree?
GK – Hugo Lloris (France)
For me, the third best keeper in the World has had a fantastic competition. He has made some excellent saves from game one and handled the pressure of leading the home nation admirably.
Dr – Kyle Walker (England)
Has been England’s best player and dominated the right flank in both of his appearances so far. His pace has been a real concern for opponents and delivery has been ever improving. If England are to do well in this competition, the Spurs man will play a huge role.
RCB – Jeremy Boateng (Germany)
Germany have not been at their destructive best, but when tested by opponents Boateng has risen to the challenge. People often say he is liable to an error but his concentration levels have been good and even has a goal line clearance to his name.
LCB – Giorgio Chielini (Italy)
Italy came into this competition with the longest odds of winning I can remember of any Italy side, but they have done well in their three games. The entire team defended really well in the opener against Belgium and another clean sheet against Sweden sees the experienced Juventus man into my team.
LB – Jordi Alba (Spain)
At their best the full backs for Spain are as effective as the forwards and Alba is arguably the best in the world in his position right now. Ran riot in the first two games and was a pivotal figure in game three until Croatia turned on the style.
DM – Toni Kroos ( Germany )
Always seems to have an eternity on the ball and has an unbelievable range of passing. Has even decided to have a few shots at goal during the group stages. Has dictated everything and if anyone but Germany is going to win it, you are going to have to keep him quiet.
CM – Ivan Rakitic ( Croatia )
It was either him or compatriot Modric for this role. Croatia have probably been the most impressive side in the competition so far and these two pull the strings but I opted for the Barcelona man after his eye catching display against Spain. Good tackler, passer and has good attacking instincts.
AM – Laszlo Kleinheisler ( Hungary )
Like all football fans I love an underdog story and Hungary have provided it so far. For me the Werder Bremen midfielder is a key attacking threat. Reminds me of Paul Scholes in the positions he takes up (and his ginger hair).
RW -Gareth Bale (Wales)
Joint top scorer after the groups and helped his side finish top of their group, the Real Madrid winger is one of the few big names that has really turned up so far.
LW Dimitri Payet (France)
The standout player so far. All the talk before the competition was about Pogba, but the West Ham attacker has been a different class. Big game mentality too scoring in the first two games before hitting the bar in the draw with Switzerland.
ST Alvaro Morata (Spain)
The youngster took a lot of criticism after the first game but is joint top scorer with 3 and looks to be improving.
What these competitions also do is give you a glimpse into the future. Between the 24 sides there were no fewer than 98 players aged 23 or under. I have highlighted a few that stood out as ones to watch in the coming years.
Coman – Winger – France
The youngster with tons of pedigree has been used in all three games and has done well. Also showed v Switzerland he is not afraid to do the defensive part of the game.
Ajeti – CB – Albania
Put in a brilliant performance v France and it came as no surprise that when we went off they then conceded 2.
Draxler – left wing – Germany
Possibly the best of all the younger players. His performances have seen him linked with a move to Man United.
Milik – Forward – Poland
Lewandowski who? Polands main man has played second fiddle to the Ajax forward who is gaining admiring eyes through Europe. Scored the winner v Northern Ireland and should have had two v Germany.
Kaputska – Winger – Poland
The 19 year old has looked very impressive in patches particularly v Northern Ireland.
Guerreiro – left back – Portugal
One of the few impressive players for Portugal. Seems to have decent delivery and also very capable at defending.
Embolo – Striker – Switzerland
Had a bit part role to play in the first two games and was brilliant v France. If given the starting birth in the knockouts he will be very dangerous.