Connect in the back of the net

Below is the eighth installment of a UEFA Euro 2016 column titled “The Russian Review” by Russian football expert and sports journalist, Shaun Nicolaides.

Thirty-one days, fifty matches, one winner.

After an unbelievable victory against hosts France in the showpiece final, Portugal have been crowed champions of UEFA Euro 2016, and it’s a tournament which will live long in the memory.

From the fan trouble in Marseille to Eder’s stunning goal in Saint Denis, the competition has given us unforgettable moments, and we won’t be able to put this incredible month behind us for some while.

Despite UEFA Euro 2016 lacking a real standout match, and heavy criticisms of UEFA’s decision to increase the amount of competitors up to twenty-four, there have been some real turn ups for the books.

Iceland and Wales went deep into the knockout stages during their European Championship debuts, Poland showed signs of footballing promise, Northern Ireland made it through an impossible group, and Portugal defied the odds to become winners.

As to sum up this festival of football, here is my team of the tournament.

 

Goalkeeper

Hugo Lloris, France, 29 years old

He went unnoticed during the past month, but Tottenham Hotspur’s Hugo Lloris was rock solid between the posts for France.

Conceded only three goals from open play, and made superb saves against Germany.

On the downside, he could have reacted quicker for Portugal’s extra time dagger.

 

Defenders

Joshua Kimmich, Germany, 21 years old

Another new star in Germany’s rich reserves.

Joshua Kimmich was a revelation at UEFA Euro 2016, and he was dangerous bombing up and down the right flank.

Last season was his first full Bundesliga campaign with Bayern Munich, and big things look to be heading his way.

 

Ragnar Sigurdsson, Iceland, 30 years old

Iceland were simply fantastic, and one of the main reasons behind their success was centre back Ragnar Sigurdsson.

The FC Krasnodar defender didn’t give his opponents a sniff, and he netted the equalising goal in that historic victory against England.

Looks destined for a move to a bigger European club.

 

Leonardo Bonucci, Italy, 29 years old

The Italians took everyone by surprise, and they built their tactics around having a superior team spirit.

Leonardo Bonucci signified their best qualities, and he became a heroic figure for his nation.

 

Jonas Hector, Germany, 26 years old

If no one had really heard of Cologne’s Jonas Hector before the competition, they certainly have now.

He was useful for the Germans on the left wing, and with Kimmich doing just as well on the opposite side, Germany were a threat when breaking on the counter.

 

Midfielders

Ivan Perisic, Croatia, 27 years old

Yes, Croatia were dumped out at the last 16 stage, but they still played some of the championship’s best football.

Ivan Perisic was a true live-wire for the exciting Croats, and his pacey ventures to the opponents’ penalty box caught the eye.

Scored the winning goal against Spain.

 

Paul Pogba, France, 23 years old

Cool, calm and elegant – three words that perfectly sum up Paul Pogba.

The 23 year old kept his country’s midfield ticking, and his pinpoint passes split opposing defences.

Seems to be edging towards a return to Manchester United.

 

Renato Sanches, Portugal, 18 years old

Wow, what a talent.

At just 18 years of age, Renato Sanches stood out head and shoulders above the majority of his Portuguese teammates, and he displayed just why Bayern Munich have splashed the cash.

His bullish-like figure makes it hard for him to be pushed off the ball, and he isn’t short of technical ability either.

 

Gareth Bale, Wales, 26 years old

The Welsh star lived up to the hype.

Gareth Bale led from the front for Wales, and scored in all three group games as his team took Europe by storm.

His pace and power inspired his teammates, and he has a lot to be proud of.

 

Forwards

Antoine Griezmann, France, 25 years old

The top scorer of UEFA Euro 2016 with a handsome six goals.

Brought France back from the brink against the Republic of Ireland, and scored the deciding goal in the semi.

 

Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal, 31 years old

You either love him or you hate him, but there is no denying his passion for the game.

Never once did Cristiano let his head drop, and he came roaring back with three vital markers.

Had the last laugh after leaving the final injured.

 

Substitutes: Rui Patricio (Portugal), Laurent Koscielny (France), Pepe (Portugal), Jerome Boateng (Germany), Andrea Barzagli (Italy), Dimitri Payet (France), Grzegorz Krychowiak (Poland), Birkir Bjarnason (Iceland), Aaron Ramsey (Wales), Balazs Dzsudzsak (Hungary), Olivier Giroud (France), Graziano Pelle (Italy).

 

Written by Shaun Nicolaides

Follow Shaun on Twitter @zenitfan93

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