Monday 20 November 2017

Home nations dominate Kevin Palmer's Euro 2016 team of the group stages

Robbie Brady, Gareth Bale and Michael McGovern
Robbie Brady, Gareth Bale and Michael McGovern
Kevin Palmer

Kevin Palmer

After the group stages of Euro 2016 came to a glorious end for the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday night, there was a temptation to sprinkle a host of Boys in Green into our team of the tournament so far.

Such was the euphoria of the moment as Robbie Brady scored his already iconic winner against Italy in Lille that fantasy replaced reality for a few wonderful hours, as sport confirmed once again that it can take you to places nothing else can.

With the dust starting to settle around us at HQ, here is our team of the group phase, with a suitable helping of bias injected into the line-up.

Michael McGovern (Northern Ireland)

Minutes played: 270

Total saves: 16

The shining star of Northern Ireland’s march into the last-16 of Euro 2016, this 31-year-old stopper has been the leading light in Michael O’Neill’s team of battlers. Once on the books at Celtic, McGovern has led a less than glorious existence in Scottish football to this point in his career, but he is being linked with a move to English football after his heroics in France this summer.

Michael McGovern, left, saves from Thomas Muller in the first half

Darijo Srna (Croatia)

PARIS, FRANCE - JUNE 12: Darijo Srna of Croatia in action during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group D match between Turkey and Croatia at Parc des Princes on June 12, 2016 in Paris, France. (Photo by Matthias Hangst/Getty Images)

Minutes played: 270

Pass completion rate: 80%

The emotional journey Srna has been on during Euro 2016 will live with him forever, with the death of his beloved father earlier this month casting a huge shadow over his participation in the finals. He has heroically managed to turn in some immaculate display in his role as Croatia captain.

Ragnar Sigurdsson (Iceland)

Minutes played: 270

Pass completion rate: 80%

Iceland’s run to the last-16 of Euro 2016 has been one of the great fairy tales of the competition, with the commentary on their stunning win against Austria last night instantly becoming a modern classic. This powerhouse defender plays for FC Krasnodar in the Russian league and has been hugely impressive.

P7 Iceland 1.jpg
Hungary's Daniel Bode, left, and Iceland's Ragnar Sigurdsson, right, challenge for the ball during the Euro 2016 Group F match in Marseille. Photo: Claude Paris/AP

Gareth McAuley (Northern Ireland)

Northern Ireland's Gareth McAuley in action with Germany's Mario Gotze. Photo: Reuters

Minutes played: 270

Pass completion rate: 68%

When Northern Ireland’s Euro 2016 summer is recalled in years to come, the flying header from this veteran defender will be the iconic moment. McAuley has been part of the heroic rearguard action that has guided his nation into the last-16 of the tournament and now they will be dreaming of more glory against Wales on Saturday.

Robbie Brady (Republic of Ireland)

Minutes played: 270

Pass completion rate: 74%

Brady’s goal against Italy on Wednesday night was one of those iconic moments that will live in our memories forever. Yet his inclusion in this team is not due to sentiment, with the Norwich star confirming his worth both as a defender and an attacking presence during Euro 2016.

Robbie Brady's header sealed a 1-0 win over Italy for the Republic of Ireland on Wednesday

Toni Kroos (Germany)

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Germany's Toni Kroos. Press Association

Minutes played: 270

Pass completion rate: 93%

This Real Madrid star has been a model of consistency in an efficient if unspectacular German side, with his pass completion rate highlighting his quality in the centre of the midfield. Simple, effective and slipping neatly into the ‘world class’ category, Kross is a quality performers.

Granit Xhaka (Switzerland)

Minutes played: 270

Pass completion rate: 92%

Arsenal fans will be encouraged by what they have seen from their first big summer signing at Euro 2016, with his superb efficiency on the ball highlighted by his passing accuracy. He will be a key man for Switzerland in their last-16 clash with Poland on Saturday.

Granit Xhaka's shirt is clearly ripped during Switzerland's match with France. Getty

Eric Dier (England)

England's midfielder Eric Dier celebrates after scoring a goal the match between England and Russia. Photo: Paul Ellis/Getty Images

Minutes played: 270

Pass completion rate: 90%

England boss Roy Hodgson made a host of changes to his side for their final Group B clash against Slovakia, but he couldn’t leave out this Tottenham star after his outstanding displays anchoring the England midfield. His stunning set-piece goal in the opening match against Russia highlighting his status as a rising star of the game.

Dimitri Payet (France)

Minutes played: 207

Pass completion rate: 80%

West Ham officials must be relieved that they tied down this star performer to a new contract a few months ago as the hawks would be hovering for him now. A free-kick master, he will be one of the chief threats to the Republic of Ireland in Sunday’s last-16 battle in Lyon.

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Dimitri Payet celebrates after scoring against Albania: ‘Our kids are much more likely to put out bunting for the Queen’s birthday than if France win the Euros,’ says Dani Allen, wife of Laurent Benezech. Photo: Thanassis Stavrakis/AP

Gareth Bale (Wales)

Wales' Gareth Bale celebrates after scoring their first goal REUTERS/Lee Smith

Minutes played: 263

Goals scored: 3

Bale came into Euro 2016 hailed as one of the handful of world-class performers in the competition and has lived up to his billing in the grand manner. Scoring in all three group games for Wales, he is the talisman carrying Chris Coleman’s side towards what could be a lengthy run in this competition.

Alvaro Morata (Spain)

Minutes played: 219

Goals scored: 3

While Spain were stunned by Croatia in their final group game, the three goals this marksman has fired at Euro 2016 have confirmed his status as one of the most prized assets in the European game. Real Madrid exercised their buy-back clause to re-sign Morata last week, but there is still talk that he could make a move to a Premier League club this summer.

Alvaro Morata

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