Fantasy Spotlight – Euro 2016 Team of Week 2
Euro 2016 Team of the Week (Round of 16)
The Euro 2016 quarter-finals get under way on Thursday, with Poland taking on Portugal in a match that kicks of four days of knock-out matches that are sure to provide drama.
Iceland caused the shock of the round in the last-16 by beating England 2-1, while France, Germany, Belgium and Wales all moved through to the last-eight quite comfortably.
Elsewhere, Italy set up another blockbuster clash, this time against Germany, by knocking out the holders Spain with a 2-0 win that was arguably the best team performance of the finals so far.
But which players stood out during the round-of-16? Here’s our Team of the Round.
Gianluigi Buffon did not have a huge amount to do in his team’s win over Spain, but a save right at the end of the match summed up the veteran’s enduring brilliance.
When the ball fell to Gerard Piqué just a few yards out an equaliser seemed inevitable, but Buffon somehow kept the effort out, with Graziano Pellè sealing victory with a volley on the break.
Buffon was rested for Italy’s 1-0 defeat to Republic of Ireland in their last match of the group stage, so the 38-year-old Juventus star remains unbeaten in his three appearances at Euro 2016.
The game between Wales and Northern Ireland was always likely to be tight, with the fine form of captain Ashley Williams helping Chris Coleman’s men to keep a decisive clean sheet.
Gareth McAuley’s own goal was enough to send Wales into the quarter-finals of their first major tournament in generations, with Williams again outstanding in a strong defensive performance.
Belgium’s 4-0 win over Hungary looks easy on paper, but it was far from the case, with the Red Devils clinging on to a 1-0 lead for much of the match.
That advantage came from Toby Alderweireld, the centre-back taking advantage of slack marking in the Hungarian defence to crash in a header. A clean sheet – Belgium’s third in a row at the finals – helped Alderweireld to be one of the top-scoring fantasy players of the round.
However, he will have a new partner for the quarter-final against Wales. Thomas Vermaelen misses out through suspension as a result of collecting two bookings in the finals.
Giorgio Chiellini was an injury concern for Italy heading into the tournament, with the Juve centre-back missing much of the second half of the season through injury.
But Chiellini has been peerless at Euro 2016, scrambling home the opening goal against Spain and marshalling his former club-mate Álvaro Morata superbly.
Chiellini’s WhoScored rating of 7.77 marks him out as the best defender at the tournament so far.
Few would have backed Iceland to still be at Euro 2016 in the quarter-finals and they have reached the last-eight despite failing to keep a clean sheet in any of their four matches.
Ragnar Sigurðsson earns a place in Fantasy Spotlight despite this, as he swept in the equaliser against England, with Kolbeinn Sigþórsson’s well-crafted winner ensuring Iceland’s stay at their first ever major international tournament will continue.
Sigurðsson is now reportedly attracting interest from Premier League champions Leicester City.
Kevin De Bruyne
Kevin De Bruyne was one of Belgium’s key men against Hungary, providing the set-piece delivery for Alderweireld’s goal, and the Manchester City is having a very productive Euro 2016.
The 25-year-old has recorded three assists in four matches and his rating of 8.35 on WhoScored is the highest for any player at the tournament, just beating Wales’ Gareth Bale into second spot.
With Poland’s star man Robert Lewandowski out of form, it is just as well that winger Jakub Błaszczykowski has been firing at Euro 2016.
Błaszczykowski scored in Poland’s last group game and was at it against in the round-of-16, firing in for his team in a 1-1 draw against Switzerland, although they needed penalties to go through.
Julian Draxler is one of the new faces in the Germany side since they won the World Cup two years ago and he is announcing himself to the world with some fine performances at Euro 2016.
Draxler – linked with a switch to Manchester United – was the star of the show as his side beat Slovakia 3-0, producing a sublime assist for Mario Gómez before lashing in a volley.
Belgium were under huge pressure against Hungary in their last-16 tie until Eden Hazard produced a spell of sheer brilliance to send his side into the quarter-finals.
First, Hazard set up substitute Michy Batshuayi for a tap-in, before cutting in off the left flank, beating a series of defenders and smashing a low drive in to complete one of the best goals seen at Euro 2016 so far.
Hazard will want to keep up his form in the quarter-finals against Wales as the game is in his old stomping ground of Lille.
Italy’s perceived lack of a top-class forward led to many pundits writing them off ahead of Euro 2016, but Graziano Pellè is doing a fine job for his side.
His volleyed finish added gloss to the scoreline against Spain, with his second goal of the tournament again wrapping up a victory that was virtually assured.
It has been a frustrating tournament for Antoine Griezmann, shunted around the France team by coach Didier Deschamps, before coming to the fore in the last round against Republic of Ireland.
France were trailing to an early Shane Long penalty and looking listless before Deschamps moved Griezmann into the middle alongside Olivier Giroud, with the pair forging an immediate connection, the Atlético Madrid striker scoring both goals in a fine comeback for the hosts.