Fantasy Spotlight – Team of the Euro 2016 Quarter-finals
Team of the Euro 2016 quarter-finals
The quarter-finals of Euro 2016 saw plenty of drama, as world champions Germany saw off Italy in a penalty shoot-out, while Wales marched on once more with a 3-1 victory over Belgium.
Portugal were the first team into the last-four, knocking out Poland after a 5-3 victory on spot-kicks, with hosts France booking their place in the semi-finals with a 5-2 win against Iceland.
But who were the best players during the quarter-finals of the tournament? Let’s take a look.
No goalkeepers were able to keep a clean sheet during the quarter-finals of Euro 2016, but Manuel Neuer was the best stopper on show during the last round of the tournament.
The Germany captain, still wearing the armband in place of the unfit Bastian Schweinsteiger, was only beaten by Leonardo Bonucci’s penalty, although he would get his revenge in the shoot-out.
Neuer saved from Bonucci and then also from Matteo Darmian to give Jonas Hector the chance to put his side through, the left-back making no mistake with his penalty.
The strong leadership skills of Ashley Williams have been on show throughout Euro 2016, but never more so than during Wales’ demolition of Belgium in Friday’s quarter-final.
After Radja Nainggolan’s long-range strike put the Red Devils deservedly in front, Williams headed Wales level and they did not look back, with second-half goals from Hal Robson-Kanu and Sam Vokes seeing them through to a semi-final against Portugal in Lyon on Wednesday.
Bonucci turned out to be one of the fall-guys for Italy in their penalty shoot-out loss to Germany, but his performances throughout the finals have been totemic.
The Juventus centre-back levelled for the Azzurri from the spot, but in the shoot-out his effort was saved by Neuer, sending Italy home at the quarter-final stage.
While Bonucci missed, Germany left-back Hector made sure of his team’s place in the semi-finals by rounding off an epic shoot-out. Hector’s penalty was not the best, but after Germany had missed three times from the spot, his shot just about squeezed under Gianluigi Buffon’s body.
Wales right-back Chris Gunter has been a solid performer at Euro 2016 and he produced a sublime cross for Vokes to round off his team’s excellent victory against Belgium.
The centre from the Reading full-back was perfect for Vokes to attack, the Burnley striker flicking a superb header across Thibaut Courtois to spark delirium in the Wales end of the stadium.
Nainggolan scored a goal-of-the-season contender for Belgium against Wales, but the stunning shot proved in vain as his side crumbled to a 3-1 defeat.
There seemed to be nothing on when the ball was rolled to Nainggolan 30 yards out from goal, but he let rip with a rasping drive that left goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey grasping at thin air.
Portugal are still without a win in 90 minutes at Euro 2016, but the emergence of teenage star Renato Sanches has arguably been the biggest story of the tournament for the Seleção.
Sanches benefited from a big deflection as he rifled in Portugal’s equaliser against Poland, then he showed great nerve to score his penalty as his team progressed in the shoot-out.
Wales will be without Aaron Ramsey for their semi-final and the midfielder will be a big miss for his team, having been highly influential again in the last round.
Ramsey took his tally of assists to four – the joint-most in the tournament – in the win over Belgium and Wales coach Chris Coleman will find it very hard to replace his quality on the ball.
Leading the race for the top goalscorer award with a maximum of two games to play is Antoine Griezmann, who was on target again for France as they brushed Iceland aside 5-2 on Sunday.
Griezmann also recorded a pair of goals and if France can get past Germany in their next game he has a great chance of being named the player of the tournament.
He has certainly been a great pick for Euro 2016 daily fantasy football players.
Few pundits would have predicted Hal Robson-Kanu would score one of the goals of the tournament, but he did just that in Wales’ 3-1 victory against Belgium in Lille.
When the ball came to Robson-Kanu in the box, there seemed to be little on. But the versatile forward – who is currently without a club – produced an incredible Cruyff turn to beat three defenders in one fluid movement, before thumping a shot past Courtois to put his side ahead.
Robson-Kanu now has two goals at Euro 2016 and his agent will certainly have been receiving a lot of phone calls and text messages in the last couple of days.
The much-maligned Olivier Giroud continues to do a decent job up front for France, scoring a brace against Iceland to take his Euro 2016 tally up to three.
A clinical finish and a simple header got the job done for his side and Giroud also collected an assist, which will keep his many critics quiet for a little while.