The stars of Euro 2016


Paris (AFP) – At the end of the European Championships, AFP looks at five players who shone over the last month in France: 

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

This will be remembered as Ronaldo’s tournament, for good and for bad. It did not start well for him and he was stretchered off injured in the first half of the final but Portugal still lifted their first major international trophy. There was a less then classy outburst at Iceland, who he accused of having a “small mentality” after their opening draw. He then missed a penalty in a goalless stalemate with Austria and it looked as if Portugal might go out in the group stage before he surged to the fore with a brilliant brace in a 3-3 draw with Hungary that saved the Selecao. 

Those goals also allowed him to become the first player to score at four straight Euro finals. An assist for Ricardo Quaresma’s winner against Croatia in the last 16 and a successful penalty that sparked their shoot-out win over Poland in the quarter-finals made up for disappointing displays in those matches. But his majestic header set up the 2-0 win over Wales in the last four and saw him equal Michel Platini’s record of nine goals at the Euro finals. Better was to come as Portugal won the trophy by stunning the hosts, although he was watching from the touchline at the end after coming off early on at the Stade de France with a knee injury.

Antoine Griezmann (France)

Griezmann missed a glorious chance to put France in front in the final they eventually lost, but up until then he had been the tournament’s outstanding performer. The 25-year-old came into the competition on the back of an agonising defeat with Atletico Madrid in the Champions League final, in which he missed a penalty. But he recovered from that to take away the Euro 2016 golden boot with six goals, the highest tally of a player at a European Championship since Michel Platini netted nine times as France won as hosts in 1984. “In this Euro, he’s been decisive for us,” said France coach Didier Deschamps, while sports daily L’Equipe labelled this team the “Griezmann Generation” after their semi-final win against Germany in which he netted a brace.

Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)

Bonucci was the man at the heart of the superbly drilled Italian defence as Antonio Conte’s unfancied side reached the quarter-finals only to succumb on penalties to Germany. The Juventus stopper, who once got away from a gun-toting armed robber by punching him in the face, let very little get by him in France. He was the man of the match in Italy’s 2-0 win against reigning champions Spain in the last 16. And against Germany his coolly taken penalty levelled the match, which eventually went to a shoot-out. Bonucci failed from the spot the second time around as Italy bowed out, but the 29-year-old still had a tremendous tournament.

Aaron Ramsey (Wales)

Far from being a one man team relying on the genius of Gareth Bale, Wales’s success in reaching a major tournament semi-final for the first time owed everything to a superb collective effort. But arguably their key man was the Arsenal midfielder Ramsey. He was the man of the match and scored the opener in the 3-0 win over Russia that took Chris Coleman’s side into the last 16 as winners of their group. Ramsey was then outstanding in the stunning 3-1 defeat of Belgium in the last eight, but a booking in that game saw him, crucially, miss the semi-final loss to Portugal due to injury.

Grzegorz Krychowiak (Poland)

Krychowiak learnt his trade as a footballer in France after joining Bordeaux as a teenager and he looked right at home during the tournament in the heart of Poland’s midfield. The man who makes his side tick in the engine room, 26-year-old Krychowiak took the official man of the match award after Poland’s opening win against Northern Ireland. His standards never dropped after that as Poland made it to the quarter-finals before losing on penalties to Portugal. Krychowiak will be back in France next season after securing a big money move to Paris Saint-Germain from Sevilla.

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