Wales

Euro 2016 Team of the Tournament

Goalkeeper: Rui Patricio (Portugal)

This year’s Euros showcased some of the finest goalkeepers in the world, but the likes of Manuel Neuer, Thibaut Courtois and David De Gea were all outshone by Portugal’s Rui Patricio.

Patricio kept four clean sheets from seven matches – the joint highest amount, and also made the second highest amount of saves (20) at the tournament.

In addition, the Sporting Lisbon stopper made more saves in a Euro final since 1980.

Right-back: Bacary Sagna (France)

Over the last year or so, Bacary Sagna has revitalised his career. The Frenchman has overthrown Pablo Zabaleta to be Manchester City’s first-choice right-back and he used that to his advantage to be one of the top performers at the Euros, too.

Throughout the course of the tournament, Sagna made 38 clearances, seven interceptions and won seven tackles.

Furthermore, Sagna showed his creative side with assists such as the delectable whipped cross that Antoine Griezmann guided in to drag France level against the Republic of Ireland.

Centre back: Pepe (Portugal)

Euro 2016 will probably be remembered as a very defensive tournament, and the best defender on show in France was Portugal’s Pepe.

The Brazilian-born Real Madrid centre back has a reputation for being a hothead but he was composed at the heart of A Selecao’s defence as they shocked everyone to be crowned champions, where Pepe was the Man of the Match in the final.

In the final, Pepe made 17 interceptions, seven defensive headers, won five aerial duels, five blocks and nine tackles.

Centre back: Ashley Williams (Wales)

Much of the talk from the Welsh camp from the word go at the Euros was how much passion the squad possessed and Ashley Williams demonstrated that more than most.

None more so than when he appeared to be injured against the Northern Ireland but refused to be substituted and was then fit to face Belgium a matter of days later.

In said Belgium match he scored to get his country level and then showed guile and, that word, passion, to drag Wales over the line, much like he did in every other game.

Left-back: Raphael Guerreiro (Portugal)

Portugal may have had worries with regards to the left-hand side of their defence ahead of the Euros when Fabio Coentrao was ruled out with injury, but young prodigy Raphael Guerreiro stepped up to the plate and then some.

Like defensive partner Pepe, Guerreiro is not native Portuguese, ironically he was born in France, who Portugal beat in the final, and he looked at home throughout the tournament.

His numbers make for impressive reading: 17 clearances, 14 interceptions, 10 tackles won, eight chances created and one assist and one Young Player of the Tournament nomination for good measure.

Centre midfielder: Aaron Ramsey (Wales)

Prior to Euro 2016 Gareth Bale was often touted as the man that would make Wales tick if they were to make an impact, however it was Aaron Ramsey who really shone.

Ramsey registered the joint highest amount of assists at the Euros with a tally of four, with two of them coming in Wales’ huge win over Belgium to send them to their first ever semi-final.

The Arsenal midfielder was also vital in the 3-0 win over Russia which won Group B for Wales. He scored one goal and assisted another to earn a Man of the Match award.

It wasn't just Ramsey's peroxide blonde hair that stood out at Euro 2016 as his performances lit up the tournament

It wasn’t just Ramsey’s peroxide blonde hair that stood out at Euro 2016 as his performances lit up the tournament

Centre midfielder: Toni Kroos (Germany)

Toni Kroos was one of, if not the, best German performers two years ago as Die Mannschaft became the world champions and the midfield maestro was on top form again two years later.

Kroos bossed the show in Germany’s opening encounter against Ukraine, creating the most chances and notching an assist and he continued to dominate the midfield in every other match like he does all too often.

Bayern Munich must rue the day they let him go to Real Madrid for just £20 million.

Centre midfielder: Renato Sanches (Portugal)

Eyebrows were raised when Bayern Munich announced the signing of 18-year-old Renato Sanches for 35 million Euros but it seems like they have signed up a gem of a player.

Sanches won the Young Player of the Tournament at the Euros for a number of dazzling displays in the middle of the park for Portugal.

He really caught the eye though when he rifled in a sensational strike against Poland and it may go down as the moment he announced himself onto the European stage.

Right winger: Dmitri Payet (France)

Dmitri Payet got the Euros off to an electrifying start with a last-gasp winner against Romania with a thumping effort and carried on in the same vein as hosts France went all the way to the final.

Payet then sealed a 2-0 victory against Albania, scoring again in second-half stoppage time and almost broke the deadlock in the 0-0 draw against Switzerland despite only coming on as a second-half substitute.

The West Ham man was hugely influential in the 5-2 demolition of Iceland to boot and he ended his summer with three goals and two assists.

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Striker: Antoine Griezmann (France)

It took Griezmann longer than expected to make a serious impact on Euro 2016, but once he found his scoring touch, it took something special to stop him.

Griezmann only managed one goal in his first three games in the Group Stages and it looked like the pre-tournament Golden Boot favourite would have a tournament to forget.

But then he netted two against the Republic of Ireland in the last 16, then he netted against Iceland and he soon had another brace vs Germany to send France to the final.

Left winger: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)

At times the egotistical Cristiano Ronaldo was humbled by underwhelming performances, but when it mattered the big man stood up to the occasion.

Ronaldo netted a brace against Hungary when Portugal needed a result to qualify from their group, including one that almost won goal of the tournament, but his showing in the semi-final versus Wales was his best.

He powered in a header to give Portugal the lead shortly after the half-time break and three minutes later Nani turned in a shot of Ronaldo’s to make the result secure.

Top 10: Best young Championship players

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In yet another Championship season that has seen thrills, spills, excitement and drama, here’s a look at some of the young players who made an impact and could be destined for bright things in the future.

10: Jamaal Lascelles (Nottingham Forest)

The first of three Nottingham Forest players to make an appearance in this list, Jamaal Lascelles is hot property. The 20-year-old Centre Back has already attracted interested from the likes of Liverpool, Manchester City and Arsenal in the Premiership with the latter submitting a £5 million pound bid for the Forest man when he was just 17. Everton are also keeping an eye on his progress.

The Derby born defender spent time at League 1 Stevenage last season, scoring one goal in seven games with his first start for the club coming in a 6-0 away win over Yeovil Town, who would of course go on to earn promotion via the play offs.

Lascelles has made 31 appearances this campaign, scoring two goals and has also made two caps for the England Under 20 squad.

9: Karl Darlow (Nottingham Forest)

Karl Darlow is the second member of the Forest contingent to appear in the top 10 and the only goalkeeper. Darlow began his career at Aston Villa as an eight-year-old but found himself without a club by age 16.

Weeks after his release he was snapped up by Nottingham Forest on recommendation by Villa goalkeeping coach Eric Steele and the Englishman hasn’t looked back since.

Darlow is eligible to play for Wales through his Grandfather Ken Leek who was a former pro himself, netting 49 goals in 104 games for Birmingham City, and representing Wales in the 1958 World Cup. Darlow however has rejected a call up from the Red Dragons in hope that he’ll one day attract interest from England.

The 23-year-old has had to be patient for his Forest chance, having been at the club since 2010 and being away from the club twice on loan in 2012 (Newport and Walsall) but he has now established himself as the number one at the City Ground following Lee Camp’s departure.

We could well be seeing Darlow in the Premier League soon, either with Forest who came close to promotion this season, or via another route with Liverpool and Tottenham keen on the youngster.

8: Rohan Ince (Brighton)

Rohan Ince, third cousin of Manchester United legend Paul and second cousin of Crystal Palace winger Tom, has made a big impression since joining the AMEX after his release from Chelsea.

Liam Bridcutt’s January move to Sunderland had Seagulls fans on edge, fearing a big gap had been left in the midfield but Ince has filled it admirably as Brighton push to finish in the final play off place.

The former Centre Back, now defensive midfielder, has looked solid in a Brighton shirt, making 28 appearances this season, including a number of man of the match performances as he looks to emulate both his cousins with Paul and Tom both gracing the Premier League in their careers.

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7: Anthony Knockaert (Leicester)

Villain turned hero. Knockaert was the man who missed “that penalty” against Watford that led to Troy Deeney’s magnificent counter attack goal that took Watford to Wembley instead of Leicester as the Hornets stung the Foxes at Vicarage Road.

Leicester’s Frenchman has redeemed himself however scoring five goals in 38 games as they have stormed to the Championship title.

The cunning Fox will have to be kept at arm’s length by Premiership defences next season as this tricky wide man will be keen to ensure Leicester do a lot more than just compete in England’s top tier.

6: Jamie Paterson (Nottingham Forest)

The third and final Forest man to feature is winger-cum-striker Jamie Paterson who has made a real impression in Nottingham since his hat trick in a 5-0 demolition of West Ham, his first three goals for the club.

He scored his first league goal in the following game, a 1-1 away draw at Bolton and then he scored in his third successive game in a 4-1 trouncing of Blackburn back at the City Ground.

Paterson would go onto score another five in the season as the Tricky Trees went on a terrible run of form leading up to Billy Davies’ sacking.

5: Matt Phillips (QPR)

In what has been a disappointing season by all accounts, Matt Phillips has been a rare top performer in a Rangers shirt this season.

The pacey winger who has also previously spent time at Wycombe and Blackpool has contributed two assists and three goals during the R’s stuttering season which has seen no-one score more than five goals apart from Charlie Austin, who spent a large chunk of the year out injured, and Ravel Morrision who only joined in January on loan.

Scotland International Phillips, 23, was voted Wycombe’s Young Player of the Year in 2009 (aged 19), and also picked up the prestigious Football League Two ‘Apprentice of the Year’ award the same year.

Phillips was also a regular for Blackpool when they graced the Premier League and following their relegation was subject to a £5 million bid from Southampton, which was turned down. Phillips handed in a transfer request soon after.

4: Patrick Bamford (Derby County, on loan from Chelsea)

Bamford is quickly establishing himself as one of the most talented young strikers England has to offer after firstly impressing at League 1 MK Dons and then a level higher at Championship’s Derby County.

Lincolnshire lad Bamford, 20, netted 18 goals in 37 League 1 games at Stadium:MK over two seasons before Steve McClaren invited the young forward to upgrade to the Championship which he took to like a duck to water scoring 8 in 20 in Derby colours.

Chelsea’s latest prospect will be hoping he is a Premier League player next season, either with Derby County who have guaranteed themselves a play off spot or with his parent club who are having a well documented problem with their forward line.

His International future is as open in the air as his club career with Bamford having featured for the Republic of Ireland under 18’s as well as England’s development squads (Under 18, 19 and 21 level) but it looks like he has opted for the three Lions, to the delight of many.

3: Will Hughes (Derby County)

When the phrase “top young talents in the Championship” is ever mentioned, Will Hughes springs to the mind of most football fans, none more so to those who watch him week in week out at Pride Park.

“Pride” is the operative word around the Derby area when talking about this young man, making his first team debut aged just 17 years of age.

He was immediately on the radar of Manchester United and City, as well as Chelsea and even Barcelona.

It’s Liverpool fans though who are most confident of the midfielder’s signature with Hughes being a fan of the club.

The midfielder’s development hasn’t slowed down, despite all the hype surrounding him at such a young age and the now 19 year old is firmly focused on getting Derby County, where he is now a regular, back into the Premier League.

Hughes is not much of a goal scorer, having only been on the score-sheet five times for County in 73 games but it’s his flair that excites clubs and fans alike with him. Hughes has assisted five goals this season and was voted the 10th best player of the season in the Championship.

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2: Kieran Trippier (Burnley)

Burnley Right Back Kieran Trippier has been a key cog in the Clarets doing so surprisingly well this season but hasn’t had the headlines he perhaps deserves with Sam Vokes and Danny Ings’ strike partnership stealing most of the attention.

The Manchester City Youth Graduate (who captained the side to 2008 Youth Cup glory) has plenty of Championship experience under his belt already with two loan spells at Barnsley followed by one at Burnley before Sean Dyche brought him to Turf Moor on a permanent deal.

Trippier is one of the league’s top assisters this season with 14 and also finds himself in the division’s meanest defence, Burnley have conceded just 35 goals in 45 games this season. He was also voted the Championship’s 8th best player this season.

1: Danny Ings (Burnley)

The Championship’s best young player, the Championship’s best player.

Danny Ings, aged just 21 was voted the player of the season this year as Sean Dyche’s cash-strapped Clarets, who many were backing for relegation to League 1, were promoted to the Premiership as runners up.

20 goals in 45 games makes Danny Ings the joint fifth top scorer with Derby’s Chris Martin and Sam Vokes who he’s enjoyed a fruitful goalscoring relationship with this season.

Just last season, Ings only managed three goals in 32 games which highlights his vast improvement this season.

Following his successful campaign he is now touted as a transfer target for title chasing Liverpool as they look to bolster their thin squad ahead of their first Champions League campaign in five years.

If Ings signs the dotted line at Anfield this Summer, it will be a far cry from 2010 when he found himself on loan at Dorchester Town.

Wherever Ings finds himself next season, we know it will be in the Premier League where he will be hoping to make a big impression and who knows, he may even find himself in Roy Hodgson’s plans.

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