So there went Euro 2016 – along with the host nation’s hopes of winning the championship in front of their own fans. It seems like a long time ago that the tournament started with security issues and the controversy of poor behaviour of a small section of the fans.
But it wasn’t long until the football took over and, though many have agreed that it wasn’t an outstanding tournament overall, it did have some incredible moments, for example when Iceland showed just what a threat they could be – much to England’s surprise. Then there were the wonder goals like Hal Robson-Kanu’s as he beat the befuddled defenders on the way to Wales’ famous victory over Belgium or Xherdan Shaqiri’s bicycle kick to score against Poland.
But overall, with just 108 goals over the 51 matches, it was far from being a high-scoring affair. Nevertheless, for anyone who had become involved in the increasingly popular fantasy sports betting there were five standout players, including no less than three from the runners-up France.
Antoine Griezmann (France)
With six goals and two assists to his credit Antoine Griezmann was by far the leading scorer in Euro 2016 and was always to be found in the heart of the action. He started the tournament quietly but as the matches progressed his performances became better and better. So it’s no wonder that he was named player of the tournament.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
While he may not be the player he once was there’s no denying that Cristiano Ronaldo is still world-class in every sense of the phrase. No-one found it more tragic than him that he had to be taken off after injury in the final but he continued to cajole and encourage from the touchline. Over the tournament he had three assists and scored three goals which ranged from cheeky back-heels to the powerful header that helped to put Wales on the plane back home.
Dimitri Payet (France)
France and West Ham’s Dimitri Payet notched up two assists and also scored three goals – as many as he’d scored over the previous six years since his debut for his country. For many he’s been the unsung hero of the team, quietly getting on with the game in a distinctly low-profile way. In the first night of the tournament, however, he certainly made his mark with a scorching 89th minute winner against Romania.
Olivier Giroud (France)
Giroud has endured a rocky ride with French supporters having failed to find the net as often as he should in the past but his three goals and two assists here should have helped to cement his place in their affections.
Gareth Bale (Wales)
Before the tournament began many felt that Bale was the one man Welsh squad. But when the team started to show their cohesion and collective spirit these criticisms quickly fell away. Playing in all their matches Bale scored three times and had one assist.
We can only speculate whether the absence of Aaron Ramsey in the semi-final was the reason Bale, and Wales, didn’t make it all the way to the final.