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Dublin: 16 °C Wednesday 18 July, 2018

One Irishman makes our Euro 2016 best XI from the first round of games

We select the most impressive players from the tournament’s opening matches.

Wes Hoolahan celebrates his goal against Sweden.
Wes Hoolahan celebrates his goal against Sweden.
Image: Francois Mori

Manuel Neuer (Germany): There haven’t been many standout goalkeeping performances yet, but Neuer made some good saves and kept a clean sheet against Ukraine, as Germany ran out 2-0 winners.

Leonardo Bonucci (Italy): Not only was he superb at the back in Italy’s 2-0 win over Belgium but he also produced a brilliant long pass to create Emanuele Giaccherini’s clinical goal.

Giorgio Chiellini (Italy): Lived up to his reputation as one of the best defenders in the world, Chiellini was at the heart of an Italian defence that rarely looked like being breached despite an array of talented attackers at Belgium’s disposal.

Shkodran Mustafi (Germany): A clean sheet and a goal represented a fine day’s work for the 24-year-old Valencia defender and German international who failed to make a single first-team appearance during a three-year stint as a youngster at Everton.

Andrea Barzaghli (Italy): Linked up superbly with his Juventus colleagues at the back as Belgium frustrated Italy.

N’Golo Kante (France): A year can be a long time in football, as epitomised by the rise of Kante — last year he was largely unknown, now he is a Premier League winner and a vital player for France, as he showed with a typically tenacious display in the 2-1 win over Romania.

Andres Iniesta (Spain): Used all his experience to help Spain get over the line, producing an influential display that culminated in a gorgeous assist for Gerard Pique’s winner.

Luka Modric (Croatia): A lot was expected of Modric as Croatia’s main man. And on the back of his Champions League win with Real Madrid, he gave a bravura display in midfield topped off by a spectacular volley to earn Croatia a 1-0 win over Turkey.

Dimitri Payet (France): Scored arguably the goal of the tournament so far with a brilliant last-gasp strike as France narrowly defeated Romania, and like Kante he has become a somewhat improbable star of the French side over the past 12 months.

Wes Hoolahan (Ireland): Delivered the type of performance on the international stage that his admirers have long since insisted he was capable of while scoring a very well-taken goal to boot amid Ireland’s 1-1 draw with Sweden.

Olivier Giroud (France): Has his critics in France, and has even been booed by a certain section of the French support of late, but Giroud was excellent in the tournament opener, leading the line very well and scoring his eighth goal from six starts.

Formation (4-4-1-1)


Mustafi Bonucci Barzaghli Chiellini

Payet Kante Iniesta Modric



Subs: Gerard Pique (Spain), Eric Dier (England), Martin Olsson (Sweden), Toni Kroos (Germany), Emanuele Giaccherini (Italy), Kári Árnason (Iceland), Gareth Bale (Wales).

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About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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