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One Irish player from both sides of the border included in our best XI of the group stages of Euro 2016

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Luka Modric scored Croatia's first goal of Euro 2016.
Luka Modric scored Croatia's first goal of Euro 2016.
Image: Francois Mori

WITH THE GROUP stages now complete after a breathtaking final day at Euro 2016, we’ve compiled a team of the best players in the competition so far.

GK: Michael McGovern (Northern Ireland)

McGovern becomes a free agent in two weeks’ time, but the former Hamilton goalkeeper should have a host of clubs to pick from after his heroics against Germany.

The 31-year-old made eight saves in total against the World Cup winners, which in the end proved crucial as Northern Ireland made the knockout stages of their first European Championships, thanks to their suprior goal difference – and is enough to earn him a place in the team.

Soccer Euro 2016 Northern Ireland Germany Source: Martin Meissner

RB: Darijo Srna (Croatia)

The right-back has won 132 caps for his country, but has not showed any sign of slowing down despite recently turning 34, with Srna’s vast experience being crucial to Croatia progressing to the last 16.

His performances on the pitch are all the more impressive considering the sad events off it, as the Shakhtar Donetsk defender learned of the death of his father just after his side beat Turkey in their opening game, only to return to France after the funeral just four days later.

Croatia v Spain - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group D - Stade de Bordeaux Source: Hassan Ammar

CB: Jerome Boateng (Germany)

Germany, along with Poland have yet to concede in the competition so far. The world champions have looked more than assured at the back with Bayern Munich defender Boateng being a key ingredient to the Germans keeping three consecutive clean sheets.

His stunning goalline clearance to deny Ukraine’s Yevhen Konoplyanka has been a particular highlight of his campaign so far.

Northern Ireland v Germany - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group C - Parc Des Princes Source: Francois Mori

CB: Giorgio Chiellini (Italy)

The Juventus defender was rested for Italy’s last game of the group stages against Ireland, and the Azzurri badly missed the 31-year-old in the heart of the defence.

Commanding performances from Chiellini in Italy’s first two games, particularly against Belgium ensures his place his place in the side.

Italy v Sweden - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stadium de Toulouse Source: Hassan Ammar

LB: Jordi Alba (Spain)

The Barcelona full-back is pivotal to the way the Spanish team play – offering his team their best attacking outlet from wide areas, where he already has one assist to his name.

The 27-year-old has also been strong at the back and will need to be at his best again if Spain are to get past Italy in the last 16.

Soccer Euro 2016 Croatia Spain Source: Hassan Ammar

CM: Jeff Hendrick (Ireland)

A surprise inclusion for some, but the Derby County midfielder has been Ireland’s outstanding player in the championships.

The 24-year-old has shown great maturity – always seeking a positive pass and to keep the ball on the ground, when possible. Not to mention how close he has come to scoring on a couple of occasions with spectacular attempts from distance.

He has shown glimpses of what he can do in an Ireland shirt before, especially against Georgia at the Aviva Stadium, but his consistency has been key and he has been a driving force in Martin O’Neill’s side. Bigger things are to come for the Derby County midfielder.

Italy v Republic of Ireland - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade Pierre Mauroy Source: Michel Spingler

CM: Luka Modric (Croatia)

It’s probably safe to say that the 30-year-old would get into any team in the competition.

The Real Madrid midfielder scored a sensational volley in Croatia’s first game of the tournament against Turkey, but it’s Modric’s range of passing from his deep-lying position that is central to Croatia’s plans and will be even more important as the tournament progresses.

Turkey v Croatia - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group D - Parc des Princes Source: Martin Rickett

RW: Ivan Perisic (Croatia)

The Inter Milan midfielder has caught the eye of many fans during the competition with his strong running and direct style of play.

The 27-year-old, who was Croatia’s top scorer in their qualifying campaign, has already scored twice at Euro 2016, including netting the winner against Spain in their final group match.

Soccer Euro 2016 Croatia Spain Source: Hassan Ammar

CAM: Andres Iniesta (Spain)

The performances of the Barcelona forward at this year’s European Championship have some commentators saying that the 32-year-old may go down as the best player to ever player in the competition. And it’s hard to argue.

His vision and inventiveness on the ball continues to impress, and Spain will need him to to perform at these high levels if he is to add a third European Championship title to his collection.

Spain v Turkey - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group D - Stade de Nice Source: EMPICS Sport

LW: Dimitri Payet (France)

After being on the periphery of the French squad for the last couple of seasons, the West Ham midfielder has taken centre stage at the start of these championships.

His last-gasp goal against Romania brought tears to his eyes, after which he followed up with another cool finish against Albania. Payet was then just inches away from scoring one of the all-time great European Championships goals against Switzerland, but his side-footed volley after a devastating run from Moussa Sissoko, hit the crossbar.

Soccer Euro 2016 France Romania Source: Martin Meissner

CF: Gareth Bale (Wales)

The Real Madrid forward may not have been at the top of his form in the opening two matches of the competition, but the 26-year-old still managed to score two long distance free-kicks in the first two matches, firstly against Slovakia and then against bitter rivals England.

Although the goalkeepers may have disappointed not to do better on both occasions, Bale’s presence in a dead ball situation is enough to make the best goalkeepers in the world uneasy.

His third goal of the tournament, in a much improved all-round performance against a lacklustre Russian side, could be a sign that the two-time Champions League winner is starting to get into his stride.

Russia v Wales - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group B - Stadium Municipal Source: Martin Rickett

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Shane Costello

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