This is the second part of the A-Z of players who mesmerized us at the Euro 2016. In case you missed the first part, you can quickly read it up here.
Let’s start from where we stopped…
What is your most favourite movie? Who directed it? In a world where movie stars are celebrated more often than not, the men who made the movie happen, selected the right characters and made the movie a hit are rarely appreciated. Take for instance, Alejandro G. Inarritu, the director of The Revenant, the movie that won Di Carprio his first Oscar. He is rarely known, except among movie aficionados. This could drive them to seek passions elsewhere.
Maybe that’s what happened to Iceland’s goalkeeper. A movie director back home, Hannes Halldorson played his part in what was a fairytale for his nation, his lead role from the last line of defence saw him make a staggering 27 saves, a tournament-high statistic. He might have conceded five goals in their last game against France, however, he was the reason the game didn’t end by a much wider margin.
His command of the area and presence made his defence so sure of him that when their opponents seemed to have broken through, he was like the biblical unmovable Mount Zion. Maybe Inarritu should try out a goalkeeping career too and play his part in a fairytale of this nature.
Crazy hair, consistent forward runs and a super goal against Spain to cap, Ivan Perisic was seemingly unplayable in France. A number 4 with a difference, the Inter Milan right winger was a nightmare for any left back he faced all through Croatia’s four games.
He was the executor-in-chief and an expert runner, who evoked memories of Arjen Robben yet scoring when it mattered. His performance against Spain would never be forgotten as he led the charge in Modric’s absence. A classic tournament man.
The Ferguson of modern day coaching. Ten years in the job and still evolving, Low came to France in search of a title he was yet to lay his hands on as Germany boss, the Euros. He left ruing what might have been.
Two semi-final appearances and a runner-up finish is all he has to show for it. However, he has done that with modified squads on each occasion. Known to have trusted lieutenants; Low gave Joshua Kimmich, Emre Can, Julian Weigl and Leroy Sane tournament experience despite their relative young ages. A great tactician with touchline demeanour, the only turn off for the football fan is his improper hygiene.
PS: I didn’t say that.
Imagine yourself; the world at your feet, great burgeoning career and having played for three glamourous European clubs despite not reaching your peak yet. Yes, you are that good. That’s the curious case of Kingsley Coman, the silent yet efficient machine with a well-oiled engine.
Despite starting less games than every player who took the field in the final, He ran faster than any other player during
the course of the entire tournament. He was the proverbial V8 engine or better still the Bugatti Veyron everyone wished they had. He was the never tiring defence-stretcher and nearly made it happen in the final. He had a top speed of 32.8km/h, more than any other player all tournament.
The most consistent defender all tournament, Les Bleus’ defensive leader.
The Arsenal man put in a shift that was worth winning the title. His stout defending even after Samuel Umtiti came in for Adil Rami was a clear indication he could play with anyone as long as it meant keeping the opponent at bay.
He was key against Germany and was just a threat from set pieces as he was to opposition forwards. Always snapping into tackles, making goal-line clearances, getting dirty yet looking good. So good he was, that the Mark Clattenburg had to book him for an offence he didn’t commit just to blot his record.
The white witch doctor. Luka Modric’s sensational strike against Turkey was what set his nation up for a great competition. He consistently dictated play from the middle of the park, making the deep-lying playmaker role look easy. No wonder it was alleged that Ivan Rakitic claimed he hoped Modric would win the UEFA Champions’ League to arrive at the Euros in form.
True or not, Rakitic seemed to be right. He was in the form of his life, a mentality he easily dissipated in the dressing room, so much so, that Croatia looked like tournament winners after three games before failing to get past Portugal.
Trademark Mohican hair, a smile and often times a straight face, stout body, shortsleeved shirt and long shorts. Meet the engine room of the Belgian Red Devils. If not running like a possessed demon to dispossess an opponent, he was looking for a decent position to strike the ball to hurt that opponent.
Radja Naingolan was arguably Belgium’s best player at the Euros. Posting 2goals and 1assist from his Central Midfield role, he did likewise in interceptions too, outsmarting opponents and making key blocks. Had they not gone to sleep, His contender for goal of tournament against Wales should have sent them on their way to the semi-finals. It wasn’t to be for both himself and his countrymen.
He is lazy they said. Fast-forward to post
tournament, and even his detractors back home in Germany have admitted he is the one. The anointed. The architect, I call him. He was basically at the heart of every German attack in France, creating openings, and picking out runs. Who can forget his match winning pass against Ukraine or his one man show against the Northern Ireland? His performance against Slovakia was exquisite bar the odd penalty miss.
He came through against Italy even if he still went on to miss his penalty and bowed out with his head held high despite the loss to France. No one could lay the blame at his feet. Even the best players have bad days at the office.
Whenever his name was read out over the PA system all through the tournament, one question came to mind, – “would he still be a Juventini come September 1?” – one which modified to a world record format by the time the tournament almost finished. He was the poster boy of the tournament, even
at times outshining Antoine Greizmann and Dmitiri Payet, the men would had done much better than he did.
No goal was celebrated more, than his goal against Iceland. He was the one-hundred-million-pounds player. He made the headlines everyday, all through the tournament. If you wanted to sell your newspaper during the Euros, all you needed to do was put a picture of Paul Pogba there. Even if his performances on the pitch hardly matched up to the PR he got, Paul Pogba lit up his home nation, and had they won, it would have been his image and not that of Greizmann replacing Zizou at the Champs Elysee.
My first encounter with this No. 20 was back in 2004. He was 21 with curly hair, playing for FC Porto. He had rig-marolled round three players before leaving a couple of others for dead. He swiped the ball with the outside of his boot and he wheeled away in celebration. If Cristiano Ronaldo was the next big thing in Portuguese football, he was the next big thing in world
It seemed he was the one who would tussle with Ronaldo at the top of world football for years to come. We got it all wrong. After a blissful start, the wheels came off in 2008 after moving to Chelsea: The injury, fallout with managers failing to fit in and bad boy
attitude. Ronaldo had won a balon d’Or, a Champions League and three league titles at that point. He came to France looking for redemption; He got it.
His super sub role was the most exquisite in the tournament. Changing games when Portugal needed him most. His winning goal against Croatia was the turning point for his nation. Before he went on to score the winning penalty against Poland. He is European champion now. He could have been more that but better late than never right?
The best left-back all through the tournament. The 22-year old France born youngster was a thorn in the flesh of all right wingers. Filling the shoes of Fabio Coentrao perfectly. His apt reading of the game reminded one of a certain Roberto Carlos. Patrolling the left flank in such a manner that defied his age. He was quickly snapped up by Borussia Dortmund after just two group games. He has given Fernando Santos a selection headache when the ever reliable Coentrao returns.
Goal of the tournament is what comes to mind when his name is mentioned, and without doubt, it’s the reality. Heavily linked with a move away from Stoke, Xherdan Shaqiri and Granit Xhaka ran the Swiss show like it was theirs. When they weren’t scoring or setting up goals. They were breaking up play or trying to make something happen. So sad they left early.
Tosin Adesina is an ideal young man, a soccer aficionado. He prefers being called Fijasewa Arogunyo because that’s who the world would grow to know. He is a disciple of Pep Guardiola, a follower of Jurgen Klopp, a lover of Jose Mourinho, an admirer of Cholo Simeone, a fanatic of Carlo Ancelotti and an avid fan of Antonio Conte. You can connect with him on Twitter @teetunez
Author: Rotimi “Papi the Great” Daramola
Rotimi Daramola aka Papi the Great is the owner of ForTheGoal.
A freelance sports writer who focuses on football, Rotimi is also a freelance writer, a copywriter and a football analyst who regularly appears on radio and television to talk football. You can follow him on twitter @papi_thegreat to keep up with his writings, engage him and also find out about how you can secure his writing services.