Heavenly 11: our Euro 2016 team of the tournament so far

Ben Davies

Ben Davies

Every team has now played one game in Euro 2016 and while it’s too early to predict who is going to win the tournament and who will not even make it out of the groups, we can certainly take stock of who has been performing.

Title contenders France, Germany and Spain all got off to winning starts, and get some representation in our team of round one, as do dark horses Croatia, magnificent debutants Iceland, and an impressive Wales.

This might not be the very best XI in France, but they certainly caught the eye in their first chance to shine.

Goalkeeper: Hannes Halldorsson (Iceland)

While there have been a few howlers so far, a number of keepers have also stood out, and it’s Iceland hero Halldorsson who gets the nod. Kept very busy by Portugal, he made a string of fine saves to keep Ronaldo and company at bay, before Iceland got their equaliser. Just edges out Yann Sommer, who was outstanding for Switzerland, as well as the sentimental vote for Gabor Kiraly.

Right-back: Darijo Srna (Croatia)

Srna was one of the stand-out performers for Croatia in their opening victory over Turkey, causing plenty of problems down the right, and totally negating the threat of Arda Turan, who spent most of his afternoon defending. Srna came very close to scoring on two occasions, and his display became all the more poignant when it emerged that his father had passed away around the time of the game. He returned to Croatia for the funeral but is expected to be back for Croatia’s second fixture against the Czech Republic.

Centre-back: Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)

He might play in a back three for Italy, but after his display in the opener against Belgium there’s no question that Bonucci could do the job in a back four as well. Solid at the back, despite the threat of the physical Romelu Lukaku, he also provided the perfect long ball for Emanuele Giaccherini’s opener. If Italy are to win this tournament they will need a rock solid defence, Bonucci will be key to that.

Centre-back: Gerard Pique (Spain)

Spain were completely dominant against the Czechs, with Pique shutting down the threat of Tomas Necid. Then, just as it seemed that Spain would be frustrated in their search for a goal, he popped up for the winner, nodding home Andres Iniesta’s cross with three minutes to go.

Left-back: Ben Davies (Wales)

Wales’ clash with Slovakia was one of the most enjoyable of the tournament so far, and the Welsh could have been behind within three minutes when Marek Hamsik nicked the ball off Gareth Bale, beat four men before sliding the ball past Danny Ward. Davies got back to clear that off the line, and was influential throughout, both at the back, and pushing forward when the time called for it.

Centre midfield: N’Golo Kante (France)

Shifted into a slightly more defensive role just before the tournament after Lassana Diarra pulled out, Kante was sensational on the opening night against Romania. As he has done for Leicester all season, the Frenchman never stopped running, shutting down attack after attack, while also playing his part going forward. He just edges out Eric Dier, who did a great job and scored a wonderful free-kick.

Centre midfield: Toni Kroos (Germany)

We might not have seen as much of him for Real Madrid but back in a Germany shirt he ran the show against the Ukraine. Pulling the strings in midfield, he created the first goal for Shkodran Mustafi with a brilliant cross, and continued to pick apart the Ukrainians all game long. Made something of a mockery of those saying Real should let him go to bring in Paul Pogba.

Centre midfield: Andres Iniesta (Spain)

Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo grab the headlines, but there’s a case that Iniesta is the greatest player of his generation, and he showed it against the Czech Republic. Every time he touched the ball, the crowd hushed in anticipation, and it was no surprise that his cross produced the winner for Gerard Pique. The focal point of the Spanish team, Iniesta never seems to make the wrong decision, and was a cut above in Toulouse.

Left wing: Dimitri Payet (France)

An afterthought for France coming into this season, Payet was the difference on opening night, creating the first goal for Olivier Giroud before hammering home the winner at the death. Seemingly with more time and space than anyone else on the pitch, he roamed all over the pitch, with everything France did well running through him. Les Bleus will be hoping their little magician is in similar form against Albania.

Right wing: Arkadiusz Milik (Poland)

Not exactly where he played, but in a supporting role Milik was very impressive for Poland. While Robert Lewandowski was kept quiet, Milik was a constant threat, and deservedly scored the winner. Still very raw, he was able to get into dangerous positions despite the Northern Irish employing a very defensive set-up.

Centre forward: Adam Szalai (Hungary)

Having gone an entire season without scoring, and without an international goal since October 2014, Szalai would have been a long shot to make this team. While he looked nervous in the first half, he was alert to score the opening goal against Austria, and really grew into the match. While bigger names were kept quiet, Szalai’s old-fashioned target play was crucial to Hungary’s victory.

Goal of match day one: Luka Modric (Croatia v Turkey)

Croatia were well worth their opening win over Turkey, but it required a brilliant volley from Modric. With the ball plummeting from a great height just outside the box, the diminutive midfielder rushed in and caught it perfectly to beat Volkan Babacan. Turkey midfielder Ozan Tufan certainly won’t enjoy watching the replay, which shows his adjusting his hair rather than closing down Modric.

Save of match day one: Jerome Boateng (Germany v Ukraine)

There were some great saves by keepers in the opening round of matches, but we’ll go with an even more impressive effort by Germany defender Boateng. After Yevhen Konoplyanka had fired the ball across from the left, Boateng looked to have diverted the ball into his own net. Instead he was able to acrobatically clear off the line, before falling into the net himself.

Decision of match day one: Aleksandar Dragovic red card (Austria v Hungary)

Austria looked like they had equalized after falling behind to Hungary in Bordeaux when Martin Hinteregger fired past Gabor Kiraly. Unfortunately for the Austrians, referee Clement Turpin had already blown up for a foul by Dragovic, and to make it worse he was given a second yellow card for catching Tamas Kadar, leaving Austria to chase the game with ten men and inevitably concede a second on the counter-attack.

Biggest disappointment: Belgium

It seemed odd that Belgium weren’t tipped by more pundits heading into the tournament given the sheer depth of talent available to Marc Wilmots. The reason became clear in their opener with Italy when they were tactically outclassed and made to look very ordinary by an Italian team without the quality of previous seasons. They should yet make it out of the group stages, but it will take a major improvement for them to challenge for the title.

Best surprise: Iceland

Cristiano Ronaldo might not have been happy about it, but few could begrudge Iceland their celebrations after a draw with Portugal on their European Championship debut. Birkir Bjarnason got the second-half equalizer, while Hannes Halldorsson was brilliant in goal for the Scandinavians. With the smallest population of any country competing, it was a creditable draw, whatever Mr Ronaldo thinks about it.