From Samuel Umtiti to Ivan Perisic – five players who thrived at Euro 2016

France's Moussa Sissoko and referee Mark Clattenburg

Umtiti gained his call-up to the French squad at this tournament only after injuries ruled out Raphael Varane and Jérémy Mathieu, with Mamadou Sakho banned, and he was uncapped until Adil Rami’s suspension prompted involvement against Iceland.

1) Samuel Umtiti (France)

Those opponents actually ruffled his feathers on debut, particularly in the second half, with their direct, aggressive approach. Yet the 22‑year‑old showed enough assurance in possession to retain his place against Germany when his second‑half display, under pressure, was outstanding. The world champions did not muster a shot on target from midway through the first half until stoppage time at the end, with the Frenchman’s ability on the ball an indication as to why Barcelona have just paid £24.6m to prise him from Lyon. “He’s so sure of his ability,” said Hugo Lloris. “He’s strong in the challenge, very good at playing the ball out from the back which marks him out, and at his age, at this level, he’s achieving something great.”

2) João Mário (Portugal)

Cristiano Ronaldo hogs the limelight and Renato Sanches, at 18, has shown just why Bayern Munich have paid relatively huge money to lure him to the Bundesliga. Yet João Mário, in a more understated way, has seized this European Championship tournament as an opportunity to prove his pedigree with the seniors. The Sporting Lisbon player was capped 77 times at youth levels, and excelled in the European Under-21s Championship in the Czech Republic last summer, when the Portuguese lost against Sweden in the final. Stocky but clever on the ball, the playmaker had made his debut at this level in a friendly at the Stade de France in October 2014. Now heavily linked with a move to Internazionale, he was back at that venue to play his part in the final of Euro 2016. His rise may not stop there.

3) Aaron Ramsey (Wales)

Frustration with Ramsey has been a regular complaint among Arsenal supporters over recent years, a player with clear and obvious talent having influenced key contests so rarely. Yet, with Wales, he was integral. His tireless work rate and energy, even in the group game defeat against England, marked him out but it was the quality he supplied from his midfield brief that set him apart. Gareth Bale thrived in his presence, benefiting from his vision, and there was a goal and four assists to enjoy en route. His display against Belgium was arguably the most influential of his career. “Before the tournament, I was really keen to do well and stand up and be noticed,” Ramsey said. “I feel that I’ve done that. It helps playing in this team, as well, but I wanted to personally do my best and I think I have.” Arsenal will be hoping to benefit from more of the same back in the Premier League.

4) Ivan Perisic (Croatia)

Perisic had illuminated his country’s qualification campaign with those now familiar surges down the left flank, scoring six in nine matches and convincing Internazionale to pluck him from Wolfsburg. The son of a chicken farmer maintained that form at the tournament itself as Croatia excelled in their group, tormenting his markers against Turkey and the Czech Republic, and then Juanfran in the victory against Spain. It was his cross which led to Nikola Kalinic forcing Croatia level, and the 27-year-old’s shot inside David de Gea’s near‑post which secured the victory. Quick, skilful and versatile, he may be ready to leave Italy after only a season. Certainly he will be desperate to play in the Champions League next season.

Ivan Perisic

5) Moussa Sissoko (France)

The cynics back on Tyneside must wonder whether Sissoko has used Euro 2016 as a means of earning a swift return to the Premier League. A player who looked diminished and even uninterested far too often over last season’s doomed struggle by Newcastle United against relegation – contributing a solitary goal en route to the Championship – was the man trusted by Didier Deschamps to replace N’Golo Kanté against Iceland, and then against the World Cup holders in the semi-final. Only six members of the hosts’ squad boast more experience at this level than the 26-year-old born in the Paris suburbs, and his display against Iceland was actually marked by as many tackles and interceptions as muscular forward surges. He is France’s ultimate team player, a supplier of aggressive energy and a figure willing to track back in support of Paul Pogba or Blaise Matuidi. For Newcastle, he must be unrecognisable.

Powered by article was written by Dominic Fifield, for The Guardian on Monday 11th July 2016 12.00 Europe/London © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010


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