2016-17 Premier League Preview – The Europa League Challengers

As the Premier League gets closer, I am continuing my look at the teams in the English top flight by assessing the teams who will be looking for spots in European competitions come the end of the season. Enjoy.


Manager: Ronald Koeman
Captain: Phil Jagielka
Ground: Goodison Park
Last Season: 11th
Top Scorer: Romelu Lukaku (18)
Most Assists: Ross Barkley, Gerard Deulofeu (8)
Prediction: 11th


Goalkeepers: 1. Joel Robles, 22. Maarten Stekelenburg.
Defenders: 3. Leighton Baines, 5. John Stones, 6. Phil Jagielka, 8. Bryan Oviedo, 23. Seamus Coleman, 25. Ramiro Funes Mori, 26. Matthew Pennington, 27. Tyias Browning, 29. Luke Garbutt, 30. Mason Holgate, 32. Brendan Galloway.
Midfielders: 4. Darron Gibson, 7. Aiden McGeady, 11. Kevin Mirallas, 12. Aaron Lennon, 15. Tom Cleverley, 16. James McCarthy, 18. Gareth Barry, 19. Gerard Deulofeu, 20. Ross Barkley, 21. Muhamed Besic, 31. Kieran Dowell, 34. Tom Davies.
Forwards: 9. Arouna Kone, 10. Romelu Lukaku, 14. Oumar Niasse, 24. Shani Tarashaj, 35. Conor McAleny.

Everton were disappointing last season, with Roberto Martinez making way after a run of bad results left them in the bottom half of the table. Ronald Koeman has moved from Southampton to manage the team, and the former Dutch international has already added Maarten Stekelenburg to replace the departed Tim Howard in goal. The new boss is yet to sign an outfield player, but Everton still have quality all over the park. Romelu Lukaku (pictured) is one of the best strikers in the Premier League, and Ross Barkley will ensure that he gets excellent supply. John Stones and Phil Jaigielka form an excellent combination in the centre of defence, and they are well backed-up by Ramiro Funes Mori. Seamus Coleman and Leighton Baines are both fullbacks who provide plenty of attacking support, and they will cause big problems for opposition defences.

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Everton have some excellent players, but they are very dependent on Lukaku for goals. The Belgian striker scored nearly a third of the team’s goals last campaign, with no other player scoring more than eight. Chelsea are very interested in bringing him back to Stamford Bridge, and this could leave Everton with a massive hole and not much time to fill it. Even if he stays the 23 year-old will be under immense pressure to perform, as will 22 year-old playmaker Barkley. Both players are still very young, and the burden of holding up Everton’s attack could prove too much for them. Everton were very disappointing last season, but Koeman has not made any moves to improve the squad. He will need to make some changes fast, or Everton could slip back to the same lows as last season. Overall, the Toffees are a fairly strong side and could challenge for the Europa League under the right guidance, but there are some issues which need to be resolved before this can happen.

Star Player: Romelu Lukaku

Lukaku led the Belgian Pro League for scoring at just 17, and he has only improved since then. He was signed by Everton in 2014 after a successful loan spell yielded 15 goals, and he has become the focal point of their attack. He managed 18 goals last season despite the side’s poor performance, and he could take them very far if he is on his game.

Key Player: Ross Barkley

Barkley has developed into one of the best playmakers in the Premier League, and he has drawn comparisons with Michel Ballack and Paul Gascoigne due to his pace and technical ability. He is Everton’s main creator, and he will be relied upon to provide plenty of chances for Lukaku. If he fails to fire then it will be very difficult for Everton to score, and they will struggle as a result.

One to watch: Gerard Deulofeu

Deulofeu is a product of the Barcelona academy, and he was sold by the Catalan giants after an unsuccessful loan spell at Sevilla. He is not a prolific scorer, but he is a dangerous presence on the wing and can ease some of the pressure on Barkley with his ability to create chances. He has enormous potential, and he should benefit from increased first-team action this season.

Likely team (4-2-3-1): Stekelenburg – Coleman, Stones, Jagielka, Baines; McCarthy, Barry; Lennon, Barkley, Deulofeu; Lukaku.


Manager: Jurgen Klopp
Captain: Jordan Henderson
Ground: Anfield
Last Season: 8th
Top Scorer: Roberto Firmino (10)
Most Assists: James Milner (11)
Prediction: 7th


Goalkeepers: 1. Loris Karius, 13. Alex Manninger, 22. Simon Mignolet.
Defenders: 2. Nathaniel Clyne, 3. Mamadou Sakho, 6. Dejan Lovren, 12. Joe Gomez, 17. Ragnar Klavan, 18. Alberto Moreno, 26. Tiago Ilori, 32. Joel Matip, 38. Jon Flanagan, 47. Andre Wisdom, 56. Connor Randall.
Midfielders: 5. Georginio Wijnaldum, 7. James Milner, 10. Philippe Coutinho, 14. Jordan Henderson, 16. Marko Grujic, 20. Adam Lallana, 21. Lucas Leiva, 23. Emre Can, 25. Cameron Brannagan, 35. Kevin Stewart, 50. Lazar Markovic, 54. Sheyi Ojo, 68. Pedro Chirivella, Luis Alberto, Allan.
Forwards: 9. Christian Benteke, 11. Roberto Firmino, 15. Daniel Sturridge, 19. Sadio Mane, 27. Divock Origi, 28. Danny Ings, 45. Mario Balotelli, Taiwo Awoniyi.

Liverpool have been very active over the off-season, bringing in Sadio Mane and Georginio Wijnaldum to bolster the attack and adding Ragnar Klavan, Joel Matip and Loris Karius in an effort to improve the defence. Jurgen Klopp has no shortage of options all over the park, and he will be aided by the versatility of Mane, Philippe Coutinho (pictured) and Roberto Firmino. Wijnaldum is likely to drop deeper than he did at Newcastle, and the Dutchman will form an excellent combination with Emre Can and Jordan Henderson in the centre of the park. Karius should replace Simon Mignolet in goal after showing excellent form at Mainz, and Matip and Klavan look set to form a solid combination in the heart of the defence. Daniel Sturridge, Christian Benteke, Divock Origi and Danny Ings are all quality players who will be pushing for a start in attack, and there is sure to be plenty of competition for spots throughout the season.

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Klopp has been very smart in the transfer market, but the same cannot be said of his predecessors and he has inherited a squad with too many expensive flops. There has been a lack of continuity over past seasons, with the large number of strikers signed from other clubs in the last couple of years often taking time on the pitch away from each other. As it stands, none of them are playing well enough to command a place in the first team, and Klopp may decide to use Coutinho up front instead. There is a general lack of depth on either side of the defence, and while Nathaniel Clyne is a top level right back the same cannot be said of left back Alberto Moreno. Moreno is currently in the first team by virtue of being the only option, and if no other left back is added then Liverpool could experience some serious issues. Liverpool are likely to contend for a spot in European competitions, but they are not good enough to contend for the title.

Star Player: Philippe Coutinho

Coutinho’s career has taken off since joining Liverpool from Internazionale in 2013, and the Brazilian has firmly established himself as one of the Premier League’s most dangerous playmakers. He is skilled and pacey, and he is sure to provide plenty of problems for defenders over the course of the season.

Key Player: Jordan Henderson

Henderson has progressed quickly, and at 26 he is already coming into his second season as Liverpool captain. He will be a constant presence for the Reds this season, and they will need him to be in top form throughout. He will function as the side’s main link between defence and attack, and he will need to move well through the middle of the park.

One to watch: Loris Karius

Karius was one of the best goalkeepers in the Bundesliga last season, keeping nine clean sheets and saving two penalties. He has been brought in from Mainz to replace Mignolet, and the former Manchester City reject now has a chance to perform on the big stage. He is an excellent player, and has the potential to serve Liverpool well for a long time.

Likely team (4-3-3): Karius – Clyne, Matip, Klavan, Moreno; Can, Henderson, Wijnaldum; Mane, Coutinho, Firmino.


Manager: Claude Puel
Captain: Jose Fonte
Ground: St Mary’s Stadium
Last Season: 6th
Top Scorer: Sadio Mane, Graziano Pelle (11)
Most Assists: Dusan Tadic (12)
Prediction: 8th


Goalkeepers: 44. Fraser Forster.
Defenders: 2. Cedric Soares, 3. Maya Yoshida, 5. Florin Gardos, 6. Jose Fonte, 15. Cuco Martina, 17. Virgil van Dijk, 21. Ryan Bertrand, 33. Matt Targett.
Midfielders: 4. Jordy Clasie, 8. Steven Davis, 11. Dusan Tadic, 14. Oriol Romeu, 16. James Ward-Prowse, 18. Harrison Reed, 27. Lloyd Isgrove, Nathan Redmond, Pierre-Emile Hojberg.
Forwards: 7. Shane Long, 9. Jay Rodriguez, 28. Charlie Austin.

Southampton have turned plenty of heads since they won promotion to the Premier League in 2012, and in 2015-16 they recorded their best finish since their return to the top flight. Ronald Koeman has departed for Everton after two successful seasons as manager, and the Saints have recruited Claude Puel from Nice as his replacement. Puel has inherited an excellent side, and new signings Nathan Redmond and Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg will provide a massive boost to a midfield containing Steven Davis, James Ward-Prowse, Jordy Clasie and Dusan Tadic (pictured). Fraser Forster is a solid presence in goal, and he will receive excellent support from the defence of Jose Fonte, Cedric Soares, Ryan Bertrand and Virgil van Dijk. Shane Long is an excellent option up front, and Charlie Austin and Jay Rodriguez are likely to see more first team action this season after the departures of Graziano Pelle and Sadio Mane.

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Southampton have long relied on the transfer strategy of selling off their best players for a massive profit, and while it has not adversely affected the side in the past the losses of Pelle and Mane will make things very difficult. Redmond can fill Mane’s spot on the right wing, but he will not necessarily be able to provide the same level of performance as the Senegalese star. Long will lead the attack in Pelle’s absence, but it is unclear who will partner him up front. Rodriguez has only played eight times in the last two seasons, and Austin was unable to take his performances with him when he moved to the Saints from QPR. Southampton have lost a key midfield player in Victor Wanyama, and the Kenyan will be difficult to replace. These issues will make life difficult for Southampton, but Puel has had plenty of success before and can take them a long way.

Star Player: Dusan Tadic

Tadic is very fast and incredibly skilful, and the Serbian winger will be relied upon to provide consistent delivery for the strikers. He was not able to find that consistency under Koeman, but his talent is undeniable and he is sure to bounce back under a new manager. He has become one of Southampton’s most important players, and he will need to use all of his skill if they are to succeed.

Key Player: Pierre-Emile Hojbjerg

Wanyama’s departure has left a big void in the Southampton midfield, and new signing Hojbjerg will be expected to fill it. He has plenty of potential, and after successful loan spells with Augsburg and Schalke he has moved to the Premier League from Bayern Munich. He may take some time to adjust to his new surroundings, but he is an excellent player and Southampton will need him to step up.

One to watch: James Ward-Prowse

Ward-Prowse is a product of Southampton’s brilliant academy system, and he is sure to feature heavily for the Saints this season. He already has plenty of first team experience with the Saints, and he is likely to provide plenty of opportunities for the forwards with his pace and skill. He is still developing, and has the potential to become one of the best players in the Premier League.

Likely team (4-2-3-1): Forster – Cedric, van Dijk, Fonte, Bertrand; Hojbjerg, Clasie; Redmond, Ward-Prowse, Tadic; Long.

West Ham United

Manager: Slaven Bilic
Captain: Mark Noble
Ground: Boleyn Ground
Last Season: 7th
Top Scorer: Andy Carroll, Dimitri Payet (9)
Most Assists: Dimitri Payet (12)
Prediction: 10th


Goalkeepers: 1. Darren Randolph, 13. Adrian, 34. Raphael Spiegel.
Defenders: 2. Winston Reid, 3. Aaron Cresswell, 19. James Collins, 21. Angelo Ogbonna, 22. Sam Byram, 25. Doneil Henry, 32. Reece Burke, 37. Lewis Page.
Midfielders: 4. Havard Nordtveit, 7. Sofiane Feghouli, 8. Cheikhou Kouyate, 14. Pedro Obiang, 16. Mark Noble, 17. Gokhan Tore, 23. Diego Poyet, 27. Dimitri Payet, 28. Manuel Lanzini, 30. Michail Antonio, 35. Reece Oxford, 39. Josh Cullen, 42. Martin Samuelson.
Forwards: 9. Andy Carroll, 11. Enner Valencia, 15. Diafra Sakho, 24. Ashley Fletcher.

Slaven Bilic’s first season at West Ham United was a massive success, with the Croatian manager taking them within striking distance of the Champions League. They have not been particularly active in the transfer market, but they have not lost many players either and they are in strong form heading into the season. Dimitri Payet (pictured) starred at Euro 2016, and the versatile French international will be looking to continue his incredible form throughout this campaign. He will provide excellent service to the likes of Andy Carroll, Diafra Sakho and Enner Valencia, and he will be well backed up by Michail Antonio and Sofiane Feghouli. Angelo Ogbonna and Winston Reid will anchor a solid defence and provide plenty of support for Adrian in goal. Mark Noble and Cheikhou Kouyate are steadying presences in midfield, and the former will be looking to build on the excellent form he showed last season.

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West Ham are a fairly solid side, but there are some problems which they have to deal with. Carroll, Valencia and Sakho are all decent options, but Bilic is still in need of a top-quality striker. Further issues exist down back, where the squad is lacking defensive depth. Central defender James Collins is currently the Hammers’ best option at right back after the end of Carl Jenkinson’s loan spell, and there is no real cover for Reid and Ogbonna should either player suffer an injury. There is a general lack of depth which exists throughout the squad, and West Ham may struggle as a result. They are a strong side and could go a long way this season, but they are not good enough to keep up with the big clubs and are unlikely to perform as well as they did last campaign.

Star Player: Dimitri Payet

Payet was brilliant in the Premier League last season, and the versatile French midfielder backed it up with his performances at Euro 2016. He starred as France made it to the final of their home tournament, and this season he will be looking to cause plenty of problems for defenders with his pace, skill and ability to put the ball into dangerous positions. He is a class act, and can take West Ham to the next level.

Key Player: Angelo Ogbonna

Ogbonna was a strong presence at the back for West Ham last season, and he will be needed more than ever this time around. He will marshal the defence, and he will need to stay on the park given the lack of depth that exists down back. The defence is seriously undermanned, and he will need to step up if the Hammers are to perform as well as they did last campaign.

One to watch: Reece Oxford

Oxford became the second youngest player to start in a Premier League game last season when he took the field in West Ham’s opening match against Arsenal. He is still only 17, and he is sure to get more of a chance this campaign. He has shown glimpses of his ability to perform at the highest level, and he could be the future of English football.

Likely team (4-2-3-1): Adrian – Collins, Reid, Ogbonna, Cresswell; Kouyate, Noble; Feghouli, Payet, Antonio; Carroll.

Fairytale ends as France pile on the goals

Iceland’s dream run through Euro 2016 has ended at the hands of France, with the hosts scoring four goals in the first half to book a semi-final against Germany. The French were in control early, tapping the ball around, and they took the lead in the twelfth minute after a wonderful ball from Blaise Matuidi found Olivier Giroud over the top. The central midfielder played it from inside his own half, and it penetrated the Icelandic defence to put Giroud one-on-one with Hannes Halldorsson. Giroud’s shot passed through Halldorsson’s legs as it rolled easily into the back of the net, with the Icelandic keeper left powerless. It was a goal that had come out of the blue, and it put Iceland on the back foot. France went back to their calm, controlled tempo, and soon they doubled their lead with Paul Pogba’s first international goal since 2014. Dimitri Payet’s corner was perfectly placed, and the Juventus star beat Jon Dadi Bodvarsson in the air to send a thunderous header into the back of the net. France led 2-0, and the game was all but over.

Bodvarsson had a stunning chance to pull a goal back for Iceland after one of Aron Gunnarsson’s trademark long throws, but he was unable to direct Kolbeinn Sigthorsson’s flick-on header into the back of the net. The game died down again, and France regained control. Then, with three minutes left in the half, they sealed the deal. It started with Payet. The ball was distributed wide to Bacary Sagna, whose cross was headed down for Antoine Griezmann by Giroud. Griezmann passed it back to Payet, who made his way onto his left foot and drilled it into the bottom corner. It was a great goal, worthy of the set-up work which led to it. Then came the fourth. Pogba’s ball from deep in midfield was flicked on effortlessly by Giroud, allowing Griezmann to get in behind the Icelandic defence. Halldorsson came out, and the Atletico Madrid star responded by chipping him. The ball hung in the air a long time, but Ragnar Sigurdsson was never going to get there and France could celebrate.

The fourth goal was the final nail in the coffin for Iceland, who had fought hard but had been undone by some excellent pieces of play. The French were content to keep the ball as the second half kicked off, and they passed around the back with ease. Payet and Pogba had chances, but France had taken the pace out of the game and didn’t look like losing the ball. Iceland began to find their footing as the half progressed, and after a number of set pieces they were able to score. Gylfi Sigurdsson provided the spark with a brilliant ball into the box, and Sigthorsson was there to volley it past Hugo Lloris into the back of the net. The joy would not last. Giroud scored again when Payet’s long-range free kick was expertly placed in behind the Icelandic defence. The Arsenal striker was too strong for Sverrir Ingi Ingason in the air, and he headed it past Halldorsson to find an open goal. Iceland kept pushing hard, and Lloris made an incredible save to deny Ingason’s close range header, but there was no real action. The energy of the game had left, and it was not coming back.

Iceland scored again with a few minutes to go through Birkir Bjarnason, whose header was too good for Lloris as it found the back of the net. It was scant consolation for Iceland in a massive defeat, but they will hold their heads high after a remarkable campaign. As for France, they go on to face Germany in what is sure to be a thrilling contest.

Saint-Denis – Stade de France
France 5 (Giroud 12, 59, Pogba 20, Payet 43, Griezmann 45)
Iceland 2 (Sigthorsson 56, B Bjarnason 84)
Referee: Bjorn Kuipers (Ned)

France (4-2-3-1): Lloris – Sagna, Umtiti, Koscielny (Mangala 72), Evra; Pogba, Matuidi; Sissoko, Griezmann, Payet (Coman 80); Giroud (Gignac 60).
Iceland (4-4-2): Halldorsson – Saevarsson, Arnason (Ingason 46), R Sigurdsson, Skulason; Gudmundsson, Gunnarsson, G Sigurdsson, B Bjarnason; Sigthorsson (Gudjohnsen 83), Bodvarsson (Finnbogason 46).

Top 5
1. Dimitri Payet (France)
Payet finished with a goal and two assists, and he was everywhere for the French. His ball use was good and he showed excellent skill as he caused huge trouble for the Icelandic defence. He played very well, and will hope that the incredible form he has showed throughout this tournament can translate to the game against Germany.
2. Antoine Griezmann (France)
Griezmann was full of energy throughout, and he was excellent when given space to move. He became the top scorer of the tournament with his classy chip over Halldorsson, and he looked to be at the top of his game.
3. Olivier Giroud (France)
Giroud scored twice and was a strong presence up front for the French. He provided a great assist for Griezmann with a perfectly timed flick in behind, and he will look to continue his strong form against the Germans. He was strong in the air, and he caused massive problems for Iceland.
4. Aron Gunnarsson (Iceland)
Gunnarsson was Iceland’s best in a losing cause, and he can hold his head high after a strong performance. He was solid in midfield and caused plenty of issues with his long throws into the box. He was able to stay in control throughout, and provided a cool head for Iceland as their system fell apart.
5. Paul Pogba (France)
Pogba was a calming influence in the centre of the park, and he was able to use the ball effectively throughout the game. He showed his incredible physical ability with France’s second goal, and he put in a strong performance. He seems to be finding his form at the right time, and he could put in his best effort yet against Germany.

Payet stars as France get lucky escape

It wasn’t meant to be this way. The French were meant to cruise through the early stages of the tournament, reaffirming their credentials in front of their home fans. Their opponent was Romania, and the stage was set for France to win easily, never looking like conceding and putting a few goals in at the other end. But it was late, with less than ten minutes left, and France were stuck at 1-1. Antoine Griezmann had been irrelevant, and had been replaced. Paul Pogba had been like a ghost, occasionally threatening to leave his mark but failing to do so. He had been replaced. Romania, despite their lack of star power, looked difficult to break down. The sides looked headed for a draw, a result which would have left a massive dent in France’s confidence. It wasn’t meant to be this way.

Enter Dimitri Payet. A player who has always shown promise, but finally realised it this season through his performances with West Ham United. All game he had been the conductor. In the first half, he handed Griezmann two brilliant chances, and but for some wonderful work from Cristian Sapunaru the Atletico Madrid frontman would have opened the scoring. In the end it was Payet who created the first goal, a well-placed cross catching Ciprian Tatarusanu out of position and allowing Olivier Giroud to put the ball into the back of an empty net. Yet that was irrelevant now. All that mattered was the scoreline, which read 1-1, and the only goal that was relevant was the penalty, the mistake from Patrice Evra which cost his side the lead. Payet had been excellent, but it didn’t matter. It didn’t matter unless he could get his side a goal.

He did. Payet scored a goal that is a contender for the goal of the tournament, placing an unstoppable shot into the top left. Romania were defending brilliantly, but there was nothing they could have done. Payet collected the ball outside the box. He took one touch, ever so slightly away from his own goal, and curled the ball into the net. It sounds simple, but Payet’s goal was anything but. It was an exquisite finish, a goal that is only seen every so often, one that sticks in the memory as much for the context of the strike as for the strike itself. It was a beautiful goal, scored with the whole of Europe watching. It set France at ease, and it is a goal that could well be remembered long after this tournament has finished. It was the kind of goal that can make you forget about everything that had happened previously in the game, and it was all that mattered when the final whistle blew.

The win will give France confidence that is possibly undeserved, as it was a very lucky escape. Things never went completely right for them, and they should have conceded within five minutes after some poor defence at a corner. Bogdan Stancu was facing an open goal inside the six-yard box, but Hugo Lloris made an incredible save to keep the game level. France regained the ascendency, but Romania were still a threat because of the quality of their chances. The French were lucky when a foul by Laurent Koscielny went unnoticed, and Stancu had another golden opportunity when he found himself one-on-one with Lloris early in the second half. Romania had threatened, but they did not look like getting an equaliser. Then came the penalty. Viktor Kassai may have missed Koscielny’s foul on Florin Andone, but he was in a perfect position to see Evra’s clumsy challenge on Nicolae Stanciu, and the penalty was awarded. Stancu stepped up to take the penalty, and he was completely calm as he slotted it past Lloris.

But none of that matters for the French now. They won, albeit luckily, and they have begun to lay the foundations for a strong run at the final tournament. Their highly rated stars went missing, but it didn’t make a difference as Payet dragged them over the line. There are issues which need to be sorted out if they are to win the tournament, but they got the job done.

Saint-Denis – Stade de France
France 2 (Giroud 58, Payet 89)
Romania 1 (Stancu 65 pen)
Referee: Viktor Kassai (Hun)

France (4-3-3): Lloris – Sagna, Rami, Koscielny, Evra; Pogba (Martial 77), Kante, Matuidi; Griezmann (Coman 66), Giroud, Payet (Sissoko 90+2).
Romania (4-3-3): Tatarusanu – Sapunaru, Chiriches, Gragore, Rat; Stanciu (Chipciu 72), Hoban, Pintilli; Popa (Torje 82), Andone (Alibec 61), Stancu.

Top 5
1. Dimitri Payet (France)
Payet was comfortably better than any other player on the field, and the goal which he scored to deliver France victory was thoroughly deserved. From the start of the game he was France’s main creator, and he was a huge problem for the Romanian defence throughout. He created chances from the left, the right and the centre, and he was the sole reason France were able to get away with a win.
2. Vlad Chiriches (Romania)
Chiriches had some disciplinary issues throughout the game, and was lucky not to be sent off, but he had a strong all-round game and was Romania’s best. He saved a near-certain goal to Griezmann when he dealt with a dangerous cross from Payet, and the leadership he showed throughout was excellent.
3. Olivier Giroud (France)
Giroud tried very hard for the French, and could well have come away from the game with a hat-trick. He was always an aerial threat, and his work finding space in the area was undone by some poor finishing. He got his goal early in the second half after getting into a dangerous attacking position, and he was a constant threat for the Romanian defence.
4. Adil Rami (France)
Rami was a late inclusion in the French squad after an injury to Raphael Varane, and while he was nervous he played flawlessly in the centre of defence, making some crucial challenges and getting into strong positions. He managed to keep his nerves in check, and he is likely to stay at the heart of the French defence for the rest of the tournament.
5. Florin Andone (Romania)
Romania did not have as many opportunities as the French did, but Andone was able to remain a constant threat and created some problems for the French defence. His work at set pieces was especially dangerous, and it was his header in the fourth minute which set up a brilliant opportunity for Stancu. He was subbed off with half an hour left to play, but he left his mark.