The Euro 2016 this year was easily a tournament where the underdogs proved to the world that they are not meant to be taken lightly. Whether it was Spain’s defeat, or Iceland kicking England out, or Germany losing to France, all the big teams suffered an upset at the hands of a relatively less powerful team on paper.
Among these matches, we also witnessed a few lesser-known players emerge out to become one of the best in the tournament, and here’s a list of the top 5 unsung heroes of the Euro 2016.
- Emanuele Giaccherini (Italy)
With EPL giants Chelsea making a move for him, Emanuele Giaccherini has certainly proven his worth! Before Euro 2016, he was criticised by many for even being selected in the final squad.
However, after scoring against Belgium, he was loved by all Italians. He started each and every game, and although he’s not much into showmanship, he is possibly one of the most dependable players Italy had this season. Sam Allardyce will surely consider keeping the 31-year-old, but he is now wanted by Conte next season or a potential return to Italy might go through.
- Ederzito Lopez (Portugal)
Portugal’s “ugly duckling” striker, not only provided his country with its greatest sporting moment but, by evading France’s Laurent Koscielny and sticking the ball past Hugo Lloris with one swing of his right boot, simultaneously proved a lot of doubters wrong.
What a turnaround for a player who began 2016 shivering on the bench at the Kassam Stadium, while his Swansea team were being thrashed by League Two Oxford United in the FA Cup.
Not only is Lopez a widely sought after player now, but he has also become an integral member of the Portuguese football team.
- Chris Gunter (Wales)
Wales’ infamous wing-back orientated formation made Reading player – Chris Gunter – integral in the execution of this game plan. He is the most experienced member of the Welsh squad, already boasting an impressive 72 caps for his nation.
A string of solid performances so far at Euro 2016 were capped-off by a resolute display against Belgium, where he kept the outstanding threat of Eden Hazard relatively quiet and even bagged an assist – delivering a pinpoint cross for Sam Vokes to seal the deal. These recent games have had him linked with a £1 million move to Brendan Rodgers’ Celtic.
- Birkir Bjarnason (Iceland)
To be very honest, the entire Iceland squad was a surprise package, but Bjarnason stood out of the lot.
The Basel central-midfielder was a continuous standout. A goal against the eventual winners Portugal to earn a historic draw in their first game set the tone for their Euro 2016 exploits. He impressed even in the game against Austria, which led to the eventual winner which sent the minnows to the round of 16.
Even in the round of 16, he inspired his side to a win over the English and bowed out with a second goal against the hosts, France in the last eight.
- Michael McGovern (Northern Ireland)
Not many knew who McGovern was before the tournament.
As the Northern Irish stunned everybody with an electrifying defensive run to the Round of 16 that came down heavily to the heroics of this man. A superb group stage, notably against Germany, helped the Northern Irish eventuate with an above all odds finish.
Expect McGovern to end up somewhere in the Championship or Premier League after his superb tournament. Wigan Athletic and Bristol City have been the two to openly express their interest as of late.