The UEFA Euro 2016 group stage came to an end in dramatic fashion as Portugal, Iceland, Belgium and Republic of Ireland secured their places in the knockout phase. It brought us a number of extraordinary performances with a host of players stepping up for their nations. However, we also had the opportunity to see experienced footballers ruining their countries’ hopes of advancing with their below-par and even dreadful performances. 

What follows is the combined lineup of the players who let down their nations in the Euro 2016 group stage.

Goalkeeper: David de Gea (Spain)

David de Gea beats Salvatore Sirigu for the goalkeeping position in our flop XI.

The Spaniard had little problems in the first two matches as he watched his team dominate proceedings against the lowly Turkey and the Czech Republic. It was Croatia that put his abilities to a proper test for the first time in the tournament – and he failed miserably.

His needless dribbling left Rakitic with a glorious chance to score early on, but the Croatian could only find the crossbar. Went on to concede two goals at the near post, both of which could have been easily avoided.

Right-back: Aleksandar Dragovic (Austria)

Dragovic may just be the worst flop of the tournament. The Austrian defender was sent off in the first game which Austria promptly lost to Hungary and then had to sit out the stalemate with Portugal. He returned to the starting lineup in the Austria’s final Euro 2016 match, but he once again played a huge part in his team’s demise, missing a crucial penalty against Iceland.

Center-back: Lorik Cana (Albania)

Similar to Dragovic, Lorik Cana will want to forget this tournament as soon as possible. The Albanian captain started eagerly, perhaps too eagerly, since he was sent off after he picked up two yellow cards in the opening 30 minutes. He had to sit out the second match and was left out of the starting XI in the third-round game against Romania that his team dully won 1-0.

Center-back: Ricardo Carvalho (Portugal)

Considering the fact that Ricardo Carvalho turned 38 recently, it is hardly surprising to see him included in the worst XI. Portugal may have had the luck to avoid tougher opponents in the group stage and their defence was rarely tested, but once the knockout stage starts, they may be in serious trouble. If Hungary found a way to exploit Carvalho’s shortcomings, you can bet others will do the same.

Left-back: Viacheslav Shevchuk (Ukraine)

The Shakhtar left-back embodies Ukraine’s failure to adapt amidst a generational switch in the national team. His reluctance to go forward and inability to deal with opposing attackers left the Ukraine unable to compete on either front on the left side of the pitch. A tournament to forget not only for Shevchuk, but the entire Ukraine.

Right midfielder: Arda Turan (Turkey)

Arda Turan came into the tournament as the biggest name in the Turkey squad, but delivered very little.  His performance against Croatia was particularly troubling – not only did he struggle to create chances for his teammates, but he was also unable to get himself into dangerous spaces. In the end, he simply passed the ball around until the agony was over. Although his next performances were somewhat better, he was still far from his usual best.

Central midfielder: Roman Neustadter (Russia)

Roman Neustadter famously received his Russian passport merely months before the tournament as Russia tried to prepare itself for the UEFA Euro 2016. However, Neustadter was virtually invisible on the pitch, much like the rest of the Russian midfield. We could perhaps forgive his inability to create chances for his teammates – he is a defensive midfielder after all – but the fact that he even failed to provide any sort of cover for his center-backs is simply unforgivable.

Left midfielder: Raheem Sterling (England)

Once again, Sterling produced a few dazzling performances, but failed to deliver. Frustratingly, his quick footwork regularly put him in good positions, but his final balls left a lot to be desired. Considering the wealth of talent available to Roy Hodgson, this tournament may already be over for the 21-year-old winger.

Right forward: Robert Lewandowski (Poland)

Lewandowski came into Euro 2016 as the focal point of the Polish attack, but he has so far failed his country. He was subdued throughout the tournament, but he even managed to miss the few good chances he was given. Unless he rediscovers his goalscoring form soon, Poland are as good as gone.

Center forward: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)

Similar to Lewandowski, Ibrahimovic came into the tournament as his team’s star player, but he failed to produce virtually anything. He has decided to retire from international duty after Euro 2016, but considering his performances, one may as well assume he had given up even before the tournament started.

Left forward: Mario Gotze (Germany)

Despite rumors that he was unwanted in Bayern Munich, Gotze retained his starting spot in Die Mannschaft. However, the lack of playing time in Bayern appears to have left a devastating impact on Gotze, who practically acted as a passer-by in all three games so far.

About the author – Dusan Lucic

Dusan has been writing sports related articles for 5 years and has a keen interest in the Premier League, Bundesliga and Serbian SuperLiga. He has previously written for Bleacher Report, Arena Sport, Sportal and The News Hub. He is currently studying Serbian language and literature at the university of Belgrade.


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With the end of the season almost upon us, talk is beginning to turn to the transfer market. Rumors of big-money transfers, star signings and moves for the brightest young talents are already starting to fill column inches. And rumblings from those who claim to be an ‘insider’ who is ‘in the know’ are doing the rounds on social media.

This is the point in the season where, with most of the continent’s league titles wrapped up, and only a fortunate few with cup finals to look forward to, many fans start to dream of summer signings. Whether it’s the latest teenage sensation bringing hope of a brighter future, or an old head to sure-up a solid squad and act as the final piece in an already well-constructed puzzle, all fans want their club to be active in the off-season.

And few clubs have been more active in the transfer market in recent years than Spain’s big two, Real Madrid and FC Barcelona. Fewer still can claim to affect the plans of so many other teams with their own transfer policies: a contract dispute in Madrid can spark a frenzy in Manchester, a want-away Barcelona squad player could see chequebooks opening in Paris and Munich.

Real Madrid’s Galáctico policy of bringing in a renowned world-class superstar each year arose in the early 2000s with the signings of Luís Figo and Zinedine Zidane, and has been perpetuated more recently with the acquisitions of Cristiano Ronaldo, Gareth Bale and James Rodríguez. This year names such as Paul Pogba and Sergio Agüero have been mooted. But one rumour that seems to have some legs is the possibility of Los Blancos making a move for Pierre-Emerick Aubameyang.

The Gabonese Borussia Dortmund striker has been in incredible form this season, netting 40 goals across all competitions. Aubameyang is thought to be very interested in the idea of joining the 10-time European champions due to a promise to his late grandfather that he would someday pull on the famous white shirt. Dortmund will be reluctant to part with their star man, and will demand at least €100m for his signature.

Madrid are also likely to return for David de Gea following last summer’s comical collapse of the Manchester United goalkeeper’s switch to the Bernabéu. The deal had been agreed by all parties, with Costa Rican stopper Keylor Navas moving in the opposite direction. But technical difficulties meant Madrid were unable to submit the relevant paperwork in time, and the transfer window closed with the deal in tatters.

Club president Florentino Pérez will be keen to avoid another embarrassment this time around by getting a deal sewn up as soon as possible. But the excellent form of Navas this season, coupled with the fact that United may soon have a new manager who’d be determined to persuade de Gea to stay, could be spanners in the works to a perspective transfer.

In the past, whenever Madrid have made an expensive Galáctico purchase, they’ve balanced the books with a major sale or two. When Gareth Bale was signed from Tottenham Hotspur for a world record fee in 2013, Mesut Özil was sold to Arsenal for £42m. And when James Rodríguez was brought in after the 2014 World Cup, Ángel di María was shipped off to Manchester United for £59.7m.

This summer will likely see 24-year-old Rodríguez as the man shipped out to make way for a major import, with interest from Manchester United and Juventus. Spain international midfielder Isco is another who is thought to be on thin ice at the Bernabéu. And, if a striker of Aubameyang’s ilk is brought in, Karim Benzema’s Real Madrid career would likely be brought to an end.

Planning ahead in the transfer market is key to success in Soccer Manager

At Barcelona, things may be a little different this summer.

The Catalan giants have yet to secure a shirt sponsorship deal for next season. If they are unable to do so over the coming months, and with the costly planned redevelopment of the Camp Nou, manager Luis Enrique may find that the purse strings have been tightened somewhat.

Perhaps more important for Barça than any transfer business, is the pressing matter of contract renewals for Neymar and Sergio Busquets.

Neymar has been agitating for a new deal for some time now. The gifted Brazilian is believed to earn much less than his MSN partners in crime, Lionel Messi and Luis Suárez, so a new contract would have to include a hefty pay rise.

As will be the case with Sergio Busquets. Although rarely a goal-scorer, and less headline-grabbing than the aforementioned front three, Busquets is quite possibly the player Barça miss the most when he’s not around. The midfield pivote is the man responsible for breaking up opposition attacks, and setting his side off on their trademark free-flowing passing moves. His importance to the team cannot be underestimated, and he will want his contract to reflect that.

Despite a reduced budget, Barcelona are looking to strengthen in a few key areas. Their primary concern is recruiting a young, top-class centre-back to work with Gerard Piqué and Javier Mascherano.

Top of their list is Paris St. Germain’s 21-year-old Brazilian, Marquinhos. The former AS Roma defender has had to be back-up to compatriots David Luiz and Thiago Silva in the French capital, and is now considering his future with the club.

Other names on Barça’s shortlist include Everton’s John Stones and Athletic Club’s Aymeric Laporte. However, the reigning Treble champions are likely to be priced out of a move for either man by interest from the Premier League.

The second priority for Barcelona this summer is to find a striker who will be content with a supporting role, yet possesses the requisite quality to deputise for Suárez. For this, they have their sights set on a couple of Frenchmen: Olympique Lyonnais’ Alexandre Lacazette and Sevilla’s Kévin Gameiro.

Lacazette is thought to be Barça’s first choice, but the 24-year-old French international is an ambitious young man who is unlikely to be happy as a mere back-up option. Gameiro, however, may be more receptive to the idea. The former PSG striker has netted 22 goals this season and, at 29-years-old, would likely jump at the chance to join one of the biggest clubs in the world and add to his medal collection.

As ever, all eyes will be on Real Madrid and Barcelona when the transfer window opens again in July. Both clubs are expected to be busy to varying degrees. With the futures of many star players uncertain, and with big-money transfers anticipated, there promises to be plenty of action to keep fans entertained until the new season kicks off.

About the author – Ryan Baldi

Ryan is a Midlands based freelance sports writer specialising in European football. He has been fascinated with the continental game ever since he was presented with his first football kit at the age of 7 years old whilst on holiday in Spain – a Barcelona shirt with ‘Romario 10’ printed on the back. A contributor to numerous footballing websites, Ryan has also covered martial arts for local and national print publications. Ryan’s musings on European football can be found here. 

twitter: @RyanBaldiEFB


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