Euro 2016 final: assessing performances of Premier League players
Posted by Featured Articles | Published on July 10, 2016
Whilst the English national side appeared to go above and beyond to ensure its early exit from Euro 2016, a number of overseas Premier League players managed to go the distance in France.
Of the 22 players from France and Portugal who started the tournament’s final, almost a third are currently plying their trade in England’s top flight – two from Portugal and five from the hosts. Which Premier League players would stand out on the biggest stage? Whose stock has increased the most over the tournament, and who still has the most to prove? We watched the final with a keen eye on these players to see who, for both positive or negative reasons, would stand out from the crowd…
…and the moths.
Cedric Soares – Southampton
Showing that there’s a little bit more to him than pace, the Southampton full back dislodged the reliable Vieirinha during Euro 2016 to get himself a starting slot at right back for the final.
Cedric stood up to Paul Pogba on the half-hour mark, far from fooled by some trickery on the edge of the box, stealing the ball and making one of the world’s most sought-after players look a bit foolish. Soares picked up a booking in the 34th minute for putting a knee into the back of Dimitri Payet during an aerial battle; an understandable attempt to keep a top player on his toes but, come on: don’t make it that obvious.
Once Payet made way, Soares had the unenviable task of holding off Kingsley Coman and Patrice Evra down France’s right flank. He coped with the task admirably – though a rare moment where he stood off of Coman led to a glaring opportunity for Antoine Griezmann in the 66th minute, which wasn’t taken.
FTS Rating: 7/10
Jose Fonte – Southampton
The other half of Southampton’s Portuguese defensive tandem had a very solid evening in Paris, overcoming a shaky start; the centre back’s first touch was a very loose pass to Cedric which nearly allowed Griezmann an easy chance. Fonte is also keeping out another Portugal main-stay of years gone by, Bruno Alves, due to his general form and more rounded skill-set – and a lack of incentive to kick Harry Kane’s head off in a friendly game right before a major tournament.
Fonte probably should’ve done better with a headed chance from a corner in the 39th minute, but was immediately back to snuff out a chance for France by out-muscling Olivier Giroud. No mean feat, that. An important header then denied Griezmann a clear chance early into the second half. France’s high press attempted to stop Portugal playing the ball out from defence but Fonte often cleverly worked around the pressing, and looked far from out of place on the big stage. Not bad for a player who made his debut just before his 31st birthday.
FTS Rating: 8/10
Hugo Lloris – Tottenham Hotspur
In a tournament featuring legends between the sticks such as Manuel Neuer and Gianluigi Buffon, as well as emerging superstars like David de Gea and Yann Sommer, the Spurs goalkeeper has often been in a class of his own this summer. His showing in the final, however, was a little less assured.
Pulling off a string of eye-catching saves before the final, including a clutch of stops towards the end of the semi-final to keep Germany at arm’s length, many would’ve expected Lloris to be ready for anything Portugal could throw at him. The departure of Ronaldo early on played a large part in Portugal not recording a shot on target until late in the game, but perhaps this lack of action led to a drop in concentration.
When the chances did come, Lloris was far from convincing, flapping at a Nani cross from the right before gratefully clutching onto a weak overhead follow-up from Quaresma. The Spurs shot-stopper also couldn’t hold onto a header from Eder in the first half of extra time, before the former Swansea City striker beat Lloris from 25 yards after the break. A handful of France players will not look back too fondly at their showing in the final, and Hugo falls into that category.
FTS Rating: 4/10
Dimitri Payet – West Ham United
Payet’s performance in the final was a similar story to his other showings in the latter stages of the tournament: moments of brilliance, infrequently breaking up a pretty quiet showing. A wonderful pass in the tenth minute floated over Pepe and allowed Griezmann to force a save from Rui Patricio, but moments of brilliance like that were few and far between.
His lack of influence on the match could, of course, be down to teams giving the midfielder more respect than other sides in the group stage did, when the room he was given was often exploited in deadly, goal-scoring fashion. The Frenchman’s most important action of the evening though had nothing with scoring or creating goals. His early, strong (and ball-winning) challenge on Cristiano Ronaldo would ultimately cause Portugal’s talisman to take his leave, severely limiting their attacking threat. A lack of space, set pieces or that piece of world-class innovation led to Payet being substituted for Kingsley Coman in the 58th minute.
FTS Rating: 5/10
Bacary Sagna – Manchester City
Sagna is consistent in an area where consistency is needed more than most. Similar to fellow full back, countryman and Manchester City teammate Gael Clichy, Sagna tends to be a solid 7/10 in all important areas: attacking, defending, pace, passing and tackling.
Rare attacking moments were well read by Bacary, cutting out potentially deadly passes here and there. Portugal sub Ricardo Quaresma often drifted over to Sagna’s side to test him, but he had little success. France had won their last ten games against the Portuguese before the Euro 2016 final, and with the 33-year old looking as solid as ever, that never really looked like changing over 90 minutes. Football: a funny old game, isn’t it?
FTS Rating: 7/10 (obviously)
Laurent Koscielny – Arsenal
Laurent chalked up more interceptions than any defender in the Premier League last season, and he continued that trend in the final, constantly alive to Portugal’s potential threat on the counter-attack. His one main error, though, led to Portugal’s winner.
Always playing with his head up and possessing a good range of passing, Koscielny is a modern centre back with the grit and desire of an old-school one. Working alongside Pepe, the Arsenal centre back rarely looked anything other than poised, calm and decisive in his actions. A miss-hit clearance in the 57th minute that flew into Blaise Matuidi’s midriff was a rare blip in a very assured performance. He even shrugged off a headlock from Ricardo Quaresma in the latter stages of normal time.
However, in the second half of extra time, Koscielny narrowly lost a tussle for the ball with Eder, before allowing him some space to turn and shoot. The rest is already etched into European Championships history.
FTS Rating: 7/10
Anthony Martial – Manchester United
Brought on straight after the Portugal goal, not even the raw pace and potential of Martial was capable of turning things around in such a short space of time. The forward was arguably brought on far too late by Didier Deschamps and could’ve added that extra spark to France’s play that was needed in the second half of normal time, but we’ll never know.
FTS Rating: N/A
Olivier Giroud – Arsenal
Despite scoring 10 goals his last ten starts for his country, Giroud still had his fair share of doubters and boo boys going into the final. But the thing is: if not Giroud, who else? Playing Griezmann in the role furthest forward would have significantly stumped his effectiveness, and Andre-Pierre Gignac has looked every part the backup striker we expected him to be.
More often than not, I think the striker is a more important player for France than some give him credit for, and Giroud regularly gave his side an outlet when things got a little pressurised at the back, chesting and heading long balls to a teammate (usually Griezmann) again and again. Still, there has to be a reason for that mixed reaction, and Giroud was certainly not as clinical or effective as he can be on this occasion. A clear scoring chance was spurned by the Arsenal man in the 75th minute – his only real sight of goal, which came shortly before he was replaced by Gignac.
FTS Rating: 6/10