In Focus: Euro 2016 Heroes and Villains of Round of 16

Ben Wills takes us through the heroes and villains of the first round of knockout matches.

Heroes:

1) Xherdan Shaqiri (Switzerland)

Switzerland may have had their European Championships ended by Poland in the Round of 16 but they gave us the best goal before heading home.

It is almost impossible to describe the wonder of Shaqiri’s bicycle kick that forced extra time. The Stoke winger somehow arched his body and acrobatically beat Lukasz Fabianski to keep Switzerland at the Euros – for another half an hour anyway.

2) Antoine Griezmann (France)

For a brief period, it looked like hosts France were going to be humbled by the Republic of Ireland: that was until Antoine Griezmann showed up.

Griezmann scored two goals in four minutes to break Irish hearts and save French blushes.

His first was a guided header in the far post, followed up by a cool finish past West Ham keeper Darren Randolph.

3) Julian Draxler (Germany)

Modern Germany seem to unleash a new young star into every tournament, with Julian Draxler being Euro 2016’s example.

Draxler was the star of the show in their 3-0 win over Slovakia as he scored one and provided the assist for another.

Mario Gomez swept in a Draxler’s cut-back to make it 2-0 to the world champions before Wolfsburg’s winger scored the third in what proved to be a routine German win.

4) Eden Hazard (Belgium)

Eden Hazard’s season was much maligned but he and his form have had a new lease of life at the Euros.

Hazard set up substitute Michy Batshuayi with a low cross from the Chelsea forward when he passed to himself and played it across goal for the simple tap-in.

He then had a goal of his own seconds later, going on a dazzling run before curling one in the bottom far corner.

5) Ragnar Sigurdsson (Iceland)

It was a disaster of a night for England but a simultaneously beautiful one for Iceland.

The David of a country that has a population smaller than that of Bristol, overcame yet another Goliath to keep their fairy-tale going.

Ragnar Sigurdsson converted a long throw-in to drag Iceland level seconds after they fell behind and he was immense defensively too.

Villains:

1) Granit Xhaka (Switzerland)

Penalty shoot-outs are evil things, someone has to be the villain and that dishonour went to incoming Arsenal midfielder Granit Xhaka.

Switzerland lost 5-4 to Poland on penalties with Xhaka the only player to miss from 12 yards.

It was an awful penalty, blazed way-wide which was a shame as he was one of the Swiss’ best players in these Euros.

2) Gareth McAuley (Northern Ireland)

Speaking of top performers that can be blamed for their country going home, here is Gareth McAuley.

The centre back was one of the key men for the Northern Irish, as they unexpectedly qualified from their group, but the cruel nature of football led to McAuley breaking the hearts of those that praised him.

He was unfortunate too. If he did not inadvertently turn Gareth Bale’s cross into his own net, then Hal Robson-Kanu probably would have anyway.

3) Ivan Perisic (Croatia)

Ivan Perisic has been on the players of the tournament, but you need to be damn good if you are going to get your nation’s flag made into your hair.

Sadly, he was not. Croatia lost a dire match to Portugal in the last two minutes of extra time which felt like the only chance of the game.

In future Ivan, focus on the football, not your hair.

4) Joe Hart (England)

England and goalkeepers are a match made in hell. Just when we finally get a good one again in Joe Hart, well, it goes wrong somehow.

It could be argued the goal conceded to Russia was due to him, Gareth Bale’s free-kick in the Wales match should have been saved too but the Iceland encounter was the worst of the bunch.

Hart failed to command his box for Iceland’s first and then let a shot, that seemed to be going about three miles an hour, through his hands too. And England were out.

5) Roy Hodgson (England)

England are used to being a disappointment at major tournaments, but what made Euro 2016 so much worse is that it could have a hell of a lot better than what we ended up with.

A group consisting of Wales, Russia and Slovakia looked incredibly winnable, and was not won. Then minnows Iceland were there for the taking but came away with the win.

This, a bad World Cup two years ago and a contract already coming to an end leads to England needing a new manager.

Goodbye, Roy. Onto the next one.

Read more from Ben here

Follow Ben on Twitter @_BenWills

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About lakirk41 (93 Articles)
24, Cambridge grad, Arsenal fan, unfortunate hair colour

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