With the first round of Euro 2016 group stage matches now complete, seventeen of FutbolPulse’s European Championship correspondents contributed their selections to create a ‘Best XI’ for Matchday 1. Here is the FutbolPulse Writers’ Euro 2016 Team of Matchday 1, along with corresponding overviews for each player selected:
Manuel Neuer (Germany)
The German number one emerged with a multitude of important reflex saves throughout the duration of the match, most crucially against first half efforts from Yevhen Konoplyanka and Yevhen Khacheridi. Combined with an 86% distribution success, Neuer recorded a successful performance in goal in what was a crucial clean sheet against the Ukrainians in Group C.
Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)
In an incredible performance against big boys Belgium, Juventus defender Leonardo Bonucci put in a fantastic defensive display in the Azzurri‘s back line. Near-perfect positioning meant that the Italian would always be in the right place at the right time to break down attacking threats from the opposition. Bonucci’s inch-perfect ball from the center circle would assist the opening goal from Emanuele Giaccherini.
Gerard Piqué (Spain)
The Barcelona man had a strong showing at center-back for Spain in the opening match of a difficult Group D, stopping a number of attacking threats from Czech Republic players. In a match that seemed to be approaching a stalemate between the opposing teams, Piqué made a crucial run and headed home a beautiful assist from Iniesta to give his side the full three points.
Jérôme Boateng (Germany)
The Bayern Munich defender recorded a very solid performance against Ukraine in the center of Germany’s back line. Consistent throughout the match, Boateng finished with an impressive 89% pass accuracy, feeding the ball forward on a number of occasions to create attacking opportunities. Boateng’s stand-out moment was most definitely his acrobatic goal-line clearance off of a Yevhen Konoplyanka effort on the 37th minute.
Shkodran Mustafi (Germany)
Another strong performer in Germany’s back line against Ukraine, the Valencia defender scored the first of Die Mannschaft‘s two goals after heading home a Toni Kroos free kick on the 19th minute. Mustafi remained defensively solid through the remainder of the match and did an overall fine job replacing the injured Mats Hummels against Ukraine.
Luka Modrić (Croatia)
Undoubtedly the star of the Turkey-Croatia match-up, Modrić delivered a phenomenal first-time volley into the bottom left-hand corner to hand his nation a vital win in their Group D opener. Aside from the goal, Modrić put in an excellent shift in midfield, playing a crucial role in both Croatia’s attacking and defensive efforts.
Andrés Iniesta (Spain)
The Spanish maestro recorded a man-of-the-match performance in the match against the Czech Republic. Iniesta’s vision and precise passing saw him thread crucial balls all match that cut through the opposing back line, producing a total of five chances created. With over 80 passes completed and a 90% pass accuracy, Iniesta dictated play from his midfield position. A beautiful assist to the sole goalscorer Gerard Piqué capped off a wonderful performance and a deserved victory for Iniesta and Spain.
Toni Kroos (Germany)
The Real Madrid man dictated play in a great showing by the Germans against Ukraine. With a 94% pass accuracy and a total of five chances created, Kroos did an excellent job pulling the attacking strings and threading through passes from the center of the pitch. An excellent assist to Mustafi’s headed goal marked Kroos’ greatest moment of the match.
Dimitri Payet (France)
The attacking midfielder was undoubtedly the standout performer for France in the host nation’s 2-1 opening victory over the Romanians. Payet was the focal point of the French team on Friday, with his intricate passing and vision inspiring an impressive eight chances created by the end of the match as well as a goal and assist to his name. A perfect pass would find Giroud for the opener on the 57th minute, while Payet himself sent a brilliant long-range goal to seal the win for the French on the 89th.
Arkadiusz Milik (Poland)
Milik emerged as the difference between the opposing sides in a hard fought 1-0 win for the Polish against Northern Ireland. A goal threat throughout the match, Milik finally found the back of the net with a clinical finish into the bottom right-hand corner from the top of the box on the 51st minute. Milik ended the match with an 88% pass accuracy, another impressive figure.
Gareth Bale (Wales)
The Real Madrid forward was the most consistent attacking threat for Wales against a strong Slovakia side. Although he faced immense pressure and marking from the opposition, Bale was able to deal with it well and threaten the opposing goal. The Welshman left Slovakia goalkeeper Matúš Kozáčik wrong-footed as he scored a powerful free kick on the 10th minute of the match.