A captivating quarterfinal round of the 2016 European Championship has whittled the playing field down to just four remaining nations: Portugal, Wales, Germany, and France. These four sides will duel it out in their respective semifinal fixtures on Wednesday and Thursday for the opportunity to book a spot in the final. Here is the ‘Best XI’ compiled by FutbolPulse’s Euro 2016 correspondents from the four quarterfinal matches, along with an overview of each player’s performances in the last matchday.
Manuel Neuer (Germany)
The German number one was the hero for his side in a difficult match against Italy. Neuer was forced into a number of important saves and fulfilled his “sweeper ‘keeper” role well. When his country most needed him, the Bayern man came up big during the penalty shootout with two saves to send his nation to the semifinals of Euro 2016.
Leonardo Bonucci (Italy)
Another incredible performance in Italy’s back line for the Juventus man. Inch-perfect distribution, crucial clearances and tackles to neutralize the opposition attack, and a clinical penalty kick to equalize the score for the Italians were the highlights of Bonucci’s performance on the night. Missed his penalty in the shootout only due to the heroics of Manuel Neuer.
Ashley Williams (Wales)
A rock at the back against Belgium. The Welsh captain made a multitude of important tackles and clearances to keep the opposition’s score at a minimum. Scored the headed equalizer off of an Aaron Ramsey corner that would change the momentum completely in favor of the Welsh, who would eventually emerge as 3-1 victors.
Mats Hummels (Germany)
The linchpin in defense for Germany. Hummels’ distribution on Saturday was superb, racking up a total of 99 successful passes and a 91% passing accuracy. Hummels’ long passes were particularly important in setting up German attacks. Operated well defensively, yet will be suspended for the France match after receiving his second booking of the tournament.
Dimitri Payet (France)
Payet returned to his group stage form after an exceptional performance against Iceland in the quarterfinal round. A terrorizing presence for Iceland’s back line, Payet’s passing and dribbling set up attack after attack for his side. Scored a fantastic goal from outside the box for France’s third and set up Giroud’s header perfectly with free kick to make it 5-1.
Paul Pogba (France)
After a relatively quiet tournament so far for the Juventus man, Paul Pogba silenced his critics with a resolute performance in France’s 5-2 victory over Iceland. Reinforced the defense with a number of crucial tackles and supported the attack with some impeccable passing. Rose high to head in France’s second goal of the match.
Aaron Ramsey (Wales)
The undisputed man of the match for the Welsh on Friday. Ramsey was the engine powering every attack for his side, with accurate distribution to the front line throughout the duration of the match, particularly from set pieces. Assisted the equalizing goal with a corner kick and then set up Robson-Kanu to fire Wales into the lead on the 56th minute. Was unfortunately booked for the second time in the tournament, meaning he will not be available for selection against Portugal on Wednesday.
Renato Sanches (Portugal)
Bayern’s new starlet was one of the few highlights for Portugal in a rather unremarkable victory over Poland in the quarterfinals. Did well to equalize on the 33rd minute after a one-two with Nani yielded his first international goal. Impressed with his passing and dribbling, and thumped home his penalty in Portugal’s shootout victory.
Hal Robson-Kanu (Wales)
A marvelous night for the clubless forward. Robson-Kanu used his physicality to trouble the Belgian back line throughout the match. Gained Wales a 2-1 lead after beating three defenders with an impressive Cruyff turn and firing past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois.
Olivier Giroud (France)
A fantastic match for the Arsenal forward. Scored a composed finish past Halldorsson on the 12th minute after pouncing on a brilliant long ball from Matuidi, before banging in Dmitri Payet’s free kick to complete his brace on the 59th minute. Also flicked the ball forward to Griezmann to assist France’s fourth on the night.
Antoine Griezmann (France)
Performed exceptionally well from the central position to set up a number of chances for the French. Finished the match with an 89% pass accuracy while making a total of five key passes. Recorded two assists for the second and third goals of the match, and made an impressive run before chipping a cheeky ball past the Iceland ‘keeper for France’s fourth.