Two rounds of Euro 2016 group stage matches have now come to a close, and FutbolPulse’s team of European Championship correspondents join forces again to bring you their Matchday 2 ‘Best XI.’ Here is the FutbolPulse Writers’ Euro 2016 Team of Matchday 2, as well as an overview of each selection’s performances in this past matchday.
Robert Almer (Austria)
The Austrian goalkeeper put in an excellent shift in goal against Portugal on Saturday. In what was undoubtedly one of the best goalkeeping performances of the tournament so far, Almer recorded a number of important reflex saves to deny shots from Cristiano Ronaldo and his teammates from reaching the net. His efforts were instrumental in keeping Austrian hopes of advancement to the knockout round alive.
Jordi Alba (Spain)
A constant threat down the left flank, the Barcelona left-back played a crucial role in working with Nolito to provide the Spanish team with important width in their match against Turkey. Shot in a number of crosses into the box and set up a multitude of attacks with his pinpoint passing; Alba registered a 92% pass accuracy with over 60 passes completed by the match’s end. The Spaniard provided Juventus man Álvaro Morata with a nice assist for Spain’s third goal of the match.
Gareth McAuley (Northern Ireland)
The 36-year-old West Bromwich defender was the star man in a resounding Northern Irish victory over Group C opponents Ukraine that sent Mykhaylo Fomenko’s side crashing out of the tournament after just two matches played. McAuley scored a historic opening goal for Northern Ireland just following half time after connecting with a cross from the back post. In addition to the goal, McAuley was a fantastic presence in his team’s back line, with the Norhern Irish finishing the game on top 2-0 in an incredible win to keep them alive in the tournament.
Giorgio Chiellini (Italy)
Another match for Italy and another fantastic display by the team’s impenetrable Juventus spine. While Leonardo Bonucci was selected into the Team of the Matchday last week, it was Giorgio Chiellini who received the honor in Round 2. A number of vital clearances and interceptions constantly kept a weak Swedish side at bay and neutralized threats from the likes of Zlatan Ibrahimović. Chiellini played a crucial role in defending set pieces and himself set up the sole goal of the match with a nice throw-in to Simone Zaza, who would then assist Eder’s goal.
Kyle Walker (England)
Kyle Walker was the driving force – both in attack and in defense – for the English in a crucial match against Wales. Sent in a number of crosses into the box and won multiple corners whilst policing the right flank. Played a role in the build up to many chances for England.
Dimitri Payet (France)
Dmitri Payet was again included in the FutbolPulse Writers’ Team of the Matchday, as the West Ham United star followed up a phenomenal showing against Romania with another fantastic performance against Albania. Payet was the driving creative force of France’s attack throughout the duration of the match. After compatriot Antoine Griezmann fired the last-gasp winner into the net on the 90th minute, Payet managed to add one more for France six minutes into stoppage time after beating three defenders to place the ball past the keeper into the bottom-right corner for the 2-0 scoreline.
Andrés Iniesta (Spain)
This is Iniesta’s second inclusion in the FutbolPulse Writers’ Team of the Matchday, and deservingly so. Just as he did in the previous round against the Czech Republic, the Barcelona star ran the show from the middle of the pitch, employing his perfect vision to play in crucial passes throughout the duration of the match. Iniesta capped off a fantastic performance – in which he recorded a 94% passing accuracy – with a perfectly-weighted chip to Jordi Alba, who then set up Spain’s third goal of the night.
Marek Hamšík (Slovakia)
Marek Hamšík was, without a sliver of doubt, one of the outstanding players in Matchday 2 of Euro 2016. The number 10 was an unstoppable force in the middle of the pitch, contributing greatly to his side’s attacking efforts throughout the match. Hamšík placed a phenomenal long-range assist right at the feet of teammate Vladimir Weiss for the first goal on the 32nd minute, and 13 minutes later scored himself with another perfectly-placed curling finish that went in off the inside of the post.
The Celta Vigo forward put in a phenomenal performance for the Spanish outfit against Turkey, recording both an assist and a goal. Always a threat in the final third, Nolito participated in the build up to a number of opportunities for La Furia Roja and assisted teammate Álvaro Morata for the first goal. Just three minutes later on the 37′, Nolito grabbed a goal for himself after an impressive finish off of a failed headed clearance from Turkey.
Álvaro Morata (Spain)
The Juventus forward was one of many Spaniards who put in top performances against Turkey on Friday. Morata was clinical in front of goal throughout the match and consequently bagged two goals for his country, becoming the first player at Euro 2016 to score a brace. Fantastic positioning and great finishing characterized an overall phenomenal performance for both Morata and Spain on the night.
Romelu Lukaku (Belgium)
Romelu Lukaku hit the ground running after a largely disappointing opening performance against the Italians. In what was a very cohesive Belgian unit, the Everton star finished with a 88% pass accuracy for the Red Devils on the night. Lukaku emerged with a brace after some fantastic finishing and composure saw him open and seal the deal to gain his side an important three points in Group E.