Five players whose stock unexpectedly rose drastically at Euro 2016

Group E Belgium vs Italy

International tournaments are being watched by millions of football fans, but also by every important human being in every club management. It is therefore one of the best ways for a player to put himself in the spotlights.

A bunch of internationals made their stock rise during Euro 2016, but the following five did so in an unexpected and drastic way.

Emanuele Giaccherini (Italy – Sunderland)

Italy weren’t expected to do much in France, but the Azzurri beat Belgium in their opening game of the tournament and went on to beat Spain before losing to Germany on penalty’s in the quarter-finals. Emanuele Giaccherini was a key player in Antonio Conte’s 3-5-2 formation and has seen has stock rise dramatically.

The 31-year-old failed to live up to the expectations at Sunderland and played on loan at Bologna last season. He’s set to depart the Black Cats and even Chelsea have called. Giaccherini is most likely to end up in Serie A, but his goal against Belgium, endless work rate en timely forward runs have made him an unexpected wanted man this summer.

Hal Robson-Kanu (Wales – free agent)

“Without doubt, running down my contract at Reading was the best decision of my life. Reading wanted me to stay, but I felt it was the right time to move and take my future in my own hands. I always believed in myself,” Hal Robson-Kanu said after scoring a Cruyff-like goal in Wales’ quarter-final win against Belgium, as reported by the Daily Mirror.

The 27-year-old striker is a free agent after Reading let him go, and scored twice for the Dragons at Euro 2016, as he also hit the net in a group stage encounter with Slovakia. Robson-Kanu is hunted by many clubs, including a couple from the Premier League, and will make his decision soon. One that nobody could have imagined a couple of weeks ago.

Balazs Dzsudzsak (Hungary – Bursaspor)

It took Hungary play-offs to make it to France and nobody expected them to quality from Group F with Portugal, Austria, and Iceland. But they did, as Hungary even won the group with five points. The Hungarians drew against Iceland and Portugal, and beat Austria. Their star player, Balazs Dzsudzsak, found himself at the heart of their success.

The 29-year-old scored a beautiful brace against Cristiano Ronaldo and co, while showcasing his speed, creativity, and work rate in midfield. The former PSV player left Russian Dinamo Moscow for Bursaspor last summer, but he’s primed to jump to a bigger league like the Bundesliga due to the interest by a number of German clubs.

Marko Pjaca (Croatia – Dinamo Zagreb)

You must have done something right when Juventus, AC Milan, Napoli, and Borussia Dortmund are engaging in a bidding war for your services. That is the case for Marko Pjaca, who showcased his speed and dribbling skills on Croatia’s wing during games against Spain and Portugal.

The 21-year-old played just 103 minutes at Euro 2016, but made his mark in a big way. He’s primed to leave Dinamo Zagreb and is already being compared to Germany’s Julian Draxler. Milan look to have to upper hand for now, but Pjaca’s performances in France have nearly doubled his market value.

Michael McGovern (Northern Ireland – Hamilton Academical)

Only three goalkeepers made more saves at Euro 2016 than Northern Ireland’s Michael McGovern, who had 17 as his country made an astonishing run which ended with a 1-0 loss to Wales in the round of 16. Those three keepers were Poland’s Lukasz Fabianski (19), Belgium’s Thibaut Courtois (20), and Iceland’s Hannes Halldorsson (27).

The 31-year-old was the highest-rated goalkeeper of the group stages, according to Opta statistics. He was most impressive during Northern Ireland’s encounter with World Champions Germany, which they lost only 1-0. McGovern made a series of superb saves against the Germans, making his search for a club this summer a lot easier.

Rejuvenated Hungary’s enjoying excellent Euro 2016 journey

Euro 2016

During the highly entertaining group stages of Euro 2016, there were many surprises, one of which was the superb performances produced by Hungary.

Competing in their first European Championship since 1972, Bernd Storck’s team finished top of Group F to progress to the last 16 with an unbeaten record.

Playing with determination, togetherness and a great deal of quality, Hungary opened their campaign with a commanding 2-0 win over their eternal rivals Austria.  Scoring Hungary’s second goal was Hoffenheim striker Adam Szalai, as he ended a remarkably barren run of 41 games for club and country without a goal.

Despite that Szalai only appeared as a late substitute in Hungary’s next game, which despite dominating for long periods they required a late own goal by Birkir Saevarsson to draw 1-1 with Iceland.

Any disappointment the Hungarians may have felt by not winning that match, was quickly dispelled, as they played wonderfully well to close the group stages by drawing 3-3 with Portugal in a pulsating encounter.  That ensured Hungary topped Group F and progressed to the knock-out stages of a major international tournament for the first time since the 1966 World Cup.

Starring against Portugal was Zoltan Gera, who at 37 years and 61 days scored with a superb 25-yard strike to become the second oldest goal-scorer at a European Championship behind Austria’s Ivica Vastic 38 years and 256 days.  As a Hungarian veteran with a wealth of experience at international level, Gera exerts a positive influence on the team, whilst so too does captain Balazs Dzsudzsak.  By tirelessly cajoling and encouraging his players, Dzsudzsak leads by example, doing so in each of Hungary’s Euro 2016 group stage games.

In the team’s 3-3 draw with Portugal, the 29-year-old Bursaspor midfielder scored twice from outside the box to become the first player to do so in a European Championship game since Wayne Rooney achieved the feat in England’s 4-2 Euro 2004 group stage win over Croatia.

Whilst the experienced duo of Dzsudzsak and Gera, along with goalkeeper Gabor Kiraly played key roles in helping Hungary qualify for the last 16, underlying that achievement was a cohesive team effort masterminded by Storck.  The 53-year-old German has carried on the exceptional work of his predecessor Pal Dardai in developing a side of which the Hungarian support can be proud.

That has only recently become the case however since just over two years ago, Hungary were beaten 8-1 by the Netherlands in a 2014 World Cup qualifier.  Many of the players who featured in that humiliating defeat have also starred so far in Hungary’s Euro 2016 campaign, which indicates that rather than a radical change in personnel, that success has been built upon a revised strategy, initially devised by Dardai and consolidated by Storck.

The main focus of that strategy has been to eliminate the failings of previous coaching and managerial regimes by ensuring that professionalism, along with high levels of motivation, physical preparation and team spirit permeate the Hungarian camp, whilst instilling leaders, such as Dzsudzsak, within that.

Subsequently rather than the outstanding performance of any individual players, Hungary’s rejuvenation as a team capable of competing at a major international tournament has been inspired by Storck’s maintenance of a harmonious and well-balanced squad.

That squad consists of a fine mix of experienced and younger players, who have each repaid the faith Storck has placed in them.  For instance the under-23 trio of Adam Lang, Adam Nagy & Laszlo Kleinheisler have all performed brilliantly at the finals by adding a youthful exuberance to Hungary’s play, which has been of an extremely high quality at the finals.

Subsequently Hungary’s Euro 2016 journey will continue against Belgium in the last 16, which is likely to prove the toughest test of Storck’s well-drilled side to date.


Belgium slowly coming into some form in Euro 2016

Belgium Euro 2016

Belgium booked their place in the last-16 of the European Championships following a 1-0 win over Sweden on Wednesday evening. The Rode Duivels capitalised on the Swedes needing to win, hitting the side on the break late in the second-half to take all three points when the game was headed for a draw.

After defeat in their opening group game to Italy, Belgium have responded brilliantly with consecutive wins over the likes of Republic of Ireland and Sweden to finish second in Group E with six points from a possible nine. They ended up level on points with Italy in the end, and manager Marc Wilmots believes his side should be feared in the latter stages.

Sweden are picked off brilliant by Belgium after having to take risks in possession, and the head coach has warned that will be a common occurrence if sides don’t respect the European outfit. “They were obliged to open up and if you do that against us you will be punished,” said Wilmots.

“Six points from nine is very good and since the defeat by Italy we have got better, we’ve kept two clean sheets in a row. People thought we were dead after the first game but we are back on track and we have come through a very difficult group.” Next up for Belgium will be surprise package Hungary, who finished top of Group F against all odds.

While before the tournament, such a pairing would be considered a foregone conclusion for Belgium, Hungary having bested a group that featured Portugal and Austria sees them getting a lot more respect. While confident in his own side, Wilmots won’t take Hungary for granted as they come into the last-16 unbeaten.

“Hungary will be tough. We saw the last minutes of their game against Portugal. They give 200 per cent and have very good players. We need another good performance to qualify for the quarter-finals.” Belgium now have momentum on their side coming into the clash, and are big favorites to come out on top despite Hungary topping the group.

Belgium kept Sweden relatively quiet without being outstanding themselves, and there’s the feeling that the Rode Duivels have been saving their best for the latter stages. They will travel to the Stadium Municipal on Sunday, June 26, to face Hungary in the last-16 of the European Championships, and could book their place in the quarter-finals if they realise their potential in the knockouts.

Croatia next up for Portugal after Ronaldo brace booked their place in the Euro 2016 knockouts

cristiano ronaldo portugal

Real Madrid forward Cristiano Ronaldo contributed to all three of Portugal’s goals in a six-goal thriller against Hungary to book the side’s place in the last-16 of the European Championships. Portugal came from behind three times to earn a draw in Wednesday’s Group F clash at the Stade des Lumières.

The point meant they finished third in the group with three points, two points behind first-placed Hungary and Iceland, but on three occasions they were on the brink of elimination. Hungary took the lead in the 19th minute from a brilliant Zoltan Gera volley. Portugal responded well without being add the finishing touches to their attacks until Nani found space in the final third.

Ronaldo played creator, slipping a through ball into the former Manchester United teammate, who made no mistake with a first-time low finish into the bottom corner. After the break, however, it was Hungary who once again went ahead in the game, this time through a deflected Balazs Dzsudzsak freekick which wrong-footed Rui Patricio in the Portugal goal.

Minutes later, Ronaldo finally got off the mark in the tournament, brilliantly flicking the cross into the back of the net from behind to make it 2-2 in the 50th minutes. Balazs Dzsudzsak put Hungary ahead once more with another deflected effort, cutting inside and rifling an effort that was steered past the goalkeeper by Nani.

Ronaldo levelled the game for Portugal for the third time, heading home not long after the hour mark, and after the game he admitted the national team rode their luck conceding so many goals. “The team was in dire straits – three times we had to chase down the score and three times we came back. Our priority was to win the match but we failed to do that. The bottom line is that we wanted to qualify,” he said.

Portugal will now face Croatia in the last-16 of the European Championships at the Stade Bollaert-Delelis on Saturday, June 25. It promises to be a tough game given the Croats are coming off the back of a win against defending champions Spain, while Portugal are yet to win a game in the tournament. Ronaldo added: “Croatia are a good team but the odds are 50-50 and whoever plays the best match will go through.”

“We saw highlights of the Spain match and they are a tough team with very good players. Not every team manages to beat Spain so we respect them. We know their strengths but we will look them in the eyes when we face them.”