Euro 2016 Days 1 to 7 – Team of the Week
Euro 2016 is now a week old, with Ukraine already out of the competition, while hosts France have confirmed their place in the next round.
We are currently halfway through the second round of group games – so some players have played twice and others just once – but let’s take a look at the team of the tournament so far.
Here’s our Fantasy Spotlight guide to the first week of Euro 2016.
The goalkeeper in our Team of the Week is Germany’s Manuel Neuer, who is the only stopper to have kept two clean sheets out of two in the competition so far.
Neuer, Germany’s captain, was relatively untested in his side’s opening match, a 2-0 win against Ukraine, while his clean sheet in a goalless draw with Poland was more down to the inaccurate finishing of forward Arkadiusz Milik.
But Neuer has an aura about him and it is easy to see Germany keeping more clean sheets in the tournament – they face Republic of Ireland in their next group game.
Northern Ireland’s 2-0 win against Ukraine on Thursday kept their hopes alive, with Gareth McAuley putting in a superb display at the back as Michael O’Neill’s side kept a vital clean sheet.
McAuley also opened the scoring for his team, launching himself into the air to power a header home from Oliver Norwood’s free-kick, hitting his eighth international goal.
Gerard Piqué has only played once in Euro 2016 so far – he is next in action against Turkey – but he got off to a terrific start at the tournament by scoring the winner in a 1-0 win against Czech Republic on matchday one.
Spain, the winners of both Euro 2008 and Euro 2012, had to wait 86 minutes to open the scoring, but Piqué made the difference, heading in Andrés Iniesta’s cross to secure all three points.
Our final defender in our Fantasy Spotlight – Shkodran Mustafi – has also played only once, but that was because he lost his place to the fit-again Mats Hummels for Germany’s second match.
That was despite the fact Mustafi scored Germany’s first goal in their victory against Ukraine, with Mustafi now likely to spend the rest of the tournament on the bench, unless either Hummels or his defensive partner Jérôme Boateng pick up an injury or a suspension. Bad luck.
Eric Dier had never had a shot from a free-kick at club level for Tottenham Hotspur, so to see him smash in a set-piece in England’s opening Euro 2016 match against Russia was a huge shock.
Dier has been a reasonably effective presence as a midfield shield in front of the England defence, although Roy Hodgson’s men have conceded in both group matches so far, while he is also a dangerous aerial threat from corners.
The first of two Slovakia midfielders to make it into our Team of the Week, Vladimír Weiss scored a fine goal as his team boosted their qualification hopes with a 2-0 win over Russia on Tuesday.
Weiss was also involved in Slovakia’s other goal in that match, but more on that later…
There is no doubt that the star of the tournament so far is Dimitri Payet, which is particularly amazing as his place in the France squad was not even assured until a few weeks before the start of the competition.
But West Ham playmaker Payet has taken his chance with both hands, smashing home a dramatic late winner against opening night against Romania, before teeing up Antoine Griezmann for his side’s first goal in a 2-0 win over Albania.
Payet then added late gloss to the scoreline with a well-taken second goal and he is by far and away the top fantasy points scorer at Euro 2016 to date.
Weiss’ team-mate Marek Hamšík also earns a place in Fantasy Spotlight after he struck one of the goals of the tournament against Russia.
The Napoli star collected a short corner and took the Russian defence by surprise, cutting inside and smacking a sumptuous drive off the inside of the far post, giving goalkeeper Igor Akinfeev absolutely no chance. Up next for Hamšík and Weiss is England on Monday as Group B closes.
World champions Germany have not got out of second gear yet, but there is a feeling that Joachim Löw’s men are biding their time and holding something back for the knock-out rounds.
But Toni Kroos has started the tournament in fine form, dominating his team’s Euro 2016 opener against Ukraine and providing the cross for Mustafi’s goal, before having a slightly more muted performance in the draw with Poland.
Wales looked likely to be heavily reliant on Gareth Bale at the European Championship and that has been the case, with the Real Madrid star scoring two of his side’s three goals at the finals.
Both strikes have been free-kicks that the goalkeepers probably should have done better with, but the world’s most expensive player gets so much late dip and swerve on his set-pieces that it is difficult to apportion too much blame on the stoppers.
Bale and Wales face Russia in their last match of the group stage, with a point likely to be enough to send them through despite suffering a 2-1 loss to England in their previous game.
The last player in Fantasy Spotlight this week is an unlikely choice – Romania’s Bogdan Stancu.
Despite his team struggling to create chances, Stancu sits joint-top in the race for the Golden Boot with Payet after converting penalties in both of his team’s games so far.
But if Romania are going to make it through to the next round of Euro 2016, they will need Stancu to provide more attacking thrust than scoring spot-kicks.