With Euro 2016 nearing its conclusion we salute the unsung heroes of the tournament who may not have scored spectacular goes or delivered iconic individual displays, but have been just as important to their respective teams’ progress in the tournament…
Which of these players has impressed you the most?
Identified as a weak link for Germany, the left-back scored the winning penalty against Italy but has also been one of Die Mannschaft’s most consistent.
We all know how good he is, but the French keeper has made a number of crucial saves at crucial times and allowed Payet and Griezmann to take the glory.
Like Hector for Germany, much of Wales’ attacking play has come down the left-hand side with Taylor’s delivery and energy crucial to their gameplan.
Among the most despised players in the world but – Hungary aside – the veteran has been among the tournament’s best defenders. It just hurts to say so.
Italy could have listed a starting XI of injured midfielders for Euro 2016 but stepping up has been Parolo who’s tackled, harried and passed to perfection.
Marco Parolo: MotM vs Germany, Rating 7.58, Tackles 5, Interceptions 5, Clearances 3, Shots Blocked 1, Passes 59 @azzurri— WhoScored.com (@WhoScored) July 2, 2016
Ahead of their semi-final clash on Thursday, Germany and France UAE-based fans give their verdict on the game.
To gain an insight into the mindset of the fans we asked UAE fans to share with us their predictions, likely line-ups and players to watch.
Do you agree or have they missed the mark? Use #360Fans to share with us your thoughts.
GERMANY – Frank Scheunert (Hedge Fund Manager, Dubai)
It’s been a long time since France got the better of Germany at a major tournament. We have managed to beat Les Bleus in our last three competitive meetings – at the 1982 and 1986 World Cups and, more recently, on our way to lifting the trophy in Brazil two years ago.
That was a tight game and a narrow 1-0 victory was secured thanks to an early goal from Mats Hummels, who is unfortunately missing from this reunion with France through suspension after picking up a yellow card against Italy.
France, who won the European Championship in 2000, were very impressive against Iceland. There was a lot of pressure on them in that game and they showed they can handle the burden of expectation by smashing five goals past their opponents to ease through their quarter-final. While they had it easy, Germany did it the hard way – beating Italy on penalties.
We may be more tired – after playing a draining, tactical game against the Azzurri – and will not be helped against France by the key players who we have missing. Mario Gomez is out of the tournament and Hummels is suspended, while Sami Khedira and Bastian Schweinsteiger also appear likely to miss out. Despite this, Joachim Low’s side has a real winning mentality and I still believe we can beat France.
PREDICTION: Germany 2-1 France
LIKELY GERMANY XI: Neuer; Kimmich, Boateng, Howedes, Hector; Weigl, Kroos; Draxler, Ozil, Muller; Gotze
GERMANY PLAYER TO WATCH: Thomas Muller. The words ‘broken’ and ‘record’ spring to mind. I feel like I’ve been tipping the Bayern Munich to end his goal drought for the past three weeks. But with Mario Gomez out, Muller will be more important than ever. He missed a penalty against Italy but I can feel it, against Les Bleus it’s Muller time!
FRANCE PLAYER TO FEAR: Antoine Griezmann – A very penetrative player, he is also chasing the golden boot in this tournament. He is very quick and always seems to be able to create space for his team-mates with his direct running. Very dangerous.
WHERE TO WATCH: ON42 at the Media One Hotel. But make sure to reserve a space or arrive at least an hour early as the place was absolutely packed for the Italy game.
FRANCE – Yves Thapele (E-commerce manager, Dubai)
So here we are, one step away from a third successive final in a tournament we’ve hosted. First there was Euro 1984, then World Cup 1998, but will Euro 2016 also end with French hands on the Henri Delaunay trophy?
The match against Iceland was a wonderful, buccaneering display from Les Bleus as they avoided the potential banana skin of Iceland. The 5-2 quarter-final victory now has French people believing that this team really does have what it takes to win the whole tournament.
It would be dangerous to look ahead to the final though as Germany are first up. We don’t have a great record against them in competitive fixtures and they of course are the reigning champions of the world. It would be foolish to underestimate the German threat but similarly, France should trust their attacking players to perform as they did against Iceland.
Samuel Umtiti looked solid in defence and could well keep his place ahead of Adil Rami – otherwise France will be unchanged for this huge game in Marseille, where we played our last European Championship semi-final, against Portugal in 1984. That was 3-2 and the same result this time would do nicely. Allez Les Bleus!
PREDICTION: Germany 2-3 France
LIKELY FRANCE XI: Lloris; Sagna, Umtiti, Koscielny, Evra; Cabaye, Matuidi, Pogba; Griezmann, Giroud, Payet
FRANCE PLAYER TO WATCH: Paul Pogba – He’s finally getting warmed up and has really grown into the tournament the past few games. The Juventus midfielder is of course not as good as Zinedine Zidane…yet. But he is still our midfield maestro and his energy and incisive passing will be key against Germany.
GERMANY PLAYER TO FEAR: Mesut Ozil – The Arsenal playmaker has played really well at Euro 2016 and pulls the creative strings for Germany. Missed a penalty in the shootout against Italy but he also scored in the match so expect him to bounce straight back.
WHERE TO WATCH: Barasti!
Goals from Cristiano Ronaldo and Nani gave Portugal a 2-0 victory over Wales in Lyon, which saw Fernando Santos’ side progress to the European Championship final at Wales’ expense.
But Ramsey, absent from the match through suspension, insists Wales have done themselves proud in France, something he believes he is no small part down to the atmosphere created by Coleman.
“It‘s brilliant [playing under Coleman], you can see that it’s evident on the pitch as well, the amount of fun that we have,” Ramsey told Sport360 after the game.
“We enjoy everything we do together, we enjoy working hard on the pitch and we enjoy playing – and we get to play with that freedom as well. I think all the players enjoy playing under him.
“He just said [in the dressing-room after the game] that we could be proud of what we’ve achieved in this tournament. Obviously we’re disappointed with the result and the way we went out but what we’ve shown throughout this campaign we can be proud of and I think the fans and the Welsh public are proud of what we’ve done as well.”
Ramsey admitted it was hard to watch the match from the sidelines following his yellow card in an otherwise superb display in the quarter-final against Belgium.
“I’d have preferred to have been playing and it was quite hard but I thought the boys gave it their all but it wasn’t to be,” Ramsey said. “I fully believed in the team we had out tonight. We have quality all over the park. I can’t criticise anyone, I thought everyone gave 100 percent tonight.
“We’ve done extremely well, we’d have liked to have gone another step further and got to the final but we can be proud of what we’ve achieved and we can build on that now for the future. If we’d said before the tournament that Wales would get to the semi-finals, I think a lot of people would have laughed at that.
“Hopefully it’s the start of us qualifying for major tournaments regularly and make a lot more teams notice and know what we’re all about. The way we play, the passion we play with and hopefully now we’ve started something that we can build on.”
Ramsey will now have a short break before joining up with the Arsenal squad for the new season, though he admitted he may yet be given some extra time off by Arsene Wenger.
“I think I’m back on August 1 so I’ll have a few weeks off now but then the season kicks off,” Ramsey said. “I think when Germany won the World Cup a couple of years ago those boys came in a couple of days before the start of the season and missed the first game.
“He [Arsene] does like to give players a little break and I’m sure I’ll get the same treatment. I feel that I need a few weeks off now, yes.”