The Big Game Players - Who Will Make a Difference
When it comes down to the nitty-gritty of international football, it is often the ability to perform on the biggest of stages that separates great from merely good players. After all, the world’s best players reserve their most important interventions for when they are most needed, either during pressurised moments during game or in the heat of a crucial knockout clash.
We’ve already seen Gareth Bale do this, netting three in three for Wales, while Dimitri Payet has taken the bull by the horns with France.
As the tournament enters the latter stages, the big name players are going to have to carry the weight of a nation on their shoulders. We take a look at three men who will have to be at their very best…
Wayne Rooney, England
Rooney has already proved his doubters wrong throughout Euro 2016, becoming a must-pick in the heart of the England midfield.
They’ll rely on his leadership throughout the tournament, but also his vision on the ball which drives the Three Lions forward. And then there’s his goalscoring, after all how many other current players have scored 52 times for their nation at a rate scarcely worse than one goal every other game?
Given that the same man has scored five goals in just eight starts at the Euros, captains his country and also has the work-rate and range of passing to play in midfield, it is a no-brainer to suggest that Rooney remains England’s most proven performer on the biggest of stages.
Moreover he is a winner and a game-breaker, soas England go into the last 16, he’ll once again be a key man!
Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
It goes without saying that Cristiano Ronaldo will be carrying Portugal. So far he’s struggled to make a real impact with the Mediterranean country drawing their first two games against Iceland and Austria.
Their final game against Hungary this evening is a must win, and the arguably the greatest player on the planet will need to be in good form.
Naturally you’d expect him to. He’s 58 goals for his nation and they now need him more than ever. He’s their talisman, and his hunger and desire lifts everyone around him. It could be a disappointing tournament for Portugal, but if there’s one man who can turn that around, it’s Ronaldo.
Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden
Another who’s struggled for his nation so far in the tournament, Zlatan Ibrahimovic will be desperate to drag Sweden into the latter stages with this likely to be his last European Championship, and indeed major tournament.
They currently sit third in the group on one point, with their final game against Belgium tomorrow a must win if they stand any chance of qualifying. Zlatan will be key in that.
His resume is only superseded by his honours list, while his goal scoring exploits are on a par with the best strikers of the generation. Not only has the charismatic Swede scored 392 club career goals in 677 games (including an impressive 156 goals in 180 appearances for his last club PSG), he has also struck 62 international goals in 115 matches for his country.