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Who are the Key Men for the Euro Favourites?

June 29, 2016

- Grant Whittington

We are now into the knockout stages of Euro 2016, where games are almost certain to be tighter and a selection of the continent’s finest players will ultimately make the different.

In many ways, the team that is ultimately successful at the Euros will rely on one or two star performers to pull them through during difficult times. As much as spirit, organisation and tactics remain important, it is individual brilliance that often makes the difference.

With this in mind, let’s take a look at the three Euro favourites and the star performers that will determine their success or failure…

France (Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante)

Hosts France remain the bookmakers’ favourites for the Euro title, despite indifferent performances in the group stages. While West Ham star Dimitri Payet has been the shining light in the French side so far, we believe that midfielders Paul Pogba and N’Golo Kante will ultimately make the difference in the knockout stages.

Pogba was superb in a box-to-box role against the Swiss, and his partnership with Leicester’s tenacious Kante affords France a tremendous balance in the middle of the park. We can expect tight games in the latter stages to be decided in midfield, and it here that France have an edge over many of their rivals.

Germany (Thomas Muller and Toni Kroos)

For second favourites and World Champions Germany, the tournament has provide plain sailing so far. They eased through the Group Stage and Slovakia and undoubtedly have the quality in midfield and attack to win the tournament overall.

Toni Kroos has been one of the statistically superior players at the tournament so far, with a pass completion rate of around 95%. He maintains metronomic control in the middle of the park, allowing the versatile and elusive Muller to exploit space in attack. While Muller’s record at the Euros is underwhelming, his performances at major finals have excelled and he is the man for the big occasion.

Belgium (Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku)

Belgium remain third favourites for the Euros, despite their lacklustre displays in the group stages. Much of this is down to their presence in the easier half of the draw, in addition to the quality of individual performers such as Eden Hazard, Kevin de Bruyne and Romelu Lukaku.

It is the latter two who are key to Belgium’s success, with Lukaku in particular providing a brooding presence and the type of strong, prolific forwards that is in short supply at the Euros. In terms of de Bruyne, he retains a rare and concerted ability be a match-winner, while his influence will increase the longer than the Belgians remain in the tournament.

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