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KingFut’s Euro 2016 ‘African’ Team of the Tournament
Portugal’s Euro 2016 final victory is the talk of all football fans right now, after they managed to beat much-favored hosts France to claim their maiden trophy.
Some of the players on show in France were originally from Africa, with most being second or third-generation Africans whose parents or grandparents left their homes in search of better opportunities.
These players have made use of the opportunities offered to them and have shined brightly, with the glowing example being Portugal’s Éder – a Guinea-Bissau native – who scored the winning goal to stun France in the final.
As the tournament drew to a close, KingFut put together the best XI of players of African origin at UEFA Euro 2016, for your viewing pleasure:
The French keeper of Congolese origin isn’t a starter for the French national team, but is a great replacement for Hugo Lloris nonetheless. The Marseille captain has made 439 appearances for his club, and has been voted Ligue 1 goalkeeper of the year four times in his career. He didn’t start any match for France this summer, but it’s worth noting that Mandanda was the only keeper of African origin at the tournament.
Sagna expressed his wish to play for Senegal when was a teenager, but he was called up by the France U-21 team first. The 33-year-old right back has 56 appearances with Les Bleus and has started every game for France as they hosted this year’s tournament. He’s been arguably the best full-back this tournament; Sagna was defensively astute and offered assistance to his teammates going forward.
Umtiti was born in Cameroon and opted to represent France internationally after unsuccessful attempts by Cameroon legend Roger Milla to convince him otherwise. Surprisingly, the 22-year-old wouldn’t have made it into the squad if it weren’t for injuries to both Jeremy Mathieu and Raphael Varane, as well as Mamadou Sakho’s failed drug test. He made his debut in the quarter-final against Iceland due to Adil Rami’s suspension, and a solid showing meant he kept his place against Germany and Portugal. His impressive performances with Lyon earned him a transfer to Barcelona this summer.
Boateng is arguably one of the best centre-backs in the world right now. The German-Ghanaian defender has been immense for his national team when they won the 2014 World Cup and the European U-21 Championship in 2009. He was solid in France as well; the Bayern Munich defender did not allow any goals from open play while on the field, despite conceding a penalty against Italy for handball.
Evra was born in Dakar, Senegal and moved to France with his parents as a kid. The 35-year-old is the starting left back for France and has just extended his contract for Juventus until 2018. Evra started every match in the tournament and was great going forward for France, but might have been susceptible defensively at times.
Carvalho was born in Angola and moved to Portugal at an early age. The midfielder has been linked to a Premier League move for quite some time, but has opted to stay with Sporting CP so far. He started five games for Portugal this tournament and was suspended for the semi-final against Wales. Carvalho has been great at shielding the back four and gave the Portugal midfield a physical presence. His tidy passing and recycling of possession have earned him a place in this XI.
Khedira was born in Stuttgart to a German mother and Tunisian father. He won the Bundesliga with Stuttgart in 2007 earning him a transfer to Real Madrid where he won La Liga in 2012 and the Champions League in 2014. Khedira joined Juventus in 2015 and won the Serie A and Coppa Italia. He was part of the German team that won the 2014 World Cup in Brazil, but he missed the final against Argentina due to injury. Khedira started all games for Germany at the Euro before getting injured in the quarter-final against Italy. He was great shuttling forward from midfield for Die Mannschaft and they sorely missed him in the semi-final against France.
— UEFA EURO (@UEFAEURO) July 10, 2016
The highly-rated youngster was born to a father from São Tomé and Príncipe and a Cape Verdean mother. The 18-year-old garnered much attention from various clubs until he opted to sign for Bayern Munich before the tournament for a €35 million initial fee that could rise to €80 million in the future. Sanches became the youngest-ever Portuguese player to appear in an international tournament after being selected for Euro 2016. He started the tournament off the bench, but was then chosen as the man of the match against Croatia in the Round of 16 and scored a fantastic goal against Poland in the quarter-finals. He was a revelation for Portugal due to his athleticism, speed and skill, which earned him the Young Player of the Tournament award.
Pogba was born in France to Guinean parents. The 23-year-old didn’t really impress at the beginning of the Euro and was benched in the match against Albania, but later regained form and was captivating against Switzerland in the group stage and Iceland in the quarter-finals respectively. He was influential in the semi-final against Germany, setting up the second goal for Antoine Griezmann. Pogba was recently linked with a record-breaking move back to Manchester United that could cost a staggering €120 million, but his displays in the Euro – and especially the final against Portugal – weren’t that conquering to back up that immense price tag. The Juventus player could point to his defensive shackles as the reason for his less than stellar performance, with manager Didier Deschamps preferred to field him in a defensive midfield role as opposed to further up the pitch.
Nani was born in Cape Verde, and left for Portugal with his parents when he was very young. He spent eight years at Manchester United with his last year spent on loan at his home club Sporting CP, before being sold to Fenerbahçe in 2015. He has managed to revive his career somewhat after a poor end to his Manchester United career, and he signed for Valencia during the summer. He impressed up front next to Ronaldo, scoring three goals. Nani was always a threat in the final against France, and looked a real leader after captain Ronaldo was substituted due to injury.
Born in London to a Nigerian father, Hal Robson-Kanu opted to represent Wales at the U-21 and senior levels after representing the England U-19s. Wales qualified for the first time in their history for the European Championship and enjoyed a historic campaign as they reached the semi-final of the tournament. The winger was played as a striker during the campaign and came off the bench in the opener against Slovakia to score a goal in the 81st minute. He also scored an extraordinary goal against Belgium in the historic 3-1 win in the quarter-final, turning brilliantly to peel away from three defenders inside the box before scoring the second goal of the night for the Welsh.
Bench: Moussa Sissoko (Mali – France), Joao Mario (Cape Verde – Portugal), Blaise Matuidi (Angola – France), Éder (Guinea-Bissau – Portugal), N’Golo Kanté (Mali – France) , David Alaba (Nigeria – Austria), Adil Rami (Morocco -France)