Standout players over the European Championship group stages

Romelu Lukaku

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The knockout rounds will commence this Saturday.

Just over a week after kicking off, the European Championship group stages have come to an end. The next step being the knockout rounds in which 16 teams will compete for a place in the final – the ultimate hope being to lift the trophy.

With each team playing just 3 games in their group, it’s still difficult to gauge just how well some will fare in the knockouts.

During those games, there has been a number of players who have impressed.

That said, we’ve compiled a list (in no particular order) of 5 footballers who have impressed us the most in the tournament so far.

ROMELU LUKAKU | BELGIUM | STRIKER

One of the favourites to claim top scorer before the tournament commenced, Romelu Lukaku has certainly lived up to expectation so far.

The Inter Milan striker had a prolific season at club level and appears to have continued that form into the Euros, scoring 3 goals in 3 games.

Not only has Lukaku been impressive in terms of goal contributions, he’s also received praise for his general play. His role in the build-up for Belgium’s 2 goals against Denmark being particularly evident of his improved link-up play over the years.

Naturally, Belgium are one of the favourites to win the tournament and with Lukaku up top complimented by the creative talents of Kevin De Bruyne among others, they’ll be hard stopped.

CRISTIANO RONALDO | PORTUGAL | STRIKER

You wouldn’t think Ronaldo was one of the oldest players at the tournament. 3 games in with a massive 6 goal contributions (5 goals, 1 assist), the Portuguese legend is showing no sign of slowing down. In fact, he currently leads the top scorer table by 2 goals with the aforementioned Romelu Lukaku being tied second.

Not only is Ronaldo top scorer at the Euros, his last goal against France left him equal at the top with Iran’s Ali Daei for the top men’s international goal scorer of all time with 109 goals – incredible.

Although Portugal have qualified for the knockouts, their reliance on Ronaldo so far has been worrying. The Juventus striker has been involved in all but one of their goals and to tell the truth, their hasn’t been many standout performers other than him.

Even Bruno Fernandes – who is Manchester United’s main source of goal contributions – was dropped against France for his lacklustre performances in the other games.

That said, though, Portugal did manage to win the last European Championships despite poor performances in the group stages. Time will tell.

PAUL POGBA | FRANCE | MIDFIELDER 

Often a scapegoat for when things go wrong at club level, the same can’t be said for Pogba on the international scene.

He has his critics, but his performances so far in the tournament should silence them – at least for the time being.

Arguably France’s best player so far, Pogba has shown his importance to the national side, dictating play and spraying some magnificent passes to find his team mates.

Pogba was one of the key players when his country lifted the World Cup in 2018, can he be just as instrumental in this tournament?

GEORGINIO WIJNALDUM | NETHERLANDS | MIDFIELDER

The newly-signed PSG man wasn’t necessarily known as a goal scorer during his time at Liverpool, but his time with the national team and previous sides would say otherwise.

Wijnaldum is currently the joint-second in the scoring charts after scoring 3 goals in 3 games from midfield.

His scoring record for the national team is so impressive in fact, that he has more goals than AC Milan and Ajax legend Marco van Basten.

Not only is he scoring at will, he also has a highly impressive pass completion rate of 90% over the 3 games which is nothing to be scoffed at.

EMIL FORSBERG | SWEDEN | WINGER

It would be unfair not to include a Swedish player on the list. Not many fancied the Scandinavian side before the tournament but they’ve arguably been the biggest surprise package so far, winning 2 of their 3 games and drawing the other.

In fact, they’re still being overlooked by many despite reaching the quarter final being a realistic target. They’re up against Ukraine in the round of 16 who were less than impressive in their most recent showing.

There are a number of players we could have picked including Alexander Isak, who despite not scoring a goal as a striker has earned himself plenty of fans or alternatively, Victor Lindelöf, who’s been a rock at the back for his county.

But we’ve gone for Emil Forsberg.

The winger has long been regarded as one of the best talents in the Bundesliga, but inconsistency has been a problem for the 29-year-old over the years. But so far this tournament, he’s been nothing but consistent.

Like Wijnaldum and Lukaku, Forsberg currently sits second in the scoring charts having scored 3 goals.

His last performance was particularly impressive, scoring 2 brilliantly taken goals as his side ran out 3-2 winners over Poland.

With Forsberg and a recently fit Kulusevski on either wing, Sweden will be a tough challenge for any team to get past.

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