The 2016 European Championship in France provided an unfamiliar script to what would have been a classic football tournament. From the champions Portugal to the level of play overall, Euro 2016 surprised many. This was not a tournament of free-flowing and attacking football. It was more an ode to the pragmatic and tactical side of the game.
Many of the expected names did not shine in France. Some among them were Mesut Ozil, Thomas Muller, Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane, Robert Lewandowski, Sergio Ramos, David Alaba and most notably Paul Pogba. But there were others who came to the fore and tournaments like these always throw up a few surprises.
Let's look at some of the players who weren't household names prior to Euro 2016, but have now become so along with the new young stars to have emerged.
1. Antoine Griezmann
The Player of the Tournament. Antoine Griezmann looked like he was on a one-man mission to increase the overall goals-to-games ratio with his exploits. With six goals, the French forward won the Golden Boot and scored three more than the nearest competitor. Griezmann is quite well known, but not many predicted that he would win the Golden Boot at the end of Euro 2016, over names such as the aforementioned. Griezmann might not have ended up winning the main prize, but this showing would certainly enhance his reputation.
2. Renato Sanches
Renato Sanches was named the Young Player of the Tournament after Portugal beat France in the final on Sunday night. It is hard to believe that he is only 18 years old. The mature displays of the youngster belied his age. Strong in the tackle and powerful with the ball, Sanches gave hope to the Portuguese that their country can still produce highly-talented players. His goal against Poland in the round of 16 showed everyone the skill he possess. To top that, he scored in the ensuing penalty shootout with confidence and calmness. He also played a key role in the final, especially after Ronaldo was substituted because of injury.
3. Arkadiusz Milik
A lot was expected of Arkadiusz Milik as one of Poland's two main strikers. With the other being the imperious Robert Lewandowski, the pressure was not that high on Milik. He scored just one goal as Poland beat Northern Ireland 1-0 in Group C, but he had many chances during the course of the tournament to add to that tally. While his finishing let him down, he got into very good positions in the first place. He is only 22 years old and has time to mature into
the next Lewandowski.
4. Hal Robson-Kanu
When the tournament started, Hal Robson-Kanu didn't have a club side. But now, there will be a bunch of Premier League teams who will try to sign him. The Welsh forward scored a crucial winner against Slovakia in the Group B opener as Wales made a strong start. While Gareth Bale and Aaron Ramsey stole all the headlines after that, Robson-Kanu still had a telling contribution for Wales. He scored the winner against Belgium in the quarter-finals, as Wales stunned the footballing world. It wasn't any normal goal. He received the ball in the centre of the penalty box as Ramsey squared from the right. Then, Robson-Kanu did a Cruyff turn and placed the ball past goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois on the left. Skill like that is not possessed by ordinary footballers.
5. Samuel Umtiti
The young centre-back impressed one and all with his play in the tournament. The surprising part about Samuel Umtiti is that, he only made his France international debut in the quarter-finals of Euro 2016 against Iceland. He then played a key role in the semi-final 2-0 victory against world champions Germany. He looked composed during the final against Portugal, but ended up on the losing side. The 22-year-old has signed for Barcelona now. That is how highly rated the Frenchman is at the moment.
6. Robbie Brady
Robbie Brady played an important role as the Republic of Ireland reached the round of 16. He scored the all-important winner against Italy in a 1-0 win that guaranteed their progress from the group stage. The winger scored an early penalty against France in the pre-quarters as well. But the French beat the Irish 2-1 thanks to goals from Griezmann.
7. Joshua Kimmich
The young German was a constant feature during Euro 2016. He was usually used as a right-back, but played as a right-winger against Italy in the quarter-final. Joshua Kimmich also scored a vital penalty in the shootout as Germany finally beat Italy in a competitive match.
8. Ragnar Sigurdsson
The whole squad of Iceland should be mentioned here as their progress to the last eight was nothing short of brilliant. But if one player has to be singled out then it is Ragnar Sigurdsson. The centre-back was a rock in the defence as Iceland qualified second, ahead of eventual winners Portugal in Group F. He then scored the equaliser against England in the round of 16 as Iceland went on to win 2-1. His defensive display on the night along with the goal got him the Man of
the Match award.