Date: 24th June 2021 at 3:06pm
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The group stage of Euro 2020 came to a thrilling climax on Wednesday evening as Spain, Sweden, Germany, France and Portugal all booked their places in the last 16. 

Spain had looked like they would top Group E as they coasted to a 5-0 victory over Slovakia, before a late goal from Viktor Claesson sent the Swede’s top and set up a knockout game against Ukraine on Tuesday.

Then came more drama and even more goals as world champions France faced Euro holders Portugal and Germany played Hungary in the ‘group of death’.

Both games lived up to the excitement and, with the exception of France, all three other sides all faced elimination at one point during the 90 minutes.

France and Portugal played out a 2-2 draw courtesy of braces from both Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema, with the former facing Switzerland in the next round and the latter pitted against Belgium.

Germany, meanwhile, left it late to save themselves from a shock elimination, with Leon Goretzka’s late goal enough to also seal a 2-2 to set up a mouth-watering tie against England on Tuesday and, in doing so, send Hungary home.

Below is a list of our picks for the top five players of the group stages.

Cristiano Ronaldo

The Portugal icon has already broken a number of records during this tournament, and will become the highest goalscorer in the history of international men’s football if he can net once more. The Juventus star put Portugal ahead from the spot against France before later drawing level, once again from the penalty spot. The former Real Madrid man was pivotal in the 3-0 victory over Hungary in the opening group match, and scored and set one up in the 4-2 defeat to Germany. Now boasting records for most goals at the European Championship and most goals at Euros and World Cups combined, Ronaldo will have set his sights on the Golden Boot having struck five times in three games.

Robin Gosens

A relative unknown prior to the tournament, Gosens announced himself to the tournament with a scintillating performance as Germany beat Portugal 4-2 in their second group stage match. The full-back set up Chelsea’s Kai Havertz for Germany’s third goal, before himself heading home moments later to put the result beyond doubt. Few would disagree that Gosens has been the standout player in a below par Germany side so far, and England boss Gareth Southgate will undoubtedly be keen to combat the threat posed by the Atalanta man when the two sides face each other at Wembley on Tuesday.

Gini Wijnaldum

Fresh from agreeing a deal to join Paris Saint-Germain, Netherlands captain Gini Wijnaldum was instrumental as the Netherlands navigated their way through a favourable Group C. The former Liverpool man scored the first Dutch goal of the tournament, opening the scoring during a thrilling 3-2 victory over Ukraine. After impressing in a 2-0 win over Austria that secured the Netherlands’ progression to the next round, the midfielder then scored a brace against North Macedonia in the final group stage match to draw himself joint-second on the to goalscorer table for the tournament so far. The Dutch now face Czech Republic in the next round, before potentially Wales or Denmark in the quarter-finals.

Patrick Schick

On June 14, just three days into Euro 2020, fans and pundits alike were in agreement that the goal of the tournament award was already won. Scotland, appearing at their first major tournament in 23 years, had been silenced by a brace from Czech Republic forward Patrick Schick, the second of which left ‘keeper David Marshall and the crowd inside Hampden Park stunned. Pouncing on a loose ball just inside Scotland’s half, Schick lobbed Marshall with his first touch to double his side’s lead. He then followed that up with another goal against Croatia, meaning that he is level with a number of other players on three goals from three games so far. Czech Republic face the Netherlands in the last 16, and Schick will have to be at the top of his game if they are to progress.

Manuel Locatelli

Few had tipped Italy to win the Euros this year but, ahead of the knockout stages, Roberto Mancini’s side look like contenders rather than dark horses. The Italians opened the tournament with a convincing 3-0 victory over Turkey, before beating Switzerland by the same scoreline and then defeating 10-man Wales 1-0. With all eyes on Ciro Immobile and Lorenzo Insigne, it is one of the country’s lesser known players who has stolen the show so far. Sassuolo midfielder Locatelli impressed in the opener against Turkey, and later scored twice in the win over Switzerland. He has made such an impact during the first three games of the tournament, that Italian giants Juventus are reportedly already preparing an offer for the midfielder. While England are the only side other than Italy not to concede yet, with the Italians drawn in the somewhat unfavourable side of the draw, the likes of Locatelli could be crucial in navigating their way to the final.

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