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The best XI of players at Euro 2024

From over 600 players taking part at Euro 2024, Sports Mole selects the best starting XI.

While a handful of true global stars are not present in Germany for Euro 2024, most of football's top talents will be there, proudly representing their nation on the big stage.

The European Championship is traditionally treated as second only to the World Cup in terms of status - albeit other confederations may disagree - and this summer's showpiece is sure to feature inspiring displays from the beautiful game's finest players.

But if one team were to be selected from over 600 taking part, which men would make it into the very best eleven? For instance, who should start in goal, and which striker would lead the line up front? Furthermore, who should be named captain of such a stellar side?

Having considered all those questions and more, Sports Mole now presents the best XI of players at Euro 2024.

GOALKEEPER: Marc-Andre ter Stegen

Barcelona goalkeeper Marc-Andre ter Stegen on May 14, 2023© Reuters

With the colossal presence of Thibaut Courtois unavailable due to his long-running feud with Belgium boss Domenico Tedesco, the field contending for our number one jersey is a small but select one.

Despite an injury-affected second season with AC Milan, Mike Maignan has often excelled in Serie A and the Champions League, Swiss stopper Yann Sommer has also impressed since switching to Italy, while Jan Oblak offers long-established credentials in La Liga.

Yet, it is the hosts that boast the best goalkeeping department, with vastly-experienced veteran Manuel Neuer recently being confirmed as Germany's first choice ahead of Barcelona star Marc-Andre ter Stegen.

There is some evidence that, following a long injury layoff, Neuer's remarkable powers are now waning, so our 'keeper may not even play a minute at his home Euros; making him a somewhat controversial choice.

RIGHT-BACK: Dani Carvajal

Real Madrid defender Dani Carvajal pictured on October 16, 2022© Reuters

Several non-specialists and wing-backs were considered for this team, but the need for an expert full-back won out in the end - therefore, only a few men were left in contention.

Kyle Walker is a go-to selection both for England and Manchester City, his international teammate Trent Alexander-Arnold is sublimely gifted on the ball, while Walker's old club colleague Joao Cancelo can point to some valuable versatility; after a long time in Germany's midfield, Joshua Kimmich has returned to his former role.

However, partly based on current form, Spain's first-choice right-back - who set up the most chances of any player from that position during qualifying (17) - beats them all to the shirt.

Using guile and experience to contribute in both defence and attack - plus rattle opponents and influence referees - Dani Carvajal has just played a major role in Real Madrid's latest Champions League triumph and seems better than ever at the age of 32.

CENTRE-BACK: Virgil van Dijk

Netherlands' Virgil van Dijk celebrates scoring their first goal on September 25, 2022© Reuters

There are various aspects to consider when piecing together a defensive unit, and perhaps the qualities of calm authority, discipline and leadership should be paramount.

In addition to all of these characteristics, our first choice in central defence can boast a career-worth of experience at the highest level - plus an impressive passing range.

Such is the current depth available to Netherlands coach Ronald Koeman - himself a superb defender in his day - that Virgil van Dijk must beat off competition from Matthijs de Ligt, Micky van de Ven and Stefan de Vrij just to start alongside left-footer Nathan Ake.

Taking his place in this XI ahead of another imposing centre-back, Germany's Antonio Rudiger, Van Dijk should complement a younger partner perfectly - and he will also don the captain's armband.

CENTRE-BACK: Josko Gvardiol

Croatia defender Josko Gvardiol on December 17, 2022© Reuters

While not essential, most well-functioning rearguards have at least one left-footed member, allowing attacks to start fluently and ensuring each defender is comfortable in possession close to their own goal.

Therefore, Josko Gvardiol holds off strong competition from his Man City teammate Ruben Dias to join forces with Van Dijk at the heart of our defence.

Despite playing left-back for City this season - finishing with a flourish by posting six goal contributions from his final 10 appearances of 2023-24 - the Croatia star can function just as well in the centre.

Indeed, for tactical flexibility, he could even swap roles with our left-back selection, giving opposing wingers plenty to fret about.

LEFT-BACK: Theo Hernandez

Morocco winger Sofiane Boufal and France defender Theo Hernandez during World Cup semi-final on December 14, 2022.© Reuters

Though perfectly capable of time-sharing with Gvardiol, having filled in at centre-back for Milan on a few occasions this season, Theo Hernandez is a must-pick in his preferred position: haring up and down the left flank.

Scotland skipper Andy Robertson and Italy's Federico Dimarco were among the other contenders to complete this back four, but even conservative France coach Didier Deschamps selects the attack-minded full-back more often than not.

He started five times at the last World Cup, scoring in the semi-final against Morocco, and then played every minute of qualifying for the Euros, emulating Carvajal by creating 17 chances in the process.

When his team are under pressure, he is also an expert at carrying the ball long distances with lung-bursting runs - and his cultured left foot packs a real punch too.


Spain's Rodri scores their first goal from the penalty spot on March 26, 2024© Reuters

Some midfielders excel at frustrating the opposition, others can play incisive through-balls or burst into the box to score crucial goals; others, though, can simply do it all.

When he is on the pitch, either Spain or Manchester City rarely lose, and Rodri is sure to prove an integral figure in La Roja's pursuit of a record fourth European title.

City's peerless midfield fulcrum for the past five years, he makes breaking up play seem easy, always choosing the right option to keep possession - and when the chips are down, he often steps up a gear.

Therefore, fellow contenders such as Frenkie de Jong (Netherlands), Granit Xhaka (Switzerland) and England's Declan Rice must miss out on our Euros XI.

MIDFIELD: Toni Kroos

Germany's Toni Kroos in action on March 26, 2024© Reuters

If this had been almost any other year, Toni Kroos would have stood aside for Real Madrid teammate Luka Modric, the tireless technician who has so often set the standard at major international tournaments.

However, like Carvajal, the German ball-player has enjoyed a late-career peak this season, perhaps inspired by his impending - and some would say premature - retirement.

Fortunately for the Euro 2024 hosts, Kroos stepped back into the Germany fold earlier this year, and having been welcomed back with open arms is now set to return home for a final swansong.

Also brilliant from set-pieces, the former Bayer Leverkusen star can keep things ticking over in our engine room and supply the bullets for a potent front four.

RIGHT WING: Bernardo Silva

Portugal's Bernardo Silva pictured on September 7, 2021 © Reuters

A difficult selection to make, as so many attacking players could be shoe-horned into this specific role, while French flyer Ousmane Dembele and England's Bukayo Saka are true specialists.

However, the understated genius of Portugal's Bernardo Silva earns him selection ahead of Saka, Dembele and Germany's great hope Florian Wirtz, who is capable of popping up anywhere along the front line.

The Man City schemer was ranked eighth in last year's FIFA Best awards and has a glittering CV behind him in club football, where he has remained a constant in Pep Guardiola's ruthless winning machine.

Allied to total commitment, his versatility is a gift: drifting in from the right allows him to exchange clever passes with other forwards, while never shirking defensive duties.


France's Antoine Griezmann on December 14, 2022© Reuters

Another contentious choice, due to the sheer scale of competition for the playmaker's role: Kevin De Bruyne, Pedri, Jamal Musiala, Bruno Fernandes and Jude Bellingham were all considered.

Yet, the man who makes Les Bleus tick had to be included, for his deep understanding of the position and an innate ability to link up with teammates throughout the final third.

France have so often turned to Antoine Griezmann for inspiration at recent finals, always raising his game for the big occasion, and this Euros XI could also do with a dose of his subtle brilliance.

LEFT WING: Kylian Mbappe

France's Kylian Mbappe in action on June 5, 2024© Reuters

No such worries here, as even the claims of Rafael Leao, Phil Foden and Jeremy Doku barely brush the shoulder of France's lightning-quick skipper.

Recently installed as Real Madrid's newest 'Galactico', Kylian Mbappe may not enjoy tracking back but he is a defender's nightmare when cutting inside from the left flank in his inimitable manner.

A bitter end to his time in Paris has also left the ex-Monaco man with weeks of pent-up frustration to unleash, so in combination with French compatriot Theo Hernandez, he will terrorise any opposing right-back.

Blessed with blistering speed, and able to marry that advantage with clinical finishing, Mbappe already boasts over 70 goal involvements for his country and is all set follow up a brilliant showing at the 2022 World Cup.

STRIKER: Harry Kane

Harry Kane in action for England on September 12, 2023© Reuters

Step aside Robert Lewandowski, Romelu Lukaku and even Cristiano Ronaldo, England's all-time leading goalscorer returns to Germany following a superb first season in the Bundesliga - on an individual level, at least.

Harry Kane is also a dream to play with for his fellow attackers, dropping deep and linking up with teammates - both those joining from behind and out on either wing.

Ruthlessly efficient, Kane can finish from all angles and has struck 63 times throughout his Three Lions career, winning the Golden Boot at the 2018 World Cup.

Aiming to improve on a tally of four goals at Euro 2020 - all scored in the knockout phase - this summer's tournament will see him lead England's pursuit of long-awaited glory in his new adopted home.

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General view of the European Championship trophy ahead of Euro 2024 on April 24, 2024
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Euro 2024 fixtures header
Sunday, June 16
Monday, June 17
Tuesday, June 18
Wednesday, June 19
Thursday, June 20
Group Stage
Friday, June 21
Saturday, June 22
Sunday, June 23
Monday, June 24
Tuesday, June 25
Wednesday, June 26
Saturday, June 29
Sunday, June 30
Monday, July 1
Tuesday, July 2
Friday, July 5
Saturday, July 6
Tuesday, July 9
Wednesday, July 10
Sunday, July 14
Tables header RHS

Group A

1 Germany Germany11003
2 Switzerland Switzerland11003
3 Hungary Hungary10010
4 Scotland flag Scotland10010

Group B

1 Spain Spain11003
2 Italy Italy11003
3 Albania national flag Albania10010
4 Croatia Croatia10010

Group C

1 Denmark Denmark00000
2 England flag England00000
3 Serbia Serbia00000
4 Slovenia Slovenia00000

Group D

1 Netherlands Netherlands11003
2 Austria Austria00000
3 France France00000
4 Poland Poland10010

Group E

1 Belgium Belgium00000
2 Romania Romania00000
3 Slovakia Slovakia00000
4 Ukraine Ukraine00000

Group F

1 Czech Republic Czech Republic00000
2 Georgia Georgia00000
3 Portugal Portugal00000
4 Turkey Turkey00000

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