The European Championship always provides an incredible combination of competition and national pride. The tournament can also serve as a tremendous spotlight for players to showcase their skills to the world.
From Gerd Muller to David Villa to Michel Platini’s absurd 9-goal haul in 1984, the Euros provide a stage for the greats to make their name. As we prepare for France and Romania to kick off the festivities on June 10th, we take a look (in no particular order) at the players who could take home Euro 2016’s Golden Boot.
1) Antoine Griezmann – FW – France
Few players are coming into Euro 2016 as in form as France’s Antoine Griezmann. Despite a tough loss to Real Madrid last month to end the campaign, the 25 year-old lead Atletico Madrid to their 3rd ever Champions League final with an inspired brace over two legs, knocking out defending champion Barcelona in the semi-finals.
He finished his club season with 32 goals across all competitions and has featured regularly in France’s squad leading up to the tournament. France boasts a strong midfield and has historically performed well as the host nation, capturing both a World Cup (1998) and a Euro title (1984) with their home supporters.
Karim Benzema’s suspension from the French national team has opened the door for their numerous talented strikers to capitalize, including Olivier Giroud and Andre-Pierre Gignac. However, Griezmann’s speed and ability to create space from opposing defenders should make him a popular choice for manager Didier Deschamps.
2) Harry Kane – FW – England
If one is going to win the golden boot for a Euro Championship, taking the golden boot in the Premier League is a good place to start. The Tottenham striker scored a stunning 25 goals during the EPL campaign, bringing a title challenge and Champions League qualification back to the North London side.
Kane has the size, speed and natural scoring ability that could lead England to success at Euro 2016. He has struggled at times to be a starter in Roy Hodgson’s lineups, but should be expected to contribute greatly to the squad’s campaign in France.
3) Gareth Bale – LM – Wales
The 1958 FIFA World Cup in Sweden. A young man name Pele was introduced to the world. What a time to be alive. And Wales’ first major tournament appearance since then should provide quite a thrill for both the nation and their mercurial winger – Gareth Bale.
Real Madrid’s world record transfer fee player brings an incredible mixture of size, strength and speed that can give opposing defenders nightmares. Free kicks swerve in from every angle and his crosses can set up plenty of chances for teammates as well. Wales’ entire attack runs through Bale, and he has the ability to produce goals from virtually anywhere on the field.
4) Mario Gomez – FW – Germany
It has been a long journey for Mario Gomez since Euro 2012. Coming off a Champions League final appearance and an eye-popping 41 goals across all competitions with Bayern Munich during the 2011-2012 season, Gomez added 3 goals and an assist for Germany on their way to the Euro 2012 semi-finals.
He missed out on the golden boot only through minutes played to Spain’s Fernando Torres. An ankle injury and a transfer to Fiorentina followed, but Gomez will again be looking to contribute for Germany in a big way. Similar to the start of Euro 2012, Gomez finds himself on the outskirts of the lineup.
But just as Miroslav Klose racked up goals for the Germans, Mario may find similar fortunes with his positioning and strength. Germany’s array of talented midfield attackers could set him up for an excellent tournament.
5) Robert Lewandowski – FW – Poland
5 goals in 9 minutes. That can be an impressive stat for a Sunday in the park – let alone in the Bundesliga against Wolfsburg. But that is exactly the sort of amazing goal scoring ability that Robert Lewandowski brings to Poland.
For both Bayern Munich and Borussia Dortmund over the past 6 years, Lewandowski’s vision and scoring touch have served to provide the foundation for winning teams. As Poland’s captain, he has led a strong team to an even higher confidence. And if he gets going like he did against Wolfsburg this past season, he could wrap up the golden boot in the group stage.
6) Eden Hazard – MF – Belgium
Creativity can bring the types of goals that normally would not have taken place. Chelsea’s electric midfielder possesses this quality in abundance. Eden Hazard provides speed and technique to a Belgian side that is ready to step up to the big stage.
Despite a disappointing Premier League season for him in London, Hazard is the focal point of a wildly talented side and has a chip on his shoulder after a tough year. This could be an awfully terrible combination for opposing teams in France.
7) Zlatan Ibrahimovic – FW – Sweden
Dare to Zlatan. The enigmatic Swedish captain is never an easy man to fully prepare for and should certainly never be doubted. He has produced outrageous goal scoring numbers on every team he has been a part of and brings a playing style that, at times, simply cannot be stopped.
His technical ability and confidence to try the unthinkable (hello, Joe Hart) puts him in the running for any tournament award. The key will be navigating his country from a difficult Group E.
8) Cristiano Ronaldo – FW – Portugal
Many in and around the game normally point to Lionel Messi and Cristiano Ronaldo as the best players in the world. If we decide to go by that logic, then we have here the best player in the tournament.
Real Madrid’s flashy winger brings together speed, technical ability and athleticism in a way that still leaves viewers astonished. Similar to his club teammate Gareth Bale and Wales, Portugal’s attack flows through Ronaldo and he will undoubtedly be provided plenty of goal scoring opportunities. Competing in his 4th Euro Championship, he will look to captain his nation back to their first final since 2004.
With his confidence sky high after capturing the Champions League title with Madrid last month, CR7 may have an incredible performance on tap for Euro 2016.
By Roy Emanuel, TFN Columnist on 02/06/2016 at 10:11
Follow Roy on Twitter @roy13a