Football Features

Every Euro 2024 quarter-final team’s best player

By CJ Smith

Published: 9:00, 5 July 2024

Euro 2024 is showcasing some of the biggest stars around in football right now.

Sure, it’s a tournament that misses the likes of Argentina and Brazil, while Norwegian duo Erling Haaland and Martin Odegaard didn’t qualify. However, the likes of England, France, Spain and more boast an incredible level of talent, meaning we won’t miss any of the names absent.

But who are the best players from each nation at the quarter-final stage? Which players have each country been leaning on most heavily? And what of our pre-tournament picks for those teams already eliminated? Let’s take a look…

Germany: Toni Kroos

Germany aren’t exactly short of talent, with the likes of Manuel Neuer and Ilkay Gundogan still around to complement the emerging talents of Florian Wirtz and Jamal Musiala. However, the return of Toni Kroos has made all the difference for the hosts.

There has been a stark contrast in results for Germany before and after Kroos returned to international football at the start of the year. Of course there will have been other factors in play, but you cannot deny Kroos had some influence. Despite his imminent retirement, Kroos is still showing his quality, playing 350 minutes at Euro 2024 so far. He’s created 13 chances in that time, the second-most at the tournament. Kroos sits top at the tournament for passes attempted and completed, with a pass accuracy of 95.36%, as well as having the most final third passes attempted and completed.

Spain: Rodri

In a world full of goalscorers and flying wingers, Rodri is one of the few defensive midfielders who could make a genuine case for being a Ballon d’Or contender. The Manchester City man is the keystone around which his club system works and it’s the same for Spain.

Rodri had a slow first game but that was because he didn’t need it. Since then, however, Rodri has underlined his importance. He sits at the heart of Spain moving up the pitch with the most final third passes attempted and completed among Luis de la Fuente’s squad, while also attempting and completing more passes.

France: Kylian Mbappe

You don’t need us to tell you how important Kylian Mbappe is to France. Their chances hinge on his performances.

Although he has only scored once at the tournament so far, and that was a penalty, it’s easy to see how much France’s attack relies on Mbappe. The reason they have struggled in front of goal is because they haven’t got the ball to Mbappe efficiently enough. Mbappe is the only French player to score at Euro 2024 so far too, and he’ll be vital if they are to beat Portugal in the quarter-finals.

Portugal: Bruno Fernandes

Cristiano Ronaldo is playing in a record-breaking sixth European Championship, but he’s yet to score. Bruno Fernandes, meanwhile, continues to show why he is now Portugal’s key player. The Man Utd man has created six chances at Euro 2024 so far and attempted 87 final third passes, the most among the Portugal squad.

He also sits top among the Portugal squad for through balls attempted, long passes completed and crosses attempted and completed. Unsurprisingly, Portugal rely on Fernandes’ creativity and he’s also doing his bit defensively with seven tackles so far — the third-most in the Portugal squad.

England: Marc Guehi

Everyone, including us, expected this to be Harry Kane. He’s the nation’s all-time top scorer and is a previous major tournament Golden Boot winner. The Bayern Munich man has scored two goals so far including the extra-time winner against Slovakia. But the one England player to consistently perform has been Marc Guehi.

The Crystal Palace centre-back wasn’t expected to be a regular starter for England, thrown into the XI in the absence of Harry Maguire due to injury. But he’s proven to be a more than capable replacement. Guehi has made six clearances, two interceptions and won nine aerial duels, the latter the most in England’s squad. He’s also won a team-high 12 possessions in the middle third while attempting and completing the second-most passes. He’ll be a big miss in the quarter-finals.

Switzerland: Granit Xhaka

The rebirth of Granit Xhaka at Bayer Leverkusen has been incredible to witness, and he’s replicating his form for Switzerland at international level. Xhaka is both a midfield batter and Switzerland’s creative outlet, playing every minute of their run to the quarter-final so far.

A confidence player, Xhaka is at the peak of his powers playing in a midfield two alongside Remo Freuler. He leads Switzerland for chances created, passes attempted and completed, through balls attempted and final third passes attempted and completed. Xhaka has also had more touches than any other Switzerland player, with everything going through him.

Netherlands: Cody Gakpo

Netherlands’ defence hasn’t been the best at Euro 2024, so they’ve been relying on their attack to score more than they concede. And Cody Gakpo is the leading man right now. No player has scored more goals at Euro 2024 than Gakpo’s three, coming from seven shots on target, the most in Netherlands’ squad.

But it isn’t just scoring goals. Gakpo leads Netherlands for chances created, is second in tackles and possessions won in the attacking third. A moment to look at Gakpo’s finishing too, with a difference of +0.98 between his Expected Goals and Expected Goals on Target. By the positioning of his shots, Gakpo is improving his chances of scoring.

Turkey: Ferdi Kadioglu

Turkey massively disappointed at Euro 2024 but they’re more than making amends here, reaching the quarter-finals. And there’s been one player standing out more than the rest.

Ferdi Kadioglu has been the creative spark in Turkey’s team with 11 chances created, five more than wonderkid Arda Guler who is second. He’s also joint-second for take-ons completed at five, while leading for passes attempted and completed and final third passes attempted and completed, proving a threat from full-back. Of course, as a full-back he must defend too and no player in the quarter-finals has made more tackles at Euro 2024 than Kadioglu’s 14.

Eliminated teams

Albania: Elseid Hysaj

Hysaj was one of the few remaining Albanian players with experience on this stage, playing when they last qualified in 2016. The 30-year-old has been linked with big moves to the Premier League for years but has long been one of Serie A’s strongest right-backs.

He started Albania’s first two games and was an unused substitute in their final match as they bowed out at the group stage. But that’s not because of Hysaj, Albania were always up against it in a group alongside Italy, Croatia and Spain.

Austria: Christoph Baumgartner

Austria were many people’s pre-tournament dark horses and they finished top of their group ahead of France and Netherlands. However, they were then knocked out in the last 16 by Turkey, ending their run prematurely.

Christoph Baumgartner ended the tournament with one goal and one assist, having more shots on target than any other Austria player as well as finishing top for take-ons attempted and completed.

Belgium: Kevin De Bruyne

From Jeremy Doku to Romelu Lukaku, Belgium are blessed with talent, especially in attack. However, none of them top Kevin De Bruyne. He created 12 chances at Euro 2024, more than any other Belgium player, with two big chances created.

De Bruyne also led Belgium for shots with 11, though he hit the target with five of those, scoring once. But he could not inspire Belgium to beat France in the last 16, bowing out.

Croatia: Josko Gvardiol

Croatia have been famed for their midfield down the years with the likes of Luka Modric, Ivan Rakitic and Marcelo Brozovic lighting up major tournaments. The 2018 World Cup finalists are having to evolve a little nowadays, and Josko Gvardiol looked set to be an interesting prospect.

The 22-year-old had a key role in Man City’s Premier League title win, particularly when it came to scoring goals in the latter stages of the campaign. Playing left-back for Man City, Gvardiol switched between that role and centre-back for Croatia, playing all three of their group stage games. And that’s where their tournament ended, with just two points from three games.

Czech Republic: Tomas Soucek

Tomas Soucek has another strong season with West Ham, hitting 10 goals and three assists in all competitions, including seven goals in the Premier League. The 29-year-old has been the Czech Republic’s captain for over three years now and is just as influential in the final third as he is for the Hammers. In fact, in his six caps before the tournament, he scored three goals and provided two assists, with all three goals coming in Euro 2024 qualifying — no Czech player managed more.

Soucek scored in the group stage for Czech Republic but it came in their 2-1 defeat to Turkey in their final game as they bowed out.

Denmark: Rasmus Hojlund

Rasmus Hojland’s form since joining Manchester United can be best described as ‘patchy’. On the one hand, he failed to score in his first 14 Premier League matches for the Red Devils. Then, he became the youngest player in competition history to score in six consecutive games. But he’s then only been able to follow that burst up with three goals in 10 games.

For Denmark, he was prolific in qualifying, scoring seven goals in eight matches to help the team reach Euro 2024. But he, like many goalscorers at Euro 2024, struggled and ended the competition without a goal in his four matches as Denmark were knocked out by Germany in the last 16.

Georgia: Khvicha Kvaratskhelia

There will have been few players at Euro 2024 carrying more expectation for their country than Khvicha Kvaratskheila for Georgia. He’s by far and away the standout player for his national team and turned up for them in a big way in recent years. He went into Euro 2024 off the back of another strong season with Napoli, with included an 11-goal and six-assist return in Serie A.

Kvaratskheila was slightly outshone for Georgia by Georges Mikautadze’s three goals, but the Napoli man did get on the scoresheet as his side secured a famous 2-0 win over Portugal to reach the last 16.

Hungary: Dominik Szoboszlai

Hungary are a ‘sum of their parts’ kind of team but in Dominik Szoboszlai, they had a genuine, world-class talent who can pull out spectacular moments from nowhere. The Liverpool man made his presence felt during qualifying with four goals and three assists, and added another assist in Hungary’s opening Euro 2024 game against Switzerland.

Italy: Nicolo Barella

Even as holders, Italy entered the Euros with relatively low expectations. The bulk of their hopes rested on their ability to defend with the likes of Alessandro Bastoni and Gianluigi Donarumma but in Nicolo Barella, they had an elite midfielder who looked capable of making the difference in the final third.

Barella did get on the scoresheet for Italy in their opening game, helping them come from behind to beat Albania with a well-taken strike. That would be the second of just three goals Italy scored at Euro 2024, as they were knocked out in the last 16 by Switzerland.

Poland: Robert Lewandowski

Lewandowski is now 35 years old and yet is still among the most lethal strikers in Europe. It’s been hard to watch Lewandowski suffer heartbreak after heartbreak over the years at international tournaments, with his Polish teammates never really helping him reach his full potential on the international stage. And there was more heartbreak at Euro 2024 as Poland bowed out in the group stage, with Lewandowski scoring one goal, starting just one game having suffered with injury.

Romania: Radu Dragusin

Pre-tournament, Romania had a genuine chance of making the knockout stages after going unbeaten in qualifying. But no one expected them to go through as group winners, finishing ahead of Belgium, Slovakia and Ukraine. A win over the latter did the trick for them, with Radu Dragusin our pre-tournament pick to be Romania’s best player.

He started all four games for Romania, which isn’t a surprise as he has started each of their past 18 matches since the start of 2022. Before their last-16 exit to Netherlands, Dragusin made a team-high six interceptions, 32 clearances and 15 headed clearances.

Scotland: Scott McTominay

With seven goals, McTominay joined Man Utd teammate Hojlund in fourth place on Euro 2024 qualifying’s scoring charts. What’s more, the midfielder had come up with huge moments at club level last season, scoring 10 goals across all competitions — including seven in the Premier League — to register double figures in a single season for the first time in his career.

But in Scotland’s first game they played McTominay too deep, nullifying the threat he could have posed to Germany. He moved further forward for the next two games and scored against Switzerland, but Scotland were knocked out in the group stage.

Serbia: Dusan Vlahovic

While some of Serbia’s squad might have been playing in Saudi Arabia or reaching the end of their career, they still promised to bring quality to Euro 2024. Dusan Vlahovic was the Serbian reaching his prime and playing at one of Europe’s elite clubs, while also scoring 13 goals in 27 games for Serbia before the tournament.

But it was another goalless tournament for a main striker as Vlahovic drew a blank in Serbia’s three group games. Serbia scored just one goal in total, in the worst group at Euro 2024, finishing bottom.

Slovakia: Milan Skriniar

Slovakia’s qualification for the last 16 of Euro 2024 was built on their 1-0 win over Belgium, in which Milan Skriniar was a key part of the defence to keep the Red Devils out. Skriniar captained Slovakia in all four of their matches as they were eventually knocked out in heart-breaking fashion, losing to England after extra-time.

Slovenia: Jan Oblak

It’s rare that a goalkeeper carries so much responsibility for his side but Jan Oblak is just that good. In fact, aside from being Slovenia’s best player, he’s one of the few goalkeepers around that can be considered among the very best players in world football right now.

Oblak conceded two goals and kept two clean sheets at Euro 2024 but he couldn’t be the hero in the penalty-shootout defeat to Portugal, letting in the three spot-kicks he faced.

Ukraine: Oleksandr Zinchenko

Due to Vitaly Mykolenko’s injury, Oleksandr Zinchenko had to revert to left-back for all three of Ukraine’s games at Euro 2024. He had a mixed campaign for Arsenal due to injuries and occasionally losing his place, and that did continue at Euro 2024 with Ukraine knocked out in the group stage. They were unlucky in their exit, finishing bottom of their group on goal difference despite picking up four points.