Four finalists named in Euro 2024 team of the tournament

Matt Stead
England midfielder Jude Bellingham celebrates his goal
Jude Bellingham has drawn criticism at Euro 2024.

Jude Bellingham has been named in the Euro 2024 team of the tournament so far, along with the incredible Lamine Yamal and the “failure” Kylian Mbappe.

The Euro 2024 team of the tournament will be updated if necessary after every game in Germany, up to the final on July 14 to give a definitive best XI.


Goalkeeper: Giorgi Mamardashvili (Georgia)
As the busiest of all goalkeepers, facing at least 17 more shots on target than anyone else despite exiting at the last-16 stage, Mamardashvili has undoubtedly had more opportunity to impress than others. But the £35m-rated Newcastle target undoubtedly took it.

After a spirited performance in defeat to Turkey, the Valencia shot-stopper was in inspired form to safeguard a point against Czechia – Georgia’s first at a major tournament. That turned out to be invaluable, combining with a heroic victory over Portugal to secure a place in the knockouts.

The subsequent Spain onslaught was never likely to be kept at bay and Mamardashvili cannot really be blamed for any of the four goals he conceded in defeat.


Right-back: Joshua Kimmich (Germany)
Kimmich himself might disagree, having called quarter-final opponents Spain “the most impressive side so far” before their pulsating meeting and thus presumably enjoying the performances of Dani Carvajal. But back on the right for Germany at a major tournament, the Bayern Munich stalwart was in fine form.

Having been with Germany all the way through this difficult transitional period from Euro 2016 onwards, it could also be said Kimmich has never been involved in as solid an international team. The Manchester City, Arsenal and Liverpool target being low down on a list of Julian Nagelsmann’s most important players proves that point. That late assist for Florian Wirtz against Spain was wonderful.


Centre-back: Jaka Bijol (Slovenia)
The king of clearances has finally left us. Bijol made 38 at Euro 2024 for a Slovenia side which conceded just two goals and remained unbeaten all tournament outside of the heartbreaking Portugal penalty shootout. His agent should expect a call from Sean Dyche in the coming days.

The list of strikers Bijol helped Slovenia keep quiet is impressive: Rasmus Hojlund, Aleksandar Mitrovic, Dusan Vlahovic, Harry Kane and Cristiano Ronaldo might not be at the peak of their respective powers but a 25-year-old fresh from a Serie A relegation battle with Udinese should not have been able to handle them with such ease.

There was one slip in the England game which resulted in a yellow card when Kane wriggled free, but Bijol was otherwise impeccable at the heart of a remarkably stingy defence. He probably even helped reduce Ronaldo to frustrated tears.


Centre-back: Pepe (Portugal)
As is reiterated after each of his appearances, Pepe is 41 but still thriving as the lynchpin of an emerging Portugal side. There remain legitimate questions over the incongruousness of Ronaldo as the spearhead of this brilliant young team but few such complaints have been aired about the Porto centre-half. Almost as if age is not the overriding factor, but suitability and quality.

Pepe was one of the many changes Roberto Martinez made for the Georgia defeat amid the sort of performance which only enhanced the reputations of those not picked. He returned against Slovenia and was imperious again, aside from one shaky moment which Benjamin Sesko ought to have punished in extra-time. The centre-half has earned the right to be saved by his teammates once or twice. And Diogo Costa was in a rescuing mood.

His performance against France was frankly astonishing. Forty-one!


Left-back: Marc Cucurella (Spain)
“I think this is my best form since coming to Chelsea,” Cucurella said heading into a tournament which has seen that steadily upward trajectory continue all the way into a final.

The only Spain outfielder with more minutes than their left-back at Euro 2024 is Rodri and that is precisely the sort of company one might wish to keep when evaluating how good a player has been. Cucurella was especially brilliant against Italy but also crucial in knockout wins over Germany and France. Maybe Todd Boehly is simply a genius who played the long game.


Central midfield: Toni Kroos (Germany)
The fairy tale club ending did not quite receive an international sequel but neither Kroos nor Germany should feel at all ashamed about falling to Spain after extra-time. “We can all be proud because we improved,” he said after his retirement was confirmed, having been at the forefront of the national team’s return to prominence.

His midfield battles with Granit Xhaka and Rodri – both incredibly unfortunate to miss out here – were the only time Kroos has looked anything other than imposing. Neither Scotland nor Hungary really had any sort of answer to his deep-lying conducting and Denmark eventually could not keep up. The 34-year-old has completed the most passes of any player in his final weeks as a professional – 116 more than the player in second.


Central midfield: Fabian Ruiz (Spain)
“If his name wasn’t Fabian, you would be talking about him non-stop. He has everything and has known how to do everything well at all times,” said Spain manager Luis de la Fuente after the 3-0 thrashing of Croatia, in which Ruiz displayed some sublime footwork to score a fine goal.

It was the sort of calm control he exuded against Italy in something close to the perfect midfield performance as Spain laid down their tournament credentials early on, before resting against Albania, scoring on his return against Georgia and impressing against Germany and France.

Perhaps the PSG man is more appreciated elsewhere. Ian Wright even referenced how England needed to end their Trent Alexander-Arnold “experiment” and bring Adam Wharton into midfield “simply because he’s the closest I’ve seen to Fabian Ruiz”.


Right-wing: Lamine Yamal (Spain)
Jamal Musiala started the tournament as the best right-sided forward and possibly even best player from as early as the opening game. But in helping eliminate him and Germany, the incredible Yamal finally usurped one of his rivals for the next decade, at least at these Euros.

There is a danger of this all being normalised. Yamal is the youngest player in European Championship history, the youngest to provide an assist at the Euros and the youngest to feature in a Euros knockout game, while no Spanish player has ever assisted more goals in a single Euros. He doesn’t turn 17 until the day before a final he will be helping to decide at this rate.

Yamal also scored the quite incredible goal which shifted the momentum in the semi-final against France. He should not be this good.

📣 TO THE COMMENTS! Who deserves a place in the Euro 2024 team of the tournament so far? Join the debate here.


Attacking midfield: Jude Bellingham (England)
For so long it was Kevin De Bruyne who occupied this spot but his elimination and probable Belgium retirement has opened things up.

Many will disagree with Bellingham subsequently taking it but the statistic gods reflect kindly upon a “moments” player currently making them count. Without anything close to a standout performance in 90 or indeed 120 minutes, the England talisman dragged them to victory against Serbia in the groups and then single-handedly rescued them from last-16 disaster against Slovakia, converting his shoot-out penalty against Switzerland after an improved performance in the quarters.

There were better performers against the Netherlands but Bellingham remains critical to England’s hopes in the final.


Left-wing: Cody Gakpo (Netherlands)
Having used the 2022 World Cup as a platform upon which to multiply his value and earn a move to Liverpool, Gakpo continued his major international tournament form with a deflected goal and tenacious showing from the left side of attack against Poland.

He even took the step up against France in stride, seeing far less of the ball but playing an important role in a solid team performance, before scoring in the defeat to Austria and win over Romania, while helping force Mert Muldur’s crucial quarter-final own goal against Turkey.

Cesc Fabregas likes Gakpo as “a functional player” with “great ability” who “needs to be told constantly what to do,” which is no bad thing. He is basically a coach’s dream, just about holding off the challenge of Nico Williams.


Centre-forward: Kylian Mbappe (France)
The stats boffins have spoken and it is on us to just deal with it, even if the actual real literal Mbappe himself described his tournament as a “failure” after failing to score a non-penalty from 24 shots.