Goals have been somewhat of a collector’s item at Euro 2016 – a combination of an increased field of 24 teams and a hesitance to play attacking football when Portugal showed that simply drawing all of your group-stage games was enough to advance to the knockout stage – and the result has been the fewest goals per game average since the 1996 tournament. Still, we’ve managed to see a few crackers along the way, and here are our top 10:
10. Dimitri Payet – France v Romania
The tournament began all the way back on June 10, and the West Ham midfielder made sure the opening game was one to remember. It looked as though France were heading for a 1-1 draw with lowly Romania in their first match, before Payet’s long-range screamer – with his ‘weaker’ left foot, no less – sailed past a helpless Ciprian Tatarusanu in goal and gave Les Bleus a late victory.
Talisman: Gareth Bale is the only player to appear twice in the list.
9. Gareth Bale – Wales v England
Wales enjoyed a fairytale run in the tournament that ended in the semi-finals against Portugal, and the Real Madrid man’s free kick against Wales’ arch-rivals would no doubt have felt good. Yes, Joe Hart was at fault in some respect and yes, they went on to lose the match – but it was a special strike from a special player.
8. Arnór Ingvi Traustason – Iceland v Austria
This was by no means a goal of the highest technical quality, but it was a moment that most football fans, and certainly those from Iceland, will never forget. It was their first ever win at a major tournament, and of course opened the world’s eyes to the now-infamous commentator, Gummi Ben, whose call of the goal was probably more special than the finish itself.
7. Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal v Hungary
The most divisive figure in world football, but nobody can deny his talent. Ronaldo had had a slow start to the tournament as Portugal struggled to draws against Iceland and Austria, but when they needed him to step up, he delivered. Trailing 2-1 in a game where they needed to get at least a point, Cristiano pulled out a sublime backheeled flick to beat Gabor Kiraly. He’d later add a second goal as his side drew 3-3 and escaped the group stage.
6. Zoltan Gera – Hungary v Portugal
As good as Ronaldo’s goal was, it wasn’t even the best in that game. That honour goes to veteran midfielder Gera, who, from a standing start, chested down a partially cleared corner and then swept it into the bottom corner with his left foot. A perfectly struck volley, hit with venom and leaving Rui Patricio with no chance at all.
5. Hal Robson-Kanu – Wales v Belgium
It was the goal that probably made Marouane Fellaini want to retire on the spot. Robson-Kanu, who was amazingly without a club at the time, produced a glorious Cruyff turn in the box which fooled three defenders, before slotting calmly past Thibaut Courtois. It gave Wales the lead and they went on to beat Belgium 3-1, in what was probably the most famous win in the team’s history.
4. Gareth Bale – Wales v Slovakia
The only man to appear twice on this list. Bale’s free kick against England was good, but there were other factors involved – here, it was sheer class. Power, curve and placement as Wales got their campaign off to the best possible start.
3. Luka Modric – Croatia v Turkey
The third Real Madrid player to appear on the list – and while Modric is not as well known for his goalscoring talents as Ronaldo and Bale, his sweetly struck volley against Turkey would have made both of them nod in approval. The Croatian talisman met the ball perfectly and saw it bounce just in front of Volkan Babacan before nestling in the bottom-left corner of the net.
2. Radja Nainggolan – Belgium v Wales
Belgium may have lost this game, but this screamer from their enigmatic midfielder was an absolutely peach – struck perfectly, it continued to rise and was still on an upward trajectory as it flew past Wayne Hennessy in goal. Wales would come back to win, but this was a truly memorable strike in what was a pulsating game of football.
1. Xherdan Shaqiri – Switzerland v Poland
Could any other goal really make a claim to be the best of the tournament? The Swiss may have ended up losing to Poland on penalties, but this equaliser from the Stoke City winger was a goal their fans will never forget. He judged a partially cleared ball on the edge of the box to perfection and produced a finish that most players would struggle to replicate if given 100 chances. That wonder goal was the first goal Poland conceded in the whole tournament, and a worthy recipient of the No.1 spot.