EURO 2016: They will be missed

Sportstar picks its best XI players who will not be at EURO 2016. This includes players who are injured, or have not been selected, or those whose nations have failed to qualify.

Forward Karim Benzema, who was suspended from the national team following a blackmail case against him, was left out of the France squad to protect the harmony in the side, according to the French football federation.   -  Getty Images

Jack Butland...out with a broken ankle.   -  Getty Images

Formation: 4-2-3-1

Goalkeeper: Jack Butland

After a string of impressive performances for Stoke City, Jack Butland had forced England boss Roy Hodgson to consider taking a serious look at who his number one ought to be. He kept a clean sheet against Lithuania in the qualifiers in October, but starting a friendly against Germany in March, Butland broke his ankle. “He has had such a good season at Stoke, forced himself into a situation where many people said it was going to be a really good fight between him and Joe (Hart) for the first-team shirt,” Hodgson said in the aftermath of that injury. “Suddenly you get your chance against Germany and to fracture your ankle in that way is a devastating blow.”

The 23-year-old, though, has a great future ahead.

Defenders:

Daniel Carvajal

Carvajal may have been behind Juanfran in the pecking order for Spain’s right-back spot during the qualifiers, but he was very much a part of Vicente del Bosque’s plans for EURO 2016. However, the 24-year-old suffered an unfortunate hip injury during the Champions League final, and left the pitch in tears. Arsenal’s Hector Bellerin, who was on standby, was later called up as a replacement.

“After the last call-up when I was left out, I worked a lot to be on the preliminary list, and now look. I've got a lot of suppressed anger,” he told a Spanish media outlet. “You fight for two years to try to be in the group and I’ve been let down by bad luck.”

Mamadou Sakho

Sakho failed a drugs test after Liverpool’s Europa League clash with Manchester United and was hit with a provisional 30-day ban by UEFA.

The French defender missed the last seven games of Liverpool’s season after the matter came to light. After the 30-day ban expired, however, UEFA chose not to extend his suspension till an investigation was complete, leaving the defender free to play in EURO 2016. Didier Deschamps, though, chose not to include the centre-back in his final 23-man squad, despite injuries to Jeremy Mathieu and Raphael Varane.

Samuel Umtiti and Adil Rami were called up instead.

Vincent Kompany

Belgium and Manchester City’s inspirational captain will miss EURO 2016 after sustaining a thigh injury against Real Madrid in the semifinals of the Champions League. It ended what was an injury-plagued season for the 30-year-old. “I’ll miss the EURO. To me that’s very sad news,” he wrote in a Facebook post from his hospital bed. “I remain calm and positive. I will continue to follow my path and I will do so with more conviction than ever. I trust my friends and team-mates to do well and do us proud at the next European Championships in France. I am now officially their most fervent supporter and I will be there to support them. I could be standing here, feeling sorry for myself. I could fear for my career, as others may do. I could give up. That is not me. I decide on my future.”

Luke Shaw

After a superb start to the season, Luke Shaw suffered a terrible double leg break against PSV Eindhoven in the Champions League in September. It ruled him out for the rest of the season at a time when he was by a distance the best left-back in England. The 20-year-old returned to training at Manchester United ahead of the FA Cup final, but the club felt it was still too early to rush him back. Shaw was, predictably, left out of the England squad, with Danny Rose now having firmly established himself as the first-choice left-back.

“Always had a bit of hope that I would get back fit before the end of the season! Wasn’t meant to be! Good luck to the boys in the Euros,” Shaw tweeted after the initial 26-man squad was announced.

Midfielders:

Andrea Pirlo

 

Pirlo’s move to New York City FC in the MLS has led Antonio Conte to leave the veteran out of Italy’s squad for EURO 2016. Conte, formerly Pirlo’s manager at Juventus, had previously suggested that the 37-year-old and Sebastian Giovinco, who plays for Toronto FC in the MLS, would have to return to Italy to continue to play for the national team. “I have spoken to Conte and there is no disappointment on my part,” Pirlo told Italian media after he was left out of the squad. “He knows what he has to do and what he should not do. We had discussions during the season and both parties made their own decisions. He is the coach and it’s only right he makes his decisions and decides what is best for him.”

Marco Veratti

A groin injury has ruled Italy’s Marco Veratti out of the EURO. The star PSG midfielder was first injured in February but he returned two months later to make two substitute appearances, raising hopes of a comeback. But Veratti decided to undergo surgery this month, which ended his chances of going to France. “I suffered a great deal when learning I’d have to miss the tournament due to injury, but football is like that,” he was quoted as saying.

Veratti’s absence, the injury to Claudio Marchisio, and the exclusion of Pirlo all mean that Italy’s midfield now wears a rather lightweight look.

Isco

Isco came off the bench in the Champions League final to great effect but it was, sadly, not enough to earn him a place in Spain’s squad for EURO 2016. The 24-year-old (alongside Colombia’s James Rodriguez, who has hardly figured) has not been among Zinedine Zidane’s favourite players at Real Madrid, making only substitute appearances in important games. Vicente del Bosque clearly was not impressed this season, and chose the uncapped Lucas Vazquez ahead of Isco. His slip down the pecking order has clearly fuelled rumours of an exit but Zidane has been quick to deny any such talk. “Isco is a Real Madrid player and he is not leaving,” he said after the Champions League final.

Saul Niguez

Part of the problem with Spain’s midfield riches is that a number of genuinely good players will have to sit at home. Saul Niguez is one of them. The 21-year-old was not expected to make Vicente del Bosque’s squad until a couple of months ago, but all that changed with his wonder goal against Bayern Munich in the semifinals of the Champions League. Saul was called up once by del Bosque last year, but did not get a chance to win his first cap. The Atletico Madrid starlet can play all across midfield — on both wings and in the centre, much like his team-mate Koke — but this tournament may have come a little too early for him. Another good season, and he will firmly be in the national coach’s plans.



  Arjen Robben

Robben has endured an injury-plagued season with Bayern Munich, managing to score only seven goals in all competitions and making only 22 appearances. In contrast, he scored 19 goals in a brilliant 2014-15 season. None of it matters, though, for the Netherlands failed to qualify for EURO 2016, finishing fourth in Group A behind the Czech Republic, Iceland and Turkey. Robben managed only four appearances during that torrid campaign, with the Dutch side struggling to find attacking talent. Robben, who in March suffered an adductor injury, has promised to come back stronger. “It has been a very difficult time for me mentally,” he told the Dutch media. “You always want to help the team as a player. It’s the worst thing possible when you are forced to watch on from the sidelines. Next season is very important for me. I promise that I will return stronger than ever before.”

Karim Benzema

The French Football Federation announced in April that Karim Benzema would be left out of the French squad for EURO 2016 to protect the harmony in the squad. This followed the Real Madrid striker’s suspension from the National team, dating back to December, after he was placed under criminal investigation in France for his part in a blackmail case. The case pertained to an attempt to extort money from France team-mate Mathieu Valbuena.

In April, the FFF President, Noel Le Graet, said the decision had been made after discussions with the coach, Didier Deschamps. “We felt a great harmony (in the current squad),” Le Graet told the French media. “On the pitch the players behaved so well that we felt that we shouldn’t take the risk of compromising this momentum.”

Recently, Benzema accused Deschamps of bowing to “the pressure of a racist part of France” in omitting him from the side. The 28-year-old’s presence will be missed on the pitch.

A full 23-man squad:

First XI: Jack Butland; Dani Carvajal, Mamadou Sakho, Vincent Kompany, Luke Shaw; Andrea Pirlo, Marco Veratti, Isco, Saul Niguez, Arjen Robben; Karim Benzema.

Substitutes: Asmir Begovic, Branislav Ivanovic, Christian Eriksen, Marco Reus, Juan Mata, Hatem Ben Arfa, Fernando Torres.

Reserves: Tim Krul, Dejan Lovren, Mario Balotelli, Diego Costa.

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