The five key objectives of Real Madrid players at Euro 2016
Cristiano and Pepe with Portugal, Gareth Bale with Wales, Ramos and Lucas Vázquez with Spain, Modric and Kovacic with Croatia, and Toni Kroos with Germany. Here's how they'll all want to make their impact on Euro 2016.
Portugal – Cristiano Ronaldo’s eyes set on Platini record
For Cristiano Ronaldo and Pepe’s Portugal, Euro 2016 should help heal the painful would left by their early elimination from the World Cup 2014 in Brazil. It could also be the tournament in which Ronaldo finally shows he can replicate his magisterial Real Madrid form on the biggest of international stages. He’s never scored more than three goals in a major finals, his highest total coming at Euro 2012 where just three were enough to see him share the golden boot with five other players. Well within Cristiano’s sights is Michel Platini’s all-time top scorer record – his total of six European Championship goals just three shy of the French legend’s nine. He may find it beyond him to beat Platini’s other Euro feat, however. The ex-UEFA President scored all nine of his goals in just one tournament (1984), making him the maximum goalscorer in any single competition.
Bale – History in his hands
Wales are participating for the first time in a Euro finals, and it is also their first appearance in any major tournament since World Cup 1958. It could be Bale’s one and only chance to shine on the international stage and a massive opportunity for his country to progress. The draw has left the dragons a potentially kind passage to the quarters: if they finish second in the group, they will face the runner-up of Portugal’s pool, which will likely be one from Iceland, Austria or Hungary. Presuming they win that, host nation France would be favourites to meet them in the final eight…
Spain – Trying for a triple with Ramos and Vázquez
Spain are defending their double continental crown with only two Real Madrid players in their 23 man squad, but their participation could be fundamental to the team’s success. Ramos will be first-choice at rearguard, and if Casíllas is left out of the starting 11 as expected, he’ll be Spain’s most experienced man on the field (with 132 caps). With regards to Lucas Vazquez on the other hand, only 13 starts with Real Madrid this season has been enough to win the confidence of Vicente del Bosque, despite never having been involved with the Spain setup. Whether he starts for Spain or not – he’s found the net every 160 minutes with Los Blancos – Vazquez has the potential to make a big impression at Euro 2016.
Croatia – Consecration of Modric, Vindication of Kovacic
Ramos and Vázquez will go head to head with two teammates in Luka Modric and Kovacic, who have before them certain personal and collective targets. Individually speaking, Modric could cement himself as one of Croatia’s best ever players. Kovacic, with just 23 years and 27 caps to his name, is facing his second major tournament with his national side and will be determined to show his great talent – something he hasn’t often been able to at Madrid due his lack of game time. Collectively, Croatia’s aim would be to at least match their best ever showing at an international cup competition in reaching the semifinals. The last time they did that was with Davor Suker & Co. at the World Cup 1998, also in France.
Germany – Kroos and a new era of dominance?
Toni Kroos’ Germany arrive in France as reigning World champions and favourites to dethrone Spain as Euros title holder and world football’s most dominant force. The centre-midfielder – along with ex-Madristas Khedira and Ozil – often finds a goalscoring touch that has eluded him at the Bernabéu. Kroos has found the net three times in three of Germany’s latest friendlies against the biggest international teams, scoring against Spain, England and Italy.