Euro 2024 Team of Matchday Two - including Liverpool, Chelsea & Man City stars

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Our starting XI of the best players from the second round of games at Euro 2024, starring Kevin de Bruyne and Virgil van Dijk.

The second round of group stage games has been and gone at Euro 2024 and we’ve begun to establish who the favourites and the also-rans are, which teams were lucky or unlucky first time around, and which teams are just a little bit dull. England and Scotland so far, let’s be honest.

But we’re also starting to see who the star performers are – the players cementing their status as top-level players, the lesser-known up-and-comers building their reputations for the first time and, most likely, one or two players who will flash hard at one tournament, persuade someone to spend far too much money on them and then disappear off the face of the earth. There is always at least one.

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To celebrate the players who have impressed the most over the second round of matches, then, here is our suitably starry line-up of the most impressive performers of matchday two, set up in a slightly shaky 4-3-3 formation and packed with established stars from Liverpool and Manchester City alongside a couple of players who may prove to be little more than the second coming of Hasan Şaş.

Goalkeeper: Giorgi Mamardashvili (Georgia)

The imposing stopper was only intended to be Valencia’s fourth-choice goalkeeper when he moved to Spain two years ago – now he’s cementing his status as one of the best in Europe. He made a frankly ridiculous 11 saves against Czechia to earn his side a highly entertaining draw, and was typically imperious when dealing with crosses and high balls. Has now probably added a few extra digits to the asking price, with teams like Newcastle United and Chelsea allegedly looking at a summer swoop.

Left-Back: Marc Cucurella (Spain)

Eyebrows were raised higher than the Chelsea full-back’s bouncing perm when he got the nod to start of Álex Grimaldo, but Cucurella has justified his selection with some impressive performances and he completely controlled the left flank during the 1-0 win over Italy, defending tigerishly and getting forward effectively as well. That was a little better than anything we’ve seen at Stamford Bridge lately.

Centre-Back: Virgil van Dijk (Netherlands)

It’s not so long ago that we wondered whether the Liverpool man was losing his edge after he capped some iffy early-season form with a red card against Newcastle – but he’s shut us up pretty comprehensively since the turn of the year and was as colossal as always against France, keeping Marcus Thuram on a tight leash and ensuring that his supporting forwards weren’t able to generate any truly clear-cut chances. One suspects that without Van Dijk, the Dutch wouldn’t have gotten out of there with a point, regardless of their dubiously disallowed goal.

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Centre-Back: Dayot Upamecano (France)

Part of the reason for that judgement is that France were pretty damned tight in defence themselves, and their back four left the likes of Memphis Depay and Cody Gakpo feeding on scraps throughout. We’ve nominated Bayern Munich’s Upamecano for the centre-half slot this time around – he was perhaps the most visible presence in the back four, putting out plenty of potential fires before they got past the smouldering stage and pouncing on loose balls all evening.

Right-Back: Joshua Kimmich (Germany)

Germany were generally impressive in their 2-0 win over Hungary and Kimmich was typically efficient and reliable both with possession and off the ball – it’s notable that for all of the praise Hungary’s ability on the counter-attack drew, they had little joy down their theoretically stronger left with Kimmich bossing matters at right-back in typically undemonstrative fashion. He’s going to draw a fair amount of interest from Premier League clubs this summer.

Midfield: N’Golo Kanté (France)

The former Leicester City and Chelsea man has comprehensively proven that he still has it with back-to-back man of the match performances, this time dealing with everything the Dutch midfield could throw at him with his usual energy and elan. This was a classic Kanté performance, and even as the years advance he shows no signs of skipping a single beat.

Midfield: Mykola Shaparenko (Ukraine)

The Dynamo Kyiv midfield got Ukraine’s campaign going with a goal and an assist against Slovakia in a must-win match, scoring the equaliser with a precise left-footed finish and then teeing up an eventual 2-1 win with a stunning lofted through ball to Roman Yaremchuk. An easy include in our team of the matchday.

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Midfield: Ilkay Gündoğan (Germany)

Another addition to the goal and assist club, the former Manchester City man was at his very best against Hungary – and his goal wasn’t all that dissimilar from Shaparenko’s, a tidy left-foot finish after losing his marker inside the area. Admittedly his assist was just a little lay-off to Jamal Musiala rather than a 20-yard chip, but he still showed all of his defence-splitting dynamism and creativity throughout the contest.

Left Wing: Kevin de Bruyne (Belgium)

Alright, it’s a little bit of a hand-wave to put De Bruyne on the left, but let’s just say he’s playing as an inverted winger with the full-backs bombing up on the overlap. In any case, when Belgium needed him to come good and tow the last gasp of their golden generation towards a sorely-needed win over Romania, he wasn’t found wanting, scoring the second goal and testing the opposing defence all evening with typically incisive passing.

Right Wing: Bernardo Silva (Portugal)

There are a lot of Manchester City connections in this squad – which is probably linked to the fact that they seem to win everything – and Silva rounds off the list of Pep Guardiola protegees after impressing in a cosy 3-0 win over Turkey, opening the scoring with a thunderous strike, harrying the Turkish defence constantly over the course of the game and probably sitting back and having a good giggle along with the rest of us when they scored that comical own goal.

Striker: Patrick Schick (Czechia)

Schick has is the reigning Golden Boot holder at the Euros and it was he who broke Mamardashvili’s remarkable resistance on the hour mark against Georgia to earn an important draw. Granted, the goal basically consisted of letting the ball hit him and bounce in and was a pretty far cry from his halfway-line goal against Scotland three years ago, but he earned that goal with a lively and testing performance which included six shots on goal. Frustratingly for the Czechs, he was forced off with a calf injury and is expected to miss the decisive game against Turkey.

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