Antoine Griezmann didn’t win Euro 2016. His France team fell in the final to Portugal. But he did take home one coveted prize: Player of the Tournament.
There’s no way that Griezmann will be happy taking the individual award over the team one, but it is a deserving honor for a player who was nothing short of sensational at the tournament. Griezmann won the Golden Boot with six goals, double the next highest goalscorer. He also set a European Championships record with five goals in the knockout stages as he made a habit of winning matches for his country.
First, Griezmann netted a 90th minute game-winner against Albania in the group stage. Then, with France down 1-0 to Ireland in the round of 16, Griezmann notched a second-half brace to put his team into the quarterfinals. There, he scored in Les Bleus’ romp of Iceland before once again playing the role of hero with two more goals as France took down reigning world champions Germany in the semifinals.
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Griezmann’s rise began once manager Didier Deschamps let him play as a forward, which is where he lines up for Atletico Madrid. After tinkering throughout the group stage and failing to figure out what he wanted to do, Deschamps finally put Griezmann underneath Olivier Giroud when the knockout stages started the goals followed. With Giroud knocking down passes, attracting defenders and generally throwing his body at opponents, Griezmann was free to find space and make any run he pleased. With his terrific blend of speed and skill — not to mention a unique ability to finish with both feet or his head — Griezmann took off.
Usually, the top honors in tournaments go to players from the champions, but Griezmann was a worthy pick despite his team being runners-up. Cristiano Ronaldo could have been the choice from Portugal, but his chances probably disappeared when he was injured in the 25th minute of the final. Pepe probably would have had a good shout too if he didn’t miss the semifinal with a thigh injury — but even then, it’s tough for defenders to win awards.
So Griezmann is the winner. And considered he scored double the goals anyone else did, and scored them in key moments time and time again, he’s a deserved winner.