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14th Oct 2015

The best XI definitely not going to Euro 2016

Wasted talent

Tom Victor

With 24 teams qualifying for Euro 2016, one would expect all the continent’s top players to make it along.

But there have been plenty of shocks in this qualification campaign, not least the failure of the Netherlands to even reach the play-off stage.

We’ve picked out the best starting XI made up of players who we already know won’t be in France – not including those who could still miss out at the play-off stage.

But just to make it that bit more interesting, we’ve limited ourselves to a maximum of three players per country.

Goalkeeper – Tim Krul

The Newcastle number one might not recover from his cruciate ligament injury in time anyway, but he’s among a trio of Dutchmen to make this line-up after one of international football’s most unlikely falls from grace.

Krul was no more to blame for the lowly finish than any of his team-mates – a bit like his time in the North-East last season, then.

Right-Back – Daryl Janmaat

Another of Newcastle’s Dutch contingent, Janmaat was one of the few bright sparks as the Magpies narrowly escaped relegation from the Premier League last season.

He was sidelined for the 3-2 defeat against the Czech Republic which sealed his country’s elimination.

Centre-Back – Branislav Ivanovic

If this team was packed with players from towards the bottom of the Premier League table then it would be easy to understand their failure to qualify. But it’s different when league champions like Ivanovic will also miss out.

Despite his struggles at right-back this season, the Serb has been more impressive for his country when playing in the middle.


Centre-Back – Sokratis Papasthatopoulos

Greece’s struggles are arguably more inexplicable than those of the Netherlands. While Danny Blind’s men had a tough group, Greece came bottom behind Finland and the Faroe Islands.

Dortmund centre-back Sokratis is one of a number of talented players who reached the World Cup knockout stages – we’re still not sure how it all went so wrong.

Left-Back – Aleksandar Kolarov

It’s fair to say Serbia were less than the sum of their parts in this qualifying campaign, winning just two of their eight qualifiers and finishing eight points adrift of third-placed Denmark.

Kolarov didn’t cover himself in glory, failing to replicate his form for Manchester City and getting himself booked twice in a minute in the final group game against Portugal.

Defensive Midfield – Nemanja Matic

The third Serbian international to feature is also the second Premier League champion.

Matic was key to Chelsea’s title win last season, but like Kolarov he ended a miserable round of qualifiers with an early bath in the Portugal defeat.


Defensive Midfield – Nir Bitton

Celtic midfielder Bitton has developed a knack for the spectacular, scoring a number of screamers for club and country.

Unfortunately his goalscoring exploits were not enough to drag Israel to the play-offs, with a thunderbolt against Cyprus proving too little, too late.

Attacking Midfield – Henrikh Mkhitaryan

One feels Armenia’s best chance of qualifying for a major tournament came four years ago, when defeat in their final group game against Ireland confined them to third place in their group (back when a maximum of two teams could qualify).

Many of that generation have since retired, leaving Dortmund star Mkhitaryan ploughing a lone furrow. In a competitive group, he failed to lead his country to a single win.

Right Wing – Steven Naismith

Some might question Naismith’s inclusion here, but any player capable of scoring a perfect hat-trick against Jose Mourinho’s Chelsea is well worth his place.

The Everton man struck three times in Group D, and a friendlier draw may well have seen Scotland at least reach the play-off stage.


Left Wing – Memphis Depay

The final member of the Dutch contingent to feature, Memphis is arguably the most high-profile European player to miss the tournament.

Manchester United’s big-money summer signing has scored just once for his country since breaking through at the World Cup, netting in a 4-3 defeat to the USA, and failed to find the net in the Euro 2016 qualifying campaign.

Striker – Stevan Jovetic

After narrowly missing out on Euro 2012 after a play-off defeat to the Czech Republic, Jovetic and Montenegro took a step back.

Injuries suffered by the on-loan Inter Milan striker and fellow frontman Mirko Vucinic won’t have helped, but the Eastern Europeans finished a distant fourth in a tough group containing Austria, Russia and Sweden.