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Top five goals of Euro 2016 so far

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Euro 2016 is considerably short on goals. After the same amount of games, 61 goals had been accumulated in 2012, whilst this year's tournament can only boast 48 goals after 24 matches.

Despite this, there is certainly no drought in quality goals, and here is a rundown of the top five that have been scored over the past nine days in France.

5. Marek Hamsik - SLOVAKIA v Russia

Marek Hamsik's spectacular curler against Russia earned Slovakia their first points of Euro 2016 on Wednesday and revitalised hopes of qualification.

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The Russian defence didn't entirely cover themselves in glory for this goal, however. The unmarked Napoli midfielder received the ball from a short corner and took aim on goal. At first, Guy Mowbray, the commentator for the game, didn't realise the ball had gone in as it smacked off the inside of the post, but proceedings soon revealed the ball to cross the line and ripple the side netting.

Similar to Dimitri Payet's soon to be discussed screamer, Hamsik's effort finds itself at the bottom of the top five due to Russia's shambles at the back. Should they have been alert to the situation, they would have marked the 28-year-old and prevented Slovakia from running away from the game. None the less, it was a fine finish from Hamsik, which left a helpless Igor Akinfeev furious at his defence.

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4. Luka Modric - Turkey v CROATIA

Another goal which could have easily been avoided now and it's Luka Modric's volley in at number four to defeat Turkey in the Croats' opener.

A half clearance was launched up high rather than long and distant as Modric needed no second invitation to strike the ball first time past Volkan Babacan.

Firstly, allowing the Real Madrid star to have so much time to think about taking the shot on was a preposterous decision from the Turkish defenders, but all eyes were on the goalkeeper, who should have debatably kept out the lashed attempt.

The technique used by the Real Madrid midfielder has to be commended as bringing a ball of such height out of the air with great control is one of football's most difficult skills, let alone volleying it sweetly into the bottom corner.

The goal proved to be decisive in a 1-0 win, which would set up a 2-2 draw against the Czech Republic later in the week, giving Croatia great hope of proceeding to the knockout stages.

3. Axel Witsel - Republic of Ireland v BELGIUM

Saturday's early kick-off dealt a hammer blow to Martin O'Neill's hopes of carrying Ireland into the Round of 16 as they were dismantled by Belgium.

Romelu Lukaku silenced the critics, but the goal of the game award goes to Axel Witsel, who scored his first goal for the Red Devils since September 2014.

Not only did the Zenit St Petersburg midfielder re-hydrate his international goal scoring drought, but he also broke a 36-year European Championships record - the longest build-up to a goal in a Euro tournament since 1980, finalising a 28 pass move with a clinical header, which critics may say Darren Randolph should have kept out. 28 passes - now that's good going.

Belgium's 3-0 win means they, like Slovakia, have regenerated hopes of qualifying after an opening game defeat. Marc Wilmots' side must face Sweden, a side who are yet to record a shot on target at Euro 2016, in the final group stage match. Defeat could eliminate them entirely.

2. Gareth Bale - WALES v England

Gareth Bale, on Thursday, laid claim to one of the most astounding statistics of Euro 2016, beating Belgium's 28-pass route to goal. The Welshman has now scored more free-kicks in five days than the entire amount of free-kicks scored by any player in the previous two European tournaments (Ukraine/Poland 2012 and Austria/Switzerland 2008). That free-kick goalscorer was a certain Andrea Pirlo.

And what better way to claim that record, not only to take the lead against rivals England but lash the ball home from well over 35 yards out.

The Real Madrid attacker is well-known for his free-kick attributes, but even for his standards, this goal stands out from all of his other free-kicks like a sore thumb.

Joe Hart was heavily criticised for the goal - Twitter trolls justified that if he got a strong enough hand to it, he should have pushed it past the post, but instead the ball trundled into the side netting.

Thankfully for Wales, Bale's other Euro 2016 free-kick helped them onto victory against Slovakia last weekend, but they'll have to beat Russia to be in with a good chance of progressing to the real competition. Can the former Tottenham Hotspur man conjure up another moment of sheer majesticness?

1. Dimitri Payet - FRANCE v Romania

Dimitri Payet's eye-catching debut season in the Premier League was enough to persuade Didier Deschamps for the West Ham United midfielder's services at Euro 2016, and the former Marseille gaffer will have no regrets about this selection.

France's tournament-opening game seemed set in stone for the points to be shared until Payet unleashed a sledgehammer into the top corner.

We've discussed the majority of goals in this list being preventable, but there was no stopping this howitzer from the moment it departed the left foot of Payet to when it thundered into the top corner. To say that was a weak foot effort, a round of applause is required for the Frenchman.

The 29-year-old scored in Les Bleus next match against Albania in injury time to seal an eventual comfortable win as his confidence continues to soar through the roof, much to the appreciation of Hammers fans anticipating the new season.

France will be focusing on the Switzerland match on Sunday night, as well as the likely prospect of the knockout stages, where Payet's goal scoring prowess will come in handy if they are hoping to win the tournament on their own patch.

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Topics:
Luka Modric
Wales
Gareth Bale
Belgium Football
Euro 2016
Football
Dimitri Payet

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