European U21 Championships: Team of the Tournament

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Spain reiterated their dominance of Europe with a well-deserved title win in the European Under-21 Championships in Israel on Tuesday.

However, the tournament was not all about Spain, as Italy, Norway, Netherlands and even Israel, all showed that their futures were bright.

After a thoroughly exciting tournament, here's taking a look at the best XI for the Championships.

Goalkeeper: Orjan Haskjold Nyland | Norway

Even though the more obvious choice would have been that of Spain's David de Gea, the fact remains that the Manchester United stopper did not have much to do in Spain's journey to the title.

However, a much different case was that of Norway's Nyland, who often had to stop wave after wave of opposition attacks. Nyland played an important role in Norway's run to the semifinals where they bowed out to eventual champions Spain. The keeper was especially impressive in the group match against Italy where he almost singlehandedly kept an impressive Azzurri attack at bay till the last minute of the match.

Right-back: Martin Montoya | Spain

Most people expected Montoya to be understudy to Bayer Leverkusen's hugely impressive Daniel Carvajal at right-back before the tournament started. However, coach Julien Lopetegui stuck with his tried and tested formation playing Montoya through the right flank, and was handsomely rewarded.

The player was impeccable in defence and was also a decent threat in attack, even winning a penalty in the final. After an average season at Barcelona, Montoya has put forward his case for more playing time after a stellar tournament.

Centre-back: Matteo Bianchetti | Italy

Even though Italy folded in front of a supreme Spanish attack in the final, one player still stood tall. Matteo Bianchetti had a breakout tournament for the Italians, and was their best defender throughout the tournament.

The Hellas Verona player was impressive throughout and also earned himself a Man of the Match award against England, as he eclipsed central defensive partner and captain Luca Caldirola.

Centre-back: Inigo Martinez | Spain

After impressing throughout last season, helping Real Sociedad to a top four finish in the league, Inigo Martinez enjoyed yet even more success with the U21s.

Unbeatable in the air and strong in tackle with an understanding of the game far beyond his years, Martinez was rock solid at the back for Spain. He was a key component in the defence that conceded just two goals in the tournament and was the major reason why De Gea had almost nothing to do in goal for the Spaniards.

Left-back: Alberto Moreno | Spain

Another player who impressed for Spain was left-back Alberto Moreno. Equally good in attack and defence, the left-back was the defender with the most interceptions in the tournament, with a healthy 3.8 per match.

His tackling and crossing were also spot on, and he also bagged himself an assist. The tournament would surely have strengthened Moreno's case for a starting spot at Sevilla where he is currently second choice.

Defensive-midfielder: Marco Verratti | Italy

Italy's Marco Verratti showed why he is being considered one of the best talents in the world, as he orchestrated play from deep within midfield for the Azzurri.

He was the best passer in the tournament, providing more than 90 passes per game, and was one of the main inspirations behind Italy's run to the final. Sadly though, he reserved his worst for the final as he had no answer to Spain's sublime midfielders. His disciplinary record was also an issue as the 20-year old got 3 yellow cards in his four appearances.

Right-wing: Georginio Wijnaldum | Netherlands

Netherlands impressed everyone through their attacking brand of football, and was the highest scoring team in the group stages of the tournament.

In a team filled with players who are regulars in the senior team, it was relative unknown Georginio Winjandum who convinced the most.

Apart from scoring two goals, Wijnaldum was impressive with his overall game as he was a constant threat for the opposition. He also formed an impressive partnership with Marco van Ginkel, and was Holland's best player in the tournament.

Central-midfielder: Thiago Alcantara | Spain

Thiago Alcantara was - putting it plainly - simply magical throughout the tournament.

Finding the liberty to play his own game, and being thrust into prominence in the absence of his vastly talented Barcelona team-mates, the Spanish captain showed just why he is one of the most coveted players on the market today.

With a passing range reminding one of Xavi, Thiago proved to be head and shoulders above everyone else in the tournament. Every single team that played Spain had no answer to Thiago's brilliance, as the La Masia product bagged himself three goals and an assist.

And contrary to Verratti, Spain's midfield maestro saved his best for the last game, as he scored a sublime hat-trick in the final against Italy.

Left-wing: Isco | Spain

Probably the only player who can challenge Thiago for the best player slot is team-mate Isco.

The Malaga man once more showcased all the skills that have made him one of the most coveted players on the transfer market, as he scored three goals and assisted a further three as Spain went out runaway winners.

A nightmare for defenders down the left side of Spain's attack, Isco especially impressed in the semifinals where he was the Man of the Match.

With the midfielder almost certain to leave in the summer, Isco will definitely not be short of takers after another splendid tournament for the 21-year-old.

Striker: Alvaro Morata | Spain

Real Madrid youngster Morata had a dream tournament for the Spaniards. Starting as an understudy to the more experienced Rodrigo, the 20-year-old worked his way up, and on the back of some awe-inspiring performances, ended up as a starter in the final.

He scored in all the matches before the final with match winning strikes against Russia and Germany, with the solo effort against the Germans being especially monumental. Even though he did not score in the final, he was still impressive, and provided a delightful cross for Thiago to open the scoring.

Striker: Fabio Borini | Italy

Few players in the Italy squad had seasons as appalling as that of Fabio Borini this year at Liverpool. Many questions were raised when coach selected him for the squad, and most expected him to not feature, especially with the depth of attacking talent at Italy's disposal.

However, Borini surprised most by becoming one of Italy's key performers in the tournament, scoring two goals, including the all important winner in the semi-final against the Netherlands. Also, both his goals warranted recognition, and his goal against the Netherlands was one of the goals of the tournament.


David de Gea | Spain

Giulio Donati | Italy

Marc Bartra | Spain

Asier Illarramendi | Spain

Nir Biton | Israel

Ola John | Netherlands

Marcus Pedersen | Norway


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