Hailing the Underrated Gems of EURO 2024

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As the dust settles on EURO 2024, it’s only natural to reflect upon the performances of the big-name players who lit up the tournament in Germany.

Some stepped up to the plate for their countries, whereas others flattered to deceive on the big stage (here’s looking at you, Cristiano) in an event that went from swashbuckling entertainment early on in the group phase to stoic, conservative, and almost chess-like football as the pressure rose.

Some unheralded players produced stellar performances for their nations, often under the radar too, so we thought it high time that some column inches were devoted to the underrated gems of EURO 2024.

Donyell Malen

Those who had a bet on EUROs markets considered the Netherlands to be little more than outsiders to lift the trophy before a ball had been kicked.

However, Ronald Koeman’s side progressed so much during the tournament that by the time the semi-finals rolled around, the Dutch were only marginal underdogs at 21/10 in the Netherlands vs England betting.

Only Spain, Germany, and Portugal had created more Expected Goals (xG) than the Netherlands at the semi-final stage, whose attacking efficiency was enhanced by the likes of Cody Gakpo and Memphis Depay.

But it’s Donyell Malen that captured the attention of keen-eyed observers. The 25-year-old is often a victim of his own versatility – he played in four different positions for Borussia Dortmund in a low-key 2023/24 campaign, but for the Dutch national team his ability to play off either flank or through the middle was very helpful in such a dynamic, fluid frontline.

Heading into the semis, Malen was averaging three completed dribbles per 90 minutes and 1.3 key passes – highlighting his creativity, while the brace of goals scored against Romania in the quarter-final showed his penchant for stepping up when the pressure is on.

Gakpo may have taken the plaudits, but Malen’s contribution to the Dutch cause should not be overlooked.

Dani Olmo

So underrated is Dani Olmo that he only started one of Spain’s opening four games at EURO 2024.

Whether Luis de la Fuente had under-appreciated the 26-year-old or was comfortable using him as a ‘super sub’ at the business end of games, only he knows, although it was a formula that evidently brought Spain plenty of success.

Olmo scored and assisted in his nation’s group stage win over Albania, before also finding the net in the last 16 tie with Georgia.

But it was his performance against Germany in the high-class quarter-final that really caught the eye. Olmo was named Man of the Match, having scored and assisted another goal in Spain’s 2-1 win over the hosts.

Underrated? Perhaps not anymore…

Stefan Posch

As EURO 2024 played out, Austria gathered more and more momentum as many pundits’ dark horses for the title.

They played with tremendous discipline under Ralf Rangnick, with the intensity of their press and the vitality of their attacking player ensuring they were a danger at both ends of the pitch.

No player epitomised that more than Stefan Posch, the defender who delivered high-grade defending and an assist in the attacking third into the bargain.

His tackle rate of 3.8 per 90 minutes was the joint best in the tournament, while 2.0 clearances and 1.5 interceptions per game also highlight Posch’s brilliance.

He’s the kind of player that many football fans wouldn’t recognise if they bumped into him in their local supermarket, but Posch – alongside Malen and Olmo – highlighted why big international tournaments are about the under-appreciated gems just as much as the global superstars.

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