Euro 2016: Colchoneros in France

Nick Munday takes a look at the four Atléticos in European action this summer

Euro 2016 kicks off this Friday night

Euro 2016 kicks off this Friday night

Along with the 2016 Copa America, Atlético also have players representing the club in the European Championships in France this summer.

With the tournament set to kick-off on Friday with France taking on Romania, let’s take a look at the rojiblancos on show in Europe’s showpiece international tournament.

Juanfran (Spain)

His domestic season may have ended on a sour note – missing Atleti’s final penalty in the Champions League shootout defeat to city rivals Real – but Juanfran insists he is stronger than ever. The solidarity shown by the Atletico faithful will have provided him with a much-needed confidence boost, as after the penalty miss sales of his shirt went up by 800%.

In January 2011 he arrived at the club as a winger, but under Diego Simeone’s guidance Juanfran has been moulded into one of the best full-backs in La Liga. Over the past three seasons he has made 270 interceptions, topped only by teammate Diego Godin.

The 31-year-old started seven times in his country’s qualifying campaign, in which just three goals were conceded, and he is now Spain’s first-choice right-back. Despite the country’s embarrassing showing in Brazil two years ago, La Roja are still the holders of this competition and should not be written off.

Yannick Ferreira Carrasco (Belgium)

Prior to making the €20m switch from AS Monaco to Atleti, Yannick Ferreira Carrasco had only spent a season and a half playing regular football in Ligue 1. The price tag raised a few eyebrows last summer, but the young Belgian winger settled in quickly at the Vicente Calderón.

Most recently he impressed on the big stage after coming on as a substitute against Real Madrid at the San Siro. At 21 years of age, Carrasco is yet to fully nail a starting a place for either club or country, but over the past year he has seen his reputation rise rapidly across the continent.

With a terrific dribbling ability and lightning-fast pace, Carrasco is a huge asset off the bench – which is where he may find himself during Euro 2016 as he faces competition from the likes of Eden Hazard and Kevin de Bruyne.

He only made his international debut in March 2015 but already looks set to have a bright future for his national team over the next few years.

Koke (Spain)

Koke plays a key role in the fierce set-up in Simeone’s team, and one of his biggest strengths is starting counter-attacks with his sharp touch and clever passing. Over the past two La Liga seasons for the Rojiblancos he has recorded an impressive 24 assists.

In 2013, Koke helped Spain win the Under-21 European Championships and a year later made two appearances at the World Cup in Brazil, totaling 134 minutes. Prior to that tournament he earned high praise from Barcelona legend Xavi, who described Koke as his ‘successor’

“He has everything – he is a footballer of the present and the future,” the Barcelona legend said.

It is no wonder that national manager Vicente del Bosque also rates the Atletico midfielder very highly. He played seven times in qualifying as Spain topped their fairly straight-forward group, and after the retirements of Xabi Alonso and Xavi, Koke’s place in the starting 11 is assured.

Antoine Griezmann (France)

Without a doubt, Antoine Griezmann was the star of Atletico’s season, scoring 32 times in 53 appearances, including crucial goals against Bayern Munich and Barcelona on the way to the Champions League final.

Since his move from Real Sociedad in 2014, the 25-year-old has developed into one of the finest players on the planet.

He was part of the French side that were crowned European Under-19 champions in 2010. The forward has scored seven goals in 25 appearances at senior level for his country, and the partnership with Oliver Giroud up top enables Griezmann to utilise his excellent movement off the ball.

The tournament hosts have been handed a favourable group and should reach the knockout stages with maximum points. Atleti’s number seven will fancy his chances of finding the net against the likes of Albania, Romania and Switzerland.

France are the last team to win the Euros on home soil, and should he replicate his club form, Griezmann can lead Les Blues to glory this summer.

We’ll have more updates from the tournament when after it kick-off tomorrow evening!

  • France to win!

  • nandes

    I’m glad Saúl, Torres and Gabi are not there, Spain still has a squad that’s probably good enough to reach semis but I’m feeling a embarassment similiar to 2014 is on the way

  • Ringo

    Del Bosque’s selection process is one of the reasons of the 2014 debacle, though. He sticks to certain names more (way way way more) than Simeone, for instance. 2010 and 12 felt like Aragones + Guardiola while adding two more midfielders just in case. The teams were in control, and they sensed eachother’s movements well because of Barcelona, but I felt like it was not much more than that. It could have been more, and I say that while I’m aware of their humongous success.

    In 2014 he played with the same old players, some of them decreasing in their passion, like Xavi. Del Bosque even said himself that the only player with fire in his eyes at the time was Koke and – guess what – he did not even play him. If you could see the lack of fire so clearly, why did you select those players? In the third game he played players who did show more of that fire and they won.

    Now Del Bosque is still a little slow with change, but it has happened. Obviously he had to with the few retirements and such. Now his selection is still a little odd, but I feel like it is better than it was two years ago, even if he didn’t entirely opt for it himself. He still doesn’t really choose for in-form players, which Torres was, I’d think, but with Aduriz, etc, at least he’s a little closer. Saúl and Gabi could have been great ‘firey’ additions, but, well, Del Bosque never had an eye out for Gabi and Saúl never played for them, so it’s as far from Del Bosque’s loyalty plan as possible, so that’s the littlest of surprises.

    Because of Koke and Juanfran Spain is my fave of the tourney, but I’ll have to see how they gel. Koke and Juanfran only played 45 minutes or so in the preparation games, too, I think, so we’ll have to wait and see about them starting. Juanfran feels like a certainty, because of Bellerín’s inexperience (here VDB’s approach is in our favor!), but Koke could magically be replaced by Cesc or something as Busquets partner in the deeper part of the midfield. And we all know Koke should be ahead of Cesc 😀

    So, to justify why I wrote this as a reply to you, nandes, I think it’s not about being happy Saúl, Torres and Gabi aren’t in the squad. Certain players not being selected (or certain players BEING selected) is one of the major causes of the 2014 embarassment. If the squad two years ago was different, the embarassment would not have been there, or it would have been there in different shapes. If VDB played Koke in 2014, the midfield would have had its fire. If Gabi and Saúl were selected now, the midfield would have a different smell (possibly because of even more fire). If Torres was selected the team would have another very in form striker. Therefore, if Saúl, Gabi and Torres were there, an embarrasment might be avoided. Also, if Saúl, Gabi and Torres were selected, VDB would not be Del Bosque.

    There’s a paradox joke in here somewhere…

    That all being said, a great tournament experience to everyone!

  • Usavicente Calderon

    I am not a fan of Del Bosque. We all know who made that team back in 2008. And that is the team that won until two years ago. Time to go an get a coach that can build a team. I know, so harsh. No that I said that, lets hope that Bosque will prove me wrong. But if Spain does not even make it out of the group stage I will blame him.

  • Koke

    How unjust that the likes of Saul and Gabi aren’t deemed good enough to make it into their national teams. The reason is a mixture between VDB’s bias and the sheer number and quality of Spain’s midfielders. For Saul it’s okay, everyone and their grandmother knows he’ll be a key player for Spain for years to come, but Gabi, this man is one of football’s biggest unsung heroes and he’s nearing the end of his career. If he played at the last World Cup I’m sure Spain wouldn’t have suffered such an embarrassing exit, not because he’s better than Xavi or Xabi Alonso, but because he has a lion spirit more clinical than any other midfielder in Spain’s squad. Anyway, I think Koke, Saul, and hopefully one day Oliver can all become incredible players for both club and country. Let’s just hope that club will be Atleti for all three of them for many many years.

  • nandes

    Well I’m not exactly happy they weren’t selected, but I think suffering another crushing loss so soon would do a lot of damage to their mentality, especially Torres who as all we know depends more on his mind than on his physical shape to perform well. Still hope Koke and Juanfran do well of course.

    Del Bosque sure has tried to innovate in his team selections, but I’m not entirely convinced that he has managed to build anything resembling a new team identity while doing that

    Great reply btw

  • BlasiusMagnus

    On a totally unrelated topic…
    Yesterday my country, Hungary, beat Austria in Euro’s. 0-2. It was fuckin amazing. Me and my friend watched the game in a bar. When the team scored the goals, it was like a festival. Everybody screaming, highfiving. This win was like when we won the first EL trophy. Hungary qualified after ___30___ fuckin years to the Euro’s. And we won the game, with rock solid defending, and with a few nice attacks.