Euro 2016: The best players of the tournament so far … Rated!

Microphones have been broken; records have been broken. But it’s not just about Cristiano Ronaldo in France.

The Portugal star has become the first player to score at four separate European soccer championships, but at the other end of the scale nations like Wales and Iceland have made a big impression during their first appearances at the tournament.

And with the group stage done and dusted, the knockout stages start on Saturday.

With few standout teams so far but no shortage of superstar players, who would make your team of the tournament so far?

We put this question to our CNN Sport team and a host of football experts. Here’s what they had to say…

Owen Hargreaves

Former Bayern Munich, Manchester United and England midfielder; CNN football analyst

Champions League winner Owen Hargreaves opts for a 3-4-3 formation spearheaded by Ronaldo Gareth Bale and Robert Lewandowski.

“I tried to put as many attacking players on the field as I could,” laughs the former England star, who played at Euro 2004. “We might have some issues defensively, but I’ll take that.”

After scoring 13 goals in qualifying, Lewandowski will be disappointed not to have registered a shot on target in any of Poland’s group stage games.

By contrast, Bale leads the race for the Euro 2016 golden boot with three to his name already, his Real Madrid teammate Ronaldo trailing just behind having grabbed an impressive brace in Portugal’s 3-3 draw against Hungary.

In such an attacking lineup, N’Golo Kante would have it all to do in the engine room. Hargreaves isn’t too concerned, describing the Frenchman as “the best in Europe at winning the ball back.” True to form, the Leicester player has made the most interceptions per game in the tournament.

John Sinnott

CNN Sport Supervising Producer

Like Hargreaves, CNN Sport’s John Sinnott goes for Germany’s Toni Kroos in central midfield; the 26-year-old completed 323 passes in the group stages, more than any other player.

The marauding Elseid Hysaj of Albania gets the nod at right back, alongside Italian central defenders Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci. “Like a Renaissance painting, the Juventus duo just get better with age,” John enthuses.

The contentious inclusion of Daniel Sturridge up front, described as “the most natural finisher at the Euros so far,” is perhaps explained by John’s affinity with Liverpool. “It was a toss up between including Sturridge or giving Jordan Henderson one of the midfield berths.”

Tom McGowan

CNN Digital Sports Producer; long-suffering Aston Villa supporter

Six Spaniards make the cut in this selection, illustrative of the fact “it’s been the only nation to truly convince so far,” according to Tom McGowan.

Following these remarks, Spain duly lost 2-1 to Croatia to finish second in its group and set up a heavyweight tie with Italy on Monday.

With a balletic grace rarely seen on a football pitch, Andres Iniesta has completed 92.3% of his passes so far and already has an assist to his name.

“He has made brilliance so routine that it’s often taken for granted,” says Tom.

James Masters

Leyton Orient ultra, football writer for CNN Sport and The Times

James Masters doesn’t shy from the left field with this team, incorporating Poland’s Grzegorz Krychowiak in central defensive midfield.

“Lewandowski might get the headlines but this guy has been one of the most impressive Poland performers,” argues James.

“He excelled against Germany and his positional sense allows him not to just act as a defensive barrier but also provide the starting point for Polish attacks.”

France savior Dimitri Payet understandably slots in wide right. “Science and religion can explain many things in life but how do you explain a phenomenon like Payet? An extraordinary talent,” says James.

Chile and Charlton Athletic enthusiast writing for CNN Sport

Sitting pretty atop Group F unbeaten, Hungary’s unlikely success has won the hearts of many, including CNN Sport’s Matias Grez, who singles out Balázs Dzsudzsák as the team’s “most influential player” after the forward’s two goals against Portugal.

But the unlikely heroes of Northern Ireland are also prominent here, as both Michael McGovern and Gareth McAuley make the cut. The latter may not be Northern Ireland’s captain but has “led by example,” according to Matias.

“At 36 years of age there could have been concerns about McAuley performing on the highest international stage for the first time, but the West Brom man has looked at home in his country’s memorable run.”

“Let’s not forget Marek Hamsik,” adds Matias. “Outstanding in Slovakia’s crucial win against Russia, there’s even more to come from the Napoli man.”

Darren Lewis

Football journalist for The Mirror in England

Darijo Srna, Aaron Ramsey and Granit Xhaka make this eleven compiled by Darren Lewis of The Mirror.

Srna might not have competed in France at all after flying home at short notice for the funeral of his father, but the Croatia captain valiantly played on through the tears to set a new national record — making his 17th appearance in a major tournament.

Moving into midfield, Xhaka — who recently joined Arsenal for $45 million — has impressed so far. Reigning in the disciplinary issues which saw him pick up three red cards last season, the 23-year-old has looked an assured presence, boasting passing stats second only to Kroos.

Ramsey currently leads the Euro 2016 assists charts with two. Despite being dribbled past more times per game (4.3) than any other player, he’s still managed 11 tackles in all — the third most in the tournament.

Jacob Steinberg

Football and tennis writer for The Guardian

McGovern gets the nod between the sticks here, as Jacob Steinberg of The Guardian flexes his managerial muscles.

Just a month after being released by Hamilton Academical F.C in Scotland, McGovern is progressing to the last 16 of Euro 2016 with unfancied Northern Ireland, having made 15 saves.

Who needs Manuel Neuer?

Marcus Speller

BBC World Service, ITV and Sky News pundit; presenter of The Football Ramble

There’s no overlooking the credentials of Perisic and Payet, as the duo crop up once again in this Ultimate XI made by Marcus Speller.

Out in the cold just a year ago, Payet now carries the hopes of a nation on his shoulders after delivering in the closing minutes of France’s opening match against Romania with a stunning winning goal.

Another fine strike in France’s late win over Albania means he has two for the tournament, level with Croatian winger Perisic. One of only six players to directly contribute to three goals, it’s easy to see why Marcus describes him as his player of the tournament so far.

Piers Edwards

BBC World TV presenter & CNN writer

Unfortunate to be playing no further part in the tournament, Arlind Ajeti is the noticeable addition in this team curated by Piers Edwards of CNN Sport and the BBC.

The 22-year-old put in a man of the match performance against Romania and was on the verge of shutting out France until an injury forced him off with five minutes remaining.

The rest, as they say, is history — but Albania bow out having not conceded a single goal with Ajeti on the pitch.

With the Albanian beside him, Kyle Walker would have plenty of freedom to roam from right fullback. Perhaps England’s most impressive performer in his two appearances, the much-improved 26-year-old has completed an average of four take-ons per game — second only to Bale — enabling him to deliver seven crosses against Wales.

The journalists have had their say. Think you can do better? Build your Ultimate XI here.

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