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TOP 5 Most Influential Players

The quarterfinals were full of drama and great fixtures: as football is about to move on from it, we will instead have a look back. Between Germany’s lack of success and Portugal’s dull approach, here are the top five players whose performances marked us the most in the quarterfinals of EURO 2024

5. Wout Weghorst

When the people needed entertainment, Wout Weghorst arrived as the saviour. The saviour of the Dutch sovereignty, but also the ExpectedEntertainment value. Oranje looked lost without him as if they didn’t know what they were doing. 

Turkey looked comfortable despite regularly gifting possession, while the Netherlands appeared disorganized in the final third. But who knew that Weghorst would be the game-changer? His substitution lightened the mood and sent a clear message to his team: a message of clarity.

Weghorst’s introduction not only posed a new threat to Turkey’s defense with his occupying presence in the box, but it also elevated his teammates’ performances. Suddenly, they seemed to understand their roles.

This was particularly true for Memphis Depay, whose tournament run had been an absolute disaster. With Weghorst as a reference point up front, Depay was freed from his chains and rediscovered his creative flair – the spark the Netherlands had been expecting from him.

He might be a late bloomer, but better late than never. Weghort’s introduction shifted the momentum in Koeman’s favour, to the delight of the Dutch.

4. Bukayo Saka

Although England has looked boring as a team, their individual talents are finally shining, with Bukayo Saka as the prime example. 

Arsenal’s superstar was pivotal both before and during the penalties, confidently converting his spot-kick. But even setting the penalties aside, Saka remains one of the leaders of an otherwise uninspired squad. The match against Switzerland was slightly better than previous outings of The Three Lions, despite their persistent risk-aversion.

Nonetheless, Bukayo Saka became a real problem for the opposition with his relentless dribbling attempts, constantly trying to unbalance Switzerland’s solid block. Saka’s persistence and refusal to settle for mediocrity, even as his teammates played it safe with sideways passes, speaks volumes about his mentality.

He is for one of the most prolific dribblers of the tournament, which is laudable given the conservative nature of Southgate’s tactics.

3. Pepe

History is written by winners, but does that mean only winners deserve recognition, or should we also honor the best fighters in less successful teams?

It is clear to many that Pepe was one of the revelations of the tournament, as the 41-year-old remained one of the most composed players. EURO 2024 saw the rise of Pepe, who despite his advanced age, anchored Portugal’s backline when they needed a wake-up call. 

Slovenia had already warned them that continuing their mediocre performance would invite Karma’s retribution. And it did.

Pepe repeatedly denied France’s attackers any real chance to penetrate the penalty box, neutralizing their threats until the very end. During the penalty shoot-outs, Cristiano Ronaldo was seen consoling Pepe, who was already in tears before the match concluded. It was clear what this moment meant to him – his last chance to win another major tournament.

Retirement is just around the corner, but witnessing a football legend like Pepe tear up before the end of his final match is heart-wrenching. Such is the fate of many veterans this year.

2. Florian Wirtz

When discussing the most impactful substitutes, Florian Wirtz stands out even more than Wout Weghorst for Germany.

Julian Nagelsmann initially placed him on the bench, favoring Emre Can and Ilkay Gündogan. However, the German head coach made a crucial adjustment in the second half.

Wirtz’s introduction, alongside his partnership with Leroy Sané, became an instant classic for German fans. Wirtz’s ability to operate between Spain’s lines created several chances, consistently finding a way to free himself or set up his teammates.

There is little doubt that Germany’s future is secure with Wirtz, who was involved in in the 88th-minute equalizer that pushed the match into extra time. 

While history may overlook this moment since Germany ultimately lost despite being the tournament hosts, fans will remember Wirtz’s performance. This will undoubtedly serve as a launching pad for his career in the coming years.

He’s one of the most exciting talents in Europe, if not the world. His chance will come, and he has already shown that his potential is sky-high – nothing seems capable of stopping him.

1. Dani Olmo

The Spaniard was the absolute star against Germany. Initially not expected to play from the start, Dani Olmo seized his opportunity when it came. Replacing the injured Pedri in the 8th minute, he scored the opener in the 51st, quickly becoming a major headache for Germany’s defence.

With Pedri’s injury confirmed to sideline the Barcelona wunderkind for a month, it wouldn’t be surprising to see Olmo shine once again in the semifinals, just as he did four years earlier against Italy.

His creative spirit will be needed against one of the tournament’s best defensive teams, especially in the box. If Spain is a great attacking team, Dani Olmo is a big reason for it. His mobility often leaves markers in disarray, while he keeps his play simple and effective.

Some might call him an unsung hero, and they would be right.

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