Best EFL Championship Players in EURO History

Several players who competed in the EFL Championship were able to steal the spotlight at the EURO.

Getting a call-up for a major international tournament such as the UEFA EURO Championship or FIFA World Cup is a dream for all players. It is even more prideful for those who play in the second tier, such as the EFL Championships, Segunda Division, Bundesliga 2, Ligue 2, or Italian Serie B. Compared to the other level two leagues in the domestic league, the EFL Championship is considered more competitive. No wonder that the players from England’s second-tier teams could still make the cut for major competitions.

In the history of the UEFA EURO Championship, some players were not only included in the squad, but also thrived in the tournaments. Here are such distinguished figures who literally managed to steal the show on the continental stage. They all happened to make their mark in the same edition, France 2016.

Jeff Hendrick (Republic of Ireland)

The 32-year-old midfielder was only playing for the second-tier team, Derby County, when he excelled at EURO 2016. He featured in all four games in the competition for the Republic of Ireland, and was instrumental in their success in reaching the round of 16.

Hendrick was in form, particularly in the opener against Sweden and in the third outing versus Italy at the group stage. He was heavily involved in the team’s attacking build-up and could be deployed in the centre or on the flanks.

His outstanding performance in the summer led to his move to Premier League side Burnley, where he helped Sean Dyche’s side finish seventh in his second season with the Clarets. The versatile midfielder is currently loaned out to Sheffield Wednesday. It is his third loan spell in the second tier since he plied his trade to Newcastle United in 2020. He seems to struggle to get a nod in the line-up with The Magpies.

Aron Gunnarsson and Jóhann Berg Guðmundsson (Iceland)

They are both the key men in Iceland’s surprising campaign at EURO 2016, where they managed to progress to the quarterfinals. Gunnarsson is the skipper, whereas Guðmundsson is the right winger. Both appeared in all of Iceland’s matches in the tournament and played for teams in the EFL Championship. The former was a Cardiff City man, while the latter was part of the Charlton Athletic squad at the time. However, this did not prevent them from contributing well in major competition.

Gunnarsson is mostly deployed as the defensive midfielder. The former AZ Alkmaar and Coventry City man was the first wall in front of the backline to keep the opposition at bay. Meanwhile, Guðmundsson can operate on the right flank to provide support during the team’s attacking phase from the second line. He provided one assist through his cross while holding Cristiano Ronaldo’s Portugal in a 1-1 draw in their first game.

Both are still part of Iceland’s squad today, despite their failure to help their nation secure one ticket to Germany 2024 via playoff. Gunnarsson is now playing for Qatari side Al Arabi, while his teammate is still under contract with EPL side Burnley, the club he switched sides with after EURO 2016.

Chris Gunter and Hal Robson-Kanu (Wales)

The former right back was the mainstay of the Wales national team, including during their campaign in EURO 2016. Gunter appeared in all six games until the semifinal and registered one assist for Sam Vokes’ goal, which nailed the coffin for Belgium in a 3-1 victory in the quarterfinal. At that time, he was playing for the EFL Championship team, Reading. Four years later, in EURO 2020, the former Wimbledon player was still part of the final squad, but only featured once against Italy in the last game of the group stage.

Meanwhile, his teammate, Hal Robson-Kanu, did not always play in each and every game during the EURO 2016 campaign. However, the former West Bromwich frontman scored two goals in the tournament. Both happened to be crucial goals: a winning goal against Slovakia at the opener and the second goal with his iconic Cruyff turn, fooling three Belgium defenders in the quarterfinal.

Interestingly, Robson-Kanu also played for the same club as Gunter. Unlike Gunter, who remained with the club after the tournament, the Acton-born striker applied his trade to the English top flight. His impressive form in the continental competition drew the Premier League side West Bromwich to sign him. He stayed there till he hung his boots in 2021.

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