This year, the traditional powerhouses were challenged by a wave of fresh talent and resurgent underdogs. While established stars like Kylian Mbappé and Kevin De Bruyne continued to light up the stage, it was the surprise packages who stole the show. This alternate Euro 2024 dream XI celebrates those who defied expectations and etched their names into the fabric of the tournament.

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In Goal:

  • Dominik Livakovic (Croatia): A wall between the posts, Livakovic's reflexes and composure were instrumental in Croatia's unexpected run to the semi-finals. His penalty save against Romelu Lukaku in the quarter-finals was a turning point, showcasing his ability to rise to the biggest occasions.

Defense:

  • Joško Gvardiol (Croatia): The teenage sensation from Croatia solidified his status as one of the world's most promising defenders. Gvardiol's combination of pace, strength, and tactical intelligence makes him a nightmare for attackers. His lung-busting runs down the left flank also added a potent attacking threat.
  • Joachim Andersen (Denmark): The towering Dane was a rock at the heart of Denmark's resolute defense. His dominant aerial presence and ability to read the game stifled even the most potent attacks.
  • Stefan Thelander (Sweden): A revelation at the back for Sweden, Thelander marshaled his defense with a calmness and authority that belied his young age. His timely interceptions and last-ditch tackles were crucial in Sweden's impressive group stage performance.
  • Denzel Dumfries (Netherlands): A constant menace down the right flank, Dumfries was a key outlet for the Netherlands' attacking play. His tireless overlapping runs and pinpoint crosses created countless opportunities for his teammates.

Midfield:

  • Stanislav Lobotka (Slovakia): The metronome of the surprising Slovakian midfield, Lobotka controlled the tempo of the game with his assured passing and intelligent movement. His ability to dictate the flow of play was a major reason behind Slovakia's impressive group stage showing.
  • Khvicha Kvaratskhelia (Georgia): The "Little Messi" of Georgia lived up to his nickname with a dazzling display of skill and creativity. Kvaratskhelia's dazzling footwork, audacious dribbling runs, and eye for a killer pass left defenders mesmerized.
  • Marco Reus (Germany): The ageless German talisman defied Father Time with a series of vintage performances. Reus's experience, leadership, and knack for scoring crucial goals were invaluable for a young German side that exceeded expectations.

Attack:

  • Dusan Vlahović (Serbia): A physical force to be reckoned with, Vlahović bullied defenders and tormented goalkeepers with his power and finishing ability. His predatory instincts in the box saw him emerge as the tournament's top scorer.
  • Wilfried Zaha (Ivory Coast): The Ivorian winger brought his trademark pace, trickery, and unpredictability to the biggest stage. Zaha's ability to beat defenders one-on-one and create openings for himself and his teammates was a constant threat.
  • Patrik Schick (Czech Republic): The Czech Republic's main attacking weapon, Schick continued his goalscoring exploits from the previous tournament. His long-range strikes and clinical finishing inside the box were a major reason behind the Czechs' entertaining run to the quarter-finals.

This dream XI is a testament to the captivating nature of Euro 2024. It celebrates the unexpected heroes who defied the odds and wrote their own stories in the grand narrative of the tournament. These players are not just individuals, but symbols of hope, reminding us that even the smallest nations and least heralded talents can rise to the occasion and shine on the biggest stage.

Editor: Albert Owen