The UEFA European Championship came to a climax on Sunday night in Paris, with Portugal stunning host nation France to secure their first ever Euro crown with a 1-0 victory in extra time.
While the tournament featured 24 European teams which were all aiming to become European champions, there were many players of African descent who represented European countries in France.
A number of these stood out for various reasons during the month-long competition, and have earned the respect and adulation of peers and fans after performances that were key to the success of their nations at Euro 2016.
With this in mind, TRUE Africa takes a look at six players with African heritage who smashed Euro 2016.
Though his team fell at the last hurdle, with a narrow loss to Portugal in the final, Dimitri Payet was amongst the top performers for Les Bleus at Euro 2016. His stunning goal in the opening match against Romania allowed France to dream about another successful tournament at home, with a 1-0 victory ensuring three points for the hosts.
Two more goals from the 29-year-old in matches against Albania and Iceland cemented his influence in the tournament, and having played a part in all seven of France’s games, he has earned a mention on this list. The player was born on the island of Réunion, and moved to France in his youth.
He will unfortunately be remembered for his crunching tackle on Cristiano Ronaldo in the Euro 2016 final, which saw the Real Madrid star leave the pitch injured within the first half an hour of the encounter.
New Valencia signing Luis Nani was another top performer of African descent, having been born in Cape Verde but choosing to play for his adopted country, Portugal. The skilful and speedy striker was partnered alongside Ronaldo for many of the matches, and at times when the Real Madrid player was off form, Nani made the difference.
Nani ended the tournament with three goals to his name, including the opening goal for his country in a 1-1 draw with Iceland, a strike in the 3-3 stalemate against Hungary and another goal in the 2-0 semi-final victory over Wales.
He featured in all seven games for the Portuguese, and was a reference point in attack for a side with many inexperienced youngsters. The 29-year-old also converted his kick in the quarter-final shootout victory over Poland.
Bayern Munich defender Jerome Boateng was a standout performer for the Germans at Euro 2016, commanding the back-line with intelligence and physical mastery. His country finished as semi-finalists in the competition, but he can be incredibly proud of his personal contribution, despite giving away a silly penalty in the quarter-final against Italy.
The half-brother of Kevin-Prince Boateng chose to represent the German national team rather than the Black Stars of Ghana, as his sibling did. Germans have been eternally grateful for his choice, as it has gifted them the abilities of a tough and uncompromising defender. In addition to his excellent defending at the tournament, Boateng scored a stunning volley goal against Slovakia in the last-16.
Moussa Sissoko was France’s best player in the Euro 2016 final by a country mile, out-pacing and out-muscling his Portuguese opponents throughout the game, while testing goalkeeper Rui Patrício with an excellent shot. His incredible power and determination was a joy to watch, and his fearless runs overshadowed the excellent Raphaël Guerreiro on the wing.
The 26-year-old could have represented Mali on the international stage, but instead decided to wear the colours of Les Bleus. The Newcastle United midfielder has not produced the same form for club as he has with his country, but he will hoping to change that in the coming English Premier League season.
One of the stars that were uncovered during the course of the Euro 2016 competition was Portugal’s Renato Sanches. With his parents hailing from São Tomé and Príncipe and Cape Verde, he could have chosen to represent either of those African nations, but instead he chose Portugal.
A stunning solo goal against Poland proved an important equaliser, and he became the competition’s youngest-ever finalist and winner at 18 years and 328 days when he played against France on Sunday.
After the successful final victory over France, Sanches was chosen above Kingsley Coman and fellow Portugal international Raphael Guerreiro as the Young Player of the Tournament, highlighting his contribution to his country’s title win, and the bright future that the new Bayern Munich signing has in football.
The 28-year-old striker was not a preferred choice in the Portuguese line-up during the competition in France, with Nani, Ronaldo and Ricardo Quaresma favoured ahead of him but, despite that, he made his few opportunities count. The Guinea-Bissau-born attacker featured as a substitute in the first two group matches, before being an unused sub in the next four games.
His moment came in the final, however; as he was substituted late in the second half in a tense Euro 2016 decider against hosts France. With just over 10 minutes remaining in extra time, the Lille striker wrote his name in the history books by creating some space and launching a shot from distance which beat France keeper and captain Hugo Lloris, sending Portuguese fans all over the planet into fits of joy.
The goal proved the winner for his team in an exciting and unexpected climax to the tournament.