RSL stars go head-to-head in Euros 2024 Last 16

With 12 Roshn Saudi League stars through to the knockout stages of the UEFA European Championship Germany 2024, the fixtures were always going to pit some of the Saudi Arabian top-flight players against one another.

Here, we check out the direct RSL head-to-heads in the last 16, which promises to keep fans of football in the Kingdom intrigued as to who will prevail with a quarter-final slot – and keep alive their hopes of ultimate glory in Germany next month.

Spain v Georgia (June 30)

Having sat out the opening Group B match, Al Nassr’s Aymeric Laporte came into the Spain backline and has not put a foot wrong in his two appearances thus far in Germany as the three-time champions advanced as pool winners. Laporte will now face off against fellow centre-back Solomon Kvirkvelia, with the Al Okhdood defender part of a history-making Georgia side that has made the knockouts on tournament debut.

A surprise victory in the final Group F game against Portugal, in which Kvirkvelia came on as a second-half substitute, ensured they continued as one of the best third-placed teams. Another layer of intrigue has been provided by former Real Madrid defender Nacho’s move to newly promoted RSL club Al Qadsiah.

Even with the hugely decorated Spaniard on the opposing team, could Kvirkvelia and Co spring one of the greatest upsets in Euros history?

France v Belgium (July 1)

For some a shock inclusion in Didier Deschamps’ France squad, Al Ittihad midfielder N’Golo Kante has quickly silenced the doubters in his usual manner: by doing his talking on the pitch. The quietly spoken Frenchman picked up successive Player of the Match awards in the two-time champions’ first two Group D matches, showing that, at 33, Kante still possesses the tenacity and talent of old.

However, having finished second in the group, France now take on a Belgium team comprising Koen Casteels, of Al Qadsiah, and Al Shabab’s Yannick Carracso. Kasteels was entrusted as Belgium’s goalkeeper in all three Group E matches, while Carrasco has three substitute appearances to his name.

You’d imagine Casteels, in particular, will need to be at his best against the heavily-fancied French.

Romania v Netherlands (July 2)

The last-16 match-up in Munich could include two Saudi top flight captains, one on either side. For Romania, Damac skipper Nicolae Stanciu will look to continue a fine Euros campaign that began with an incredible goal and subsequent Player of the Match award. The opening stage ended with Romania finishing top of Group E. Stanciu is joined in the knockouts by compatriot Andrei Burca of Al Okhdood, who has started every game in central defence.

For the Netherlands, Al Ettifaq captain Georginio Wijnaldum will be pushing for a starting role having been used throughout their Group D games as a late substitute, helping the Dutch qualify for the knockouts as one of the best third-placed teams. If selected, Wijnaldum should come face-to-face with Stanciu in midfield, something not unfamiliar in last season’s RSL, when the Al Ettifaq captain guided his side to a 2-0 away win at Damac.

Other RSL stars will feature in:

Portugal v Slovenia (July 1)

With a Euros trophy already in his cabinet, Al Nassr and Portugal captain Cristiano Ronaldo is on the hunt for a second and will have to get past Slovenia to maintain that march to another final. The forward, top score in last season’s RSL, has yet to find the net in three matches in Germany, although he did register an assist in the 3-0 victory Turkiye on Matchday Two as Portugal eventually finished top of Group F.

Ronaldo, whose eight assists in all equals the tournament record, has a fellow RSL representative in his national team, in the shape of 2023-24 title winner Ruben Neves of Al Hilal.

Austria v Turkiye (July 2)

Rounding off the RSL connection, Al Ahli’s Merih Demiral is in the running to play his part in Turkiye’s challenging last-16 encounter with an in-form Austria. In the opening two Group F matches, Demiral was introduced as a second-half substitute, but then was rewarded with a full 90 minutes in the 2-1 victory against Czechia that confirmed a runner-up finish behind Portugal.

Merih Demiral for Turkey at Euro 2024

The centre-back, who spent the previous four years in Italy before moving to the RSL last summer, made 20 appearances for Al Ahli in the 2023-24 campaign.