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Euro 2012 Team of the Tournament
Genius - Andres Iniesta
Spain’s perpetual dominance meant that “Saint Iker” rarely had to show off his well-known shot-stopping skills, but he was focused enough to make the crucial interventions when tested. His save from a close-range header from Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic was the pick of the bunch, and he also made a handful of smart stops to repel Italy in the final.
THEODOR GEBRE-SELASSIE (Czech Republic)
The Slovan Liberec full-back caught the eye with his energetic overlapping runs and sure-footed defending, combining well with midfielder Petr Jiracek down the right to provide the Czechs’ most productive attacking avenue, and earning himself a move to Werder Bremen in the process.
His penchant for recklessly violent behaviour at times obscures the fact that the Real Madrid man is a fine central defender – strong in the tackle, quick along the ground, and excellent in the air. Embellished a superb tournament with a near-post header to open the scoring against Denmark.
SERGIO RAMOS (Spain)
Like clubmate Pepe, Ramos occasionally lets himself down with wild, undisciplined defending; here, moving into the centre from his usual right-back berth in Carles Puyol’s absence, he was impeccable throughout. Gifting the ball to Mario Balotelli in the opening game (a situation he immediately rectified with a vital saving tackle) was his first and last error of the championships.
JORDI ALBA (Spain)
Joan Capdevila was solid enough, but in previous years left-back was easily the least dynamic area of the pitch for Spain. That all changed in Poland and Ukraine, with Alba’s irrepressible surges proving an important source of width in a narrow Spanish team. His burst to the byline and cross teed up Xabi Alonso to open the scoring in the quarterfinal against France, and his blistering run and finish was the highlight of the final.
SAMI KHEDIRA (Germany)
Central midfield partner Bastian Schweinsteiger’s indifferent form was cast into even sharper focus by the excellence of Khedira, who provided a little bit of everything for Die Nationalmannschaft – selfless defensive work, intelligent movement, efficient use of the ball, and even an eye-catching volley against Greece – in his usual high-energy style.
ANDREA PIRLO (Italy)
Maintaining his irrepressible form during Juventus’ title-winning campaign, Pirlo laid on two assists, scored the only direct free-kick of the tournament, and generally dictated play for the Azzurri in familiar fashion, spraying pinpoint passes both long and short from his deep-lying playmaker’s role. He was particularly dominant against England, who seemed content to watch and admire, and his “Panenka” in the subsequent shootout was a masterclass in the psychology of penalty kicks.
MESUT ÖZIL (Germany)
Jogi Löw may have felt comfortable tinkering with the remainder of his front four, but the man at the centre of things (literally and figuratively) was an ever-present. Özil’s clever runs between the lines and eye for a pass were the fulcrum around which Germany’s fluid attacking play was built; the Netherlands and Greece were especially unable to cope with him, and both were punished severely.
ANDRES INIESTA (Spain)
As Vicente del Bosque relied more and more on midfield dominance in his team selection – at the expense of pace and width – Iniesta’s importance was magnified. His ability to unlock opposing defences in any number of ways – a subtle drop of the shoulder, a mazy dribble, an inch-perfect reverse pass – added some much-needed unpredictability to the Spanish attack, and it was no coincidence that in three of their last four games (against Croatia, France, and Italy), the pale-faced genius was heavily involved in the goals that broke the deadlock.
CESC FABREGAS (Spain)
In previous tournaments, the former Arsenal man has delivered for his country in a wide variety of roles, and the trend continued at Euro 2012. He scored as a starter against Italy (in an unfamiliar “false nine” role) and as a sub against Ireland; he came off the bench to provide the lofted pass which created Jesus Navas’ winner against Croatia; he swept home the winning penalty in the semifinal shootout against Portugal; and he set up Silva to open the scoring against Italy in the final. Playing an average of just over 52 minutes per game, Fabregas still made enough an impact to merit recognition here.
ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC (Sweden)
Very few recognised centre-forwards stood out (which explains how Fernando Torres somehow managed to claim the Golden Boot), but the Swedish captain deserved better than a first-round exit. His unique blend of athletic and technical gifts made him a constant threat, and his volley against France was one of the highlights of an outstanding group stage.
SUBS: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), Joao Pereira (Portugal), Mats Hummels (Germany), Daniel Agger (Denmark), Fabio Coentrao (Portugal), Daniele de Rossi (Italy), Joao Moutinho (Portugal), Xabi Alonso (Spain), Alan Dzagoev (Russia), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Mario Mandzukic (Croatia)
By prolifik on July 5th, 2012 in Worldwide football analysis
Euro 2012 Team of the Tournament
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