JOE's Euro 2012 Team of the Tournament
Everyone else has had their say so why not us? Here's JOE's Euro 2012 Team of the Tournament.
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas
What a keeper, what a player and what a captain. The records tumbled for Spain during the tournament – first team ever to win three straight tournaments, biggest win in a major tournament final – and Casillas was also setting his own wondrous benchmarks. Sunday’s win over Italy was his 100th international victory. It also brought his 79th international clean sheet. Both records that it will take an incredible career to outstrip. And he still has several years left at the top.
Honourable mention: Rui Patricio (Portugal)
Right back: Phillip Lahm (Germany)
It was a rotten tournament for right backs. For both Spain (Alvaro Arbeloa) and Portugal (Joao Pereira) the right back was the weakest element of their back fours. Ignazio Abate, Christian Maggio and Federico Balzaretti all played there for Italy – and all looked good at times – but Lahm stood out. Mario Balotelli’s second for Italy in the semi-final cast him in a bad light but on the whole it was another good tournament from the Germany captain.
Honourable mention: Mathieu Debuchy (France)
Left back: Jordi Alba (Spain)
It was a different story on the other flank where Fabio Coentrao was exceptional for Portugal but was eclipsed by arguably the player of the tournament in recent Barcelona recruit Alba. Do you remember, a few weeks ago in the build-up to Ireland v Spain, that people were saying Alba was a possible weak link at the back for Spain? That’s because only seasoned Spanish observers knew about him. Well everyone knows about him now. His goal against Italy last night will go down in history as one of the great goals in tournament finals.
Honourable mention: Fabio Coentrao (Portugal)
Centre halves: Sergio Ramos (Spain) & Pepe (Portugal)
On reflection, having these two at the back goes a long way towards explaining how Real Madrid got the better of Barcelona The Best Club Team In History™ in La Liga last season. Both were incredibly resolute in defence in every game. Ramos, shuffled inside to the centre by the injury to Carles Puyol, stepped up to the mark brilliantly, backing up the playboy image with performances packed with power. Pepe’s partnership with Bruno Alves rivalled Ramos-Pique as the best in the tournament. Indeed, Portugal come out of the tournament as unlucky losers given how they acquitted themselves against the Spaniards in the semi-final. Both Ramos and Pepe were also man enough to take vital shoot-out penalties when required too.
Honourable mentions: Gerard Pique (Spain), Bruno Alves (Portugal)
Central midfield: Xabi Alonso (Spain), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Joao Moutinho (Portugal)
Another area that was packed with contenders. Xavi silenced the doubters with a fine final, Sami Khedira was Germany’s best midfield performer and Luka Modric was brilliant for desperately unlucky Croatia. That would be some midfield, but we’ve gone with a different one. Andrea Pirlo was a no-brainer, having been the player of the tournament before the night everything fell apart for Italy in the final. His penalty against England in the quarters, coming at a time when England were ahead in the shoot-out and in the knowledge that he had taken several Panenka-style penalties in the past (and missed some of those), was enough to land him some awards in itself. He’s joined here by Xabi Alonso, hugely effective in a deep-lying midfield for the champions, and Joao Moutinho, a revelation as part of Portugal’s exceptional three-man unit alongside Miguel Veloso and Raul Meireles.
Honourable mentions: Xavi (Spain), Sami Khedira (Germany) & Luka Modric (Croatia)
Forward three: Andres Iniesta (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) & Mesut Ozil (Germany)
We reluctantly overlooked Mario Balotelli here, deciding that two semi-final goals – including the best smash finish of the tournament – were just not enough to overshadow a quiet final and that miss against Spain in the group stages. Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the best centre-forward on show but this was not a tournament for centre-forwards. Instead we’re going with Cristiano Ronaldo, flanked by Mesut Ozil and Andres Iniesta.
Ronaldo was on course for his Maradona moment before that ship ran aground in the semi-finals. His performance against the (admittedly dire) Dutch was the best individual display of the tournament and he carried that form into the knock-out stages. Ozil was tirelessly creative for the Germans and was not guilty by association to his underperforming teammates in the semi-final, while Iniesta... well, was Iniesta. Scorer of the World Cup winning goal two years ago, his influence might not have been as obvious this time around but Spain without Andresito would be like a Christmas dinner-table without crackers and cranberry sauce.
Honourable mentions: Mario Balotelli (Italy), Alan Dzagoev (Russia) & Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)