With Italy knocking England out on penalties on Sunday, the Quarter Finals of Euro 2012 ended and we knew our final four teams: Portugal, Spain, Germany and Italy. Few will argue that these four have proven to be worthy of the Semis, but spare a thought for the teams already sent home. Several of them managed to surprise many on the world stage with their performances and deserve to be represented on this inaugural blog post – my team of the tournament so far.
GK – Iker Casillas (Spain)
Very few goalkeepers have stood out so far this tournament, with the exception of Iker Casillas. Despite being 31, he is the most capped player in Spain’s history and continues to remain as one of the best goalkeepers in the world. Arguably, his job is simple, what with Spain holding possession so well. Yet when he is called upon, he very rarely disappoints his teammates. His performance against Croatia in particular kept Spain in the game, saving from Rakitic and Srna. Not spectacular, but Spain would be a far worse team without this man.
RB – Theodor Gebre Selassie (Czech Republic)
A relative unknown when entering the tournament, having played his football entirely in the Czech Republic, the 25-year old’s displays in the Euros have earned him a move to Bundesliga’s Werder Bremen. Despite his team losing their first game 4-1 to Russia, the RB went on to make amends with his display against Greece. His constant running from right back caused all sorts of problems in the Greek defence, and the ball for Pilar’s goal proved to be too much to handle for Greece. Czech Republic may have gone out to Portugal in the Quarter Finals, but very few will be able to find fault in Gebre Selassie over their four games.
CB – Mats Hummels (Germany)
A regular for Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund, Hummels continues to punish German legends Bayern Munich who sold him three years ago having only played one game. Hummels is as comfortable on the ball as most midfielders, with the most successful passes of any centre back in the competition. He has also attempted 12 long passes, and completed 10 of them. Off the ball, his positioning and heading ability helped Germany to keep a clean sheet against a Portugal team with Ronaldo, Nani and Postiga. Germany may have conceded four goals in the tournament so far, but none of them can be attributed to Hummels performance.
RB – Mathieu Debuchy (France)
France had a poor tournament overall. They looked weak in the draw with England, lost 2-0 to a Swedish team playing for pride alone, and went out to Spain with little fight. Debuchy then, is perhaps the only positive to come out of their tournament. The left-back, from Lille, has spent the entire season linking up with Eden Hazard down the wing, and it showed massively against England, with some smart passing and running. Defensively, he was part of a weak back four for France, but there was enough on show over the tournament to get some major clubs interested.
LB – Jordi Alba (Spain)
The 23-year old from Barcelona (now playing at Valencia) began his footballing career at left midfield, but was eventually tried and tested at left back. Since then, within eight caps, he has become Spain’s first choice left back, replacing long time favourite Capdevila. He has played in every minute of Spain’s campaign so far, and provided the assist for Xabi Alonso’s first goal against France. In a defence with the likes of Pique and Sergio Ramos, he has massively impressed for Spain.
CM – Andrea Pirlo (Italy)
Before the tournament began, nobody gave Italy a chance. They were in the middle of another match fixing scandal, and lacked major star power. In a group with Spain, Croatia and Ireland, few gave them a chance. Many even suggested that Ireland could qualify ahead of them. Pirlo has shown, as he always does, that you can never doubt Italy’s class. The long haired playmaker’s range of passes and comfort on the ball allow him to control a game like few others. This has been evident in every game at Euro 2012, but in particular, for the masterclass he provided against England. No England player could touch him, as he made perfect pass after perfect pass, with a super-cool chipped penalty helping bring Italy back in the penalty shoot-out. Elsewhere, two assists and a goal of his own from a fantastic free kick against Croatia have made him a massive candidate for overall Player of the Tournament.
CM – Sami Khedira (Germany)
There’s very little that’s glamorous about players like Khedira, but they can be the most essential part of any team. A defensive midfielder that covers a lot of ground during a match, his part in Real Madrid’s Liga BBVA winning side has led to him becoming a regular for Germany as well. Khedira can always be relied on to work hard for the team, with good attacking and defending capabilities. His volleyed goal against Greece highlighted him as one of the best players in the tournament, and at the age of 25, he looks set to be a massive part of Germany’s future.
CM – Steven Gerrard (England)
A lot has been said about England’s performance at the Euros. Roy Hodgson’s appointment to the manager job was made a mere month before the tournament started, and key striker Wayne Rooney was forced to miss the first two group games due to suspension. England needed someone to step up and lead the team on pride and confidence along, and Steven Gerrard stepped up superbly. Playing in his preferred centre midfield role, he assisted a goal in every match of the group stages, his cross to Lescott against France a particular highlight. He never managed a goal in the tournament, and his team’s performance against Italy left a lot to be desired, but Gerrard made a huge case for him being more vital to the team than Rooney.
RW – Alan Dzagoev (Russia)
Russia managed to take many by surprise, with their demolition of the Czech Republic on the first day of the tournament. Dzagoev put in a man of the match performance, scoring 2 goals and being a continuous threat to the Czechs. Against Poland, he added a third goal to his tally, putting him as current joint Top Goalscorer, with Cristiano Ronaldo and two other members of this team. He has become a key player for CSKA Moscow, and the only problem with his tournament was that he couldn’t continue on to the Quarters. If he had, we might well have been able to crown Player of the Tournament early.
ST – Mario Mandzukic (Croatia)
In the build-up to Euro 2012, many people were focusing on Jelavic as Croatia’s main goal threat, after his performances for Everton in the Premier League. Mario Mandzukic instead stole the spotlight in the first game against Ireland, with two goals in a 3-1 victory. Another goal came against Italy in a 1-1 draw, and it looked like Mandzukic may have almost single-handedly put Croatia in the Quarter Finals. Sadly, a narrow loss to Spain put Italy through instead, though Croatia will have taken heart from the way they played. Mandzukic’s constant goal threat attracted many admirers, with constant rumours about problems with his contract with Wolfsburg in Germany. Expect to see transfer rumours flying around.
ST – Mario Gomez (Germany)
For some reason, particularly when playing for his national team, Mario Gomez has always attracted critics. In particular, his work ethic is often criticized heavily. Whatever he lacks, he certainly makes up for it with goals. After two games, he had been on the ball for a total of 22 seconds, but had scored three goals. He scored 50 goals in a calendar year in 2011, and is lethal with both feet and his head. While he may not come close to topping the assist charts, he will almost certainly be contesting for top goalscorer, whether or not Germany make it to the final.
The Subs Bench
Cristiano Ronaldo (POR); Khron-Dehli (DEN); Joleon Lescott (ENG); Daniel Agger (DEN); Zlatan Ibrahimovic (SWE); Joao Moutinho (POR); Andres Iniesta (ESP)
Agree? Disagree? Leave a comment below or tweet me – @colemansa.