ZM’s team of Euro 2012

July 4, 2012

ZM’s team of Euro 2012…

First XI

Iker Casillas, Spain

This wasn’t a tournament of particularly fine individual goalkeeping displays, but the best two goalkeepers of the tournament – and of the century – met as captains in the final. Until the, there was nothing to separate Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon, but after Casillas made a fine save from Di Natale and prompted Spain’s second goal with a good ball out to Alba, he must get the nod.

Joao Pereira, Portugal

The position of right-back had plenty of good performers, but for the second tournament running, Portugal’s defence was extremely impressive. Pereira was a key part of that – he tackled tenaciously and attacked purposefully down the flank. Portugal conceded four goals in the competition, and none originated from Pereira’s wing.

Pepe, Portugal

The Brazilian-born centre-back isn’t the most popular defender around, but he’s one of the best. He combines aerial ability and sheer power with great mobility on the ground, and is also a threat in the opposition box. Excellent throughout this tournament.

Sergio Ramos, Spain

The second part of an all-Real Madrid centre-back duo. Ramos might not have started at centre-back if Carles Puyol hadbeen ¬†fit, but he actually became Spain’s dominant defender. A mistake against Mario Balotelli in Spain’s opening game made him look vulnerable when drawn out to the flanks, but from then on he was flawless – and converted the second Panenka of the tournament in the shoot-out against Portugal.

Jordi Alba, Spain

Alba’s attacking ability shouldn’t have come as a surprise – he’s been pushing forward superbly for Valencia over the past couple of years, and was widely known to be joining Barcelona for 2012/13. But Alba’s defending was also excellent, with his pace compensating for his high positioning. His run and finish in the final was sublime, and showed the directness he brings to the Spanish side.

Sami Khedira, Germany

Simply a great all-round midfielder – a physical presence, a combative tackler and someone who can cover a huge area of ground in midfield, allowing others to attack without fear. He clearly outperformed Bastian Schweinsteiger, and his thumping volley against Greece underlined his attacking contribution, too.

Andrea Pirlo, Italy

Put simply, Pirlo was responsible for almost everything good that Italy did. In the opening game against Spain, he set up Antonio Di Natale’s strike. Against Croatia, he put Italy ahead with a fine free-kick. In the nervy final group game against Ireland, he provided the corner for Antonio Cassano’s opener. Against England he ran the game and provided some brilliant passes, then against Germany he also orchestrated the game from the centre and spread the play wide for Italy’s first goal. In the final he was overrun, but he was the competition’s most consistent performer and remains the most important player of his generation.

Joao Moutinho, Portugal

Two years ago Moutinho’s career seemed to have stalled. He had an underwhelming period at Sporting as captain, and was omitted from Portugal’s World Cup squad. After highly controversial move to Porto, Andre Villas-Boas made him a consistent, focused, reliable player – and he took that form to the national side here. He spread the play calmly and effectively, provided bursts forward when necessary (notably against the Czech Republic for Cristiano Ronaldo’s winner) and performed impressively against the Spanish midfield.

Petr Jiracek, Czech Republic

With more established names dominating the knockout rounds, Jiracek’s form has been forgotten. Hestarted in central midfield against Russia, but when he moved forward to the right to offer more attacking threat, the Czechs improved immediately. He burst down the right against Greece excellently, then grabbed the winner against Poland after a diagonal run across the pitch. He had minimal impact, along with the rest of his side, against Portugal – but overall he was excellent, and arguably improved his reputation more than any other player at the tournament.

Cesc Fabregas, Spain

In a tournament lacking a superstar number nine, Fabregas is surprisingly the best choice for the centre-forward role. Vicente del Bosque spent much of the tournament wondering what to do upfront, but Fabregas never let his side down. He played well as a false nine against Italy despite the fact Spain hadn’t trained with that system, scoring a fine goal in an otherwise disappointing Spanish performance. He thumped in another against Ireland, returned to the side well against France and then continually made runs in behind the defence against Italy in the final, giving Spain variety in their attacks.

Andres Iniesta, Spain

Up there with Zinedine Zidane as a tournament player. From the first game against Italy, when he drove through the crowds brilliantly with little support, he seemed in the mood. He continued to turn in excellent displays and combined well with Alba down the left throughout the tournament. Along with Pirlo, he was the star of the tournament.

Second XI

Subs:

Gianluigi Buffon, Italy

A legendary goalkeeper and an inspirational leader.

Theo Gebre-Selassie, Czech Republic

Tremendous energy to overlap Jiracek throughout the group stage. Only outclassed by Cristiano Ronaldo, when he could have been braver and made a mistake for the goal.

Mats Hummels, Germany

Superb for four games, dodgy in the first half against Italy. OK, i’ts only one bad half, but consistency is vital for a player in his position. Still Europe’s best centre-back of that age.

Daniel Agger, Denmark

It was amusing to see Denmark’s win over Holland compared to Chelsea’s victory over Barcelona. It wasn’t anything remotely similar – Denmark’s shape was quite poor, Agger just played a blinder, and played equally well against Germany.

Fabio Coentrao, Portugal

Brilliant going forward, but he was often exposed by Ronaldo’s lack of defensive work, and all four of Portugal’s goals conceded came from that side.

Daniele de Rossi, Italy

Centre-back, holding midfielder, box-to-box midfielder – whatever you want, de Rossi does it well.

Xavi Hernandez, Spain

Xabi Alonso was better until the final, when Xavi raised his game, pressured Pirlo out of the match and assisted two goals.

Alan Dzagoev, Russia

The chief instigator of Russia’s brilliant counter-attacking football against the Czech Republic in Russia’s opening game, and a goalscoring threat too.

Mesut Ozil, Germany

Tremendous movement and intelligence, his drifts to the flanks inspired Germany’s win over Holland.

Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal

Quiet versus Germany, very poor versus Denmark, excellent against Holland, good against the Czechs, disappointing with his end product against Spain.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden

Played well in all three group matches, and his volley against France was sublimet.

Other impressive performers:

Manuel Neuer, Glen Johnson, Mathieu Debuchy, Gerard Pique, Leonardo Bonucci, Tomas Sivok, Andrea Barzagli, Sergio Busquets, Claudio Marchisio, Xabi Alonso, Steven Gerrard, Riccardo Montolivo, Danny Welbeck

Good but handicapped by not making it out of the group:

Stipe Pletikosa, Vasilis Torosidis, Lukasz Piszczek, Luka Modric, Nicklas Bendtner, Mario Mandzukic, Andrei Arshavin, Michael Krohn-Dehli.

Good, but primarily in one game:

Wesley Sneijder, Mario Gomez, Mario Balotelli.

ZM is now taking a summer break, to work on other projects during the off-season before returning (probably) for the Olympic football final. Thanks for visiting over Euro 2012!


ZM’s team of Euro 2012

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