Reflecting on the Euros: Team of the Tournament

So that’s it for this summer’s football entertainment. Once again, the streamers were red and yellow. Those who dared to question tiki-taka were well and truly silenced. All is as it should be. A month of tedious transfer gossip is just around the corner.

By the way, here’s my team of the tournament (playing a trendy 4-2-3-1 formation):

GK: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)- It’s not enough just to stand in between the goalposts, popcorn at the ready, and watch your defenders effortlessly repel opposition forwards. That’s why Iker Casillas didn’t get my pick. Buffon was consistently impressive throughout Italy’s ultimately unsuccessful run, saving Ashley Cole’s penalty in the quarterfinal shootout and making several important stops against Germany. Spain’s four goals weren’t his fault.

LB: Jordi Alba (Spain)- Arguably the best defender at Euro 2012. Alba is a distinctively modern fullback, fit enough to play a significant role in both penalty areas. In the final, he took his goal with the poise of a natural finisher, and the run that preceded it showcased his speed and timing. With Alba rampaging up the left flank, Barcelona should be better than ever next season.

CB: Bruno Alves (Portugal)- Portugal’s back four was the most underrated aspect of any team at Euro 2012. Alves’ partnership with Pepe could have been problematic – both players are temperamental – but instead it proved a managerial masterstroke, one more reason why Paulo Bento was right to exclude the rebellious Ricardo Carvahlio from the squad.

CB: Jolean Lescott (England)- Lescott epitomizes the one thing England did well at Euro 2012: defend. Drafted into the starting line-up after Gary Cahill was injured in the final warm-up game, Lescott established a decent partnership with John Terry and even scored a goal in England’s opener against France.

RB: Theodore Gebre Selassie (Czech Republic)- Gebre Selassie, the first black player to represent the Czech Republic, was one of Euro 2012’s surprise packages. His incisive running and accomplished defending caught the eye as early as the Czech Republic’s first game, a 4-1 loss to Russia that yielded few other positives for Czech fans. GebreSelassie should be a hit at Werder Bremen next season.

CM: Andrea Pirlo (Italy)- I can’t say much about this man that hasn’t already been said. Pirlo is the blue-eyed boy of European football at the moment, a virtuoso whose range of passing tore Germany and England to shreds. His “Panenka” penalty epitomized the calm, as well as the sheer ballsiness, with which he handled all of Italy’s games. He was also the only player at Euro 2012 to score directly from a free kick. Grazie, Andrea. .

CM: Xabi Alonso (Spain)- Alonso is the only member of Spain’s midfield who doesn’t play for Barcelona, the team upon which the national side is supposedly modeled. His range of passing is on a par with Pirlo’s, as is his ability to read the game from deep in midfield. Alonso scored twice in Spain’s quarterfinal victory over a demoralized France and, despite missing a penalty in the shootout against Portugal, he outshone Xavi and Busquets throughout the competition.

AM: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)- This was the tournament at which Ronaldo finally asserted himself. After missing a raft of chances against Denmark, he lifted his game to its normal goal scoring, fist pumping level, registering two goals against Holland in Portugal’s final group game, and the winner against the Czech Republic in a tense quarterfinal. He will probably pip Lionel Messi for this year’s Ballon D’or, which, depending on your club loyalties, will either delight or sicken you.

AM: Andres Iniesta (Spain)- UEFA’s official player of the tournament, Iniesta didn’t score a goal himself, but his clever attacking play, coupled with Xavi’s metronomic passing, was responsible for much of Spain’s creation.

AM: Mesut Ozil (Germany)- Ozil put on another impressive display, proving that World Cup 2010 was no aberration. His unselfish movement and lethal passing generate more chances than his statistics give him credit for: often, Ozil provides the undervalued secondary assist, the pass that sets up the guy who ultimately sets up the goal. Ozil should walk away satisfied from Euro 2012, even if Germany’s campaign did end in Balotelli-induced tears.

F: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)- Critics claim that Zlatan Ibrahimovich isn’t a big-game-player, that he doesn’t show up when the matches really count. Well, at Euro 2012, Zlatan offered a pretty definitive reply. His two goals – one the goal of the tournament, the other a fine striker’s effort – represent an impressive tournament’s work, not only because scoring two goals at an international tournament is more difficult than many people think, but also because he scored those two goals for Sweden, who finished bottom of Group D and, frankly, were bad enough to lose to England.

Andrea Pirlo wins the In For The Hat Trick Player of the Tournament award

Andres Iniesta is the runner-up for the In For The Hat Trick Player of the Tournament award

Honorable Mentions: Ludovic Obraniak (Poland), Andriy Yarmolenko (Ukraine), Mats Hummels (Germany), Phillip Lahm (Germany), Manuel Neuer (Germany), Alan Dzagoev (Russia), Andrey Arshavin (Russia), Daniele De Rossi (Italy), Mario Balotelli (Italy), Antonio Cassano (Italy), Giorgos Karagounis (Greece), Dimitris Salpingidis (Greece), Steven Gerrard (England), John Terry (England), Nicklas Bendtner (Denmark), Michael Krohn-Dehli (Denmark), Sergio Ramos (Spain), Xavi Hernandez (Spain), Iker Casillas (Spain), Mario Mandzukic  (Croatia), Luka Modric (Croatia), Vaclav Pilar (Czech Republic), Petr Jiracek (Czech Republic), Joao Moutinho (Portugal), Pepe (Portgual)

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