As a fabulous Euro 2012 comes to an end tonight MM compiles our team of the tournament.
What do you think of our selections? Who would be in yours? Would you ‘do a Spain’ and not play a striker at all? Join the debate and post your comments and XI’s below.
Gianluigi Buffon – Italy
The unanimous choice. Still imperious even at the grand old age of 34, Buffon remains an inspiring leader to his team and is the sturdiest of sturdy last lines of defence. Despite a few errors he still has the happy knack of keeping clean sheets and has been key in Italy’s against-the-odds run to the final. Had a record-breaking season as part of Juventus’ unbeaten title-winning team and could cap it by lifting the European Championship crown on Sunday evening.
SAFE HANDS: Can Gianluigi lead his team to a European Champions after his World Cup win?
Mathieu Debuchy – France
The 26-year-old Lille man had a terrific tournament in an ultimately poor French campaign. Showed bucket loads of energy in the tight England draw at the beginning of the group stage and was a key performer in guaranteeing his side’s place in the knockout stages. Was played out of position by Laurent Blanc against Spain in the quarter final but wasn’t the only Frenchman who failed to turn up that night. That blemish aside a solid tournament which could him secure a move to the Premier League next season with Newcastle and Chelsea circling.
Mats Hummels – Germany
The Borussia Dortmund man had a fine tournament before being found out in the semi final by Super Mario (see later) but all in all a promising effort for someone so young. Looks unflappable and very calm in the pressure of tournament football and must surely be the man to lead the German defence for years to come. He formed an excellent partnership with Holger Badstuber during the campaign which seemed sure to end in glory before coming to an abrupt halt against Italy.
Pepe – Portugal
Say what you like about his temperament and his penchant for play acting but the Real Madrid man had a fine tournament for the over-achieving Portuguese. The centre-half was immense in all five of the games (including a goal against Denmark) running up to the Semi Finals. His side’s route to all the way to the final was only stopped when Bruno Alves’ penalty hit the woodwork. Strong, composed, great in the air and a natural leader Pepe had a tournament he and his team mates can be proud of.
NATURAL LEADER: Pepe stayed strong and kept his back four in line
Jordi Alba – Spain
The Valencia left back is the only Spanish player in the XI. While Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Fernando Torres had isolated moments of brilliance the 23-year-old defender was the most consistent performer throughout the tournament. So much so he has earned a post-tournament transfer to the Nou Camp and Barcelona. Known for his attacking credibility he has come up trumps in the defensive stakes and has been a key contributor to his countries four clean sheets out of five in Poland and Ukraine.
Steven Gerrard – England
The Liverpool and England captain had a terrific tournament and was central to the Three Lions’ run to the quarter finals. He provided assists for Joleon Lescott, Andy Carroll and Wayne Rooney’s goals and was England’s go to guy when we needed to make something happen. He worked tirelessly when his side (all too often) lost the ball and was a leader of men both on and off the pitch. Despatched the first penalty in the ultimately fruitless shootout and was head and shoulders England’s best player in all four matches.
SHINING STAR: Gerrard led the Lions to an unexpected quarter-final spot
Andrea Pirlo – Italy
From a man who was head and shoulders above his own team to a player who has been head and shoulders above everyone else. The peerless Pirlo has been the standout player of the tournament and has been Italy’s talisman in their run all the way to the final. The Juventus man seems so comfortable on the ball and more often than not finds the freedom of the midfield to inflict maximum damage on his opponents. At 33 years of age he still pulls the strings while playing his slippers and his ‘Panenka’ penalty against England will be the moment this tournament is remembered for.
Joao Moutinho – Portugal
The Porto central midfielder has been a revelation in Poland and Ukraine. Always known for his precise distribution and classy passing this year the Porto man has added guile and tenacity to his game. His willingness to put his foot in was the perfect fit in the Portuguese midfield and his tireless hard work allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to have his best ever major tournament. Unsung for much of the tournament Moutinho truly was one of the best players on show.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal
His penalty gaffe aside Ronaldo had a terrific tournament. Almost literally put a nation on his shoulders and carried them all the way to the semi finals. His performance against the Dutch in the group stage sent one of the pre-tournament favourites home and secured his side’s place in the knockout rounds. A winning goal in the quarter final against the Czechs capped another fine display but he couldn’t quite produce similar heroics against Spain and was embarrassingly left to watch as Fabregas’ pen sent the Portuguese home.
UNSTOPPABLE: CR7 shined in Euro 2012 despite his penalty mix up
Mario Balotelli – Italy
Why always him? Well on one night in Kiev it was because of his footballing ability – a supreme display of finishing saw Mario fire the Italians into the final at the expense of the much-vaunted Germans. He seems to be the classic Jekyll and Hyde character but Euro 2012 has been graced by the best of him which could yet see him lift the Golden Boot and European Championship itself. Whether it’s a coming of age or merely another act in the circus remains to be seen but credit where credits due – Balotelli has been brilliant.
WHY ALWAYS HIM: Who knows?
Mario Gomez – Germany
Out of sorts in the semi final loss to the Italians Gomez was still one of the best goal-getters on show in Poland and Ukraine. It was not a vintage tournament for number 9s i.e. Spain’s lack of one at all, but his two finishes against the Netherlands were classic poacher’s goals and he could still claim the Golden Boot despite going out in the semi finals and being rested in the quarters.