The stars that shone brightest at Euro 2012
AFTER 23 days, 76 goals, approximately 15 million Spanish passes and, thankfully, only one Jim Beglin, Euro 2012 reached its conclusion last night with Spain’s crushing victory over Italy in Kiev.
We all rather lost our enthusiasm after England’s quarter-final exit, and that came as some surprise to me as I didn’t realise I had any in the first place.
But we have seen some new stars shine, and some established names show their worth – so here’s my team of the tournament.
Goalkeeper – Gianluigi Buffon Implicated in match fixing scandal before the tournament, the experienced keeper hasn’t let that affect his focus one iota. Brilliant against England and still a class act.
Right-back – Theodor Gebre Selassie Had hardly heard of him before the tournament but his rampaging runs down the right flank for the Czechs made him the most watchable player in the group stages.
Centre-back – Pepe Looks a different player for Portugal than the cynical one who lined-up for Real Madrid. Strong, dominant and consistent throughout.
Centre-back Sergio Ramos While Spain have stuttered en route to the final, Ramos has at times looked one of their chief attacking threats while remaining strong at the back.
Left-back Phillip Lahm Another example of experience coming to the fore. Lahm is just so reliable. So composed in possession - just edges out Ashley Cole.
Right midfield – Andres Iniesta Shoved over to the right in my line-up, largely because he hasn’t been at his absolute imperious best. His near-best is still better than anyone else.
Centre midfield – Riccardo Montolivio Available on a free earlier this summer, but his performances for Itlay have shown that AC Milan have picked up a real bargain. Great partnership with Pirlo.
Centre midfield – Andrea Pirlo Produced a master class against England and Germany, rolling back the years with his quietly efficient distribution in the middle for the Italians.
Left midfield – Jesus Navas By far the most effective Spanish player, and his substitute appearances have often opened up games for his country.
Striker – Cristiano Ronaldo Looked like it would be his tournament until he plumped for fifth penalty in the shootout and was denied him moment. Showed such genius at times.
Striker – Mario Balotelli Unstoppable against Germany, revelling in a central role he rarely plays for Manchester City. Now we know why it’s always him.
Subs: Manuel Neuer, Matthieu Debuchy, John Terry, Steven Gerrard, Joao Moutinho, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Mario Gomez.