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Round two of the group stages: Five of the best

We all waited with anticipation and then finally Euro 2012 was upon us, and what a tournament we've had so far, with goals and excitement galore.

The first round of games was a chance for us to assess each team's merits, but the second games are when the tournament really starts to gather pace.

Total Football’s George Milburn reviews five of the best following the second round of group games at Euro 2012.

Best team

Spain v Republic of Ireland

Spain reminded the world why they are the outstanding team of this generation against the Republic of Ireland in Gdansk with an emphatic 4-0 win.

Outpassed and outclassed for the entire 90 minutes, the Irish succumbed to their heaviest defeat under Giovanni Trapattoni and their biggest at a major tournament, as they became the first team to be eliminated from Euro 2012.

A brace from Fernando Torres and goals from David Silva and substitute Cesc Fabregas saw Spain power into top spot in Group C on goal difference.

Best player

Bastian Schweinsteiger: Germany v Netherlands

Question marks were raised over the morale of the eight Bayern Munich players included in Germany’s Euro 2012 squad following their Champions League final defeat to Chelsea in May.

Any of those pre-tournament concerns have since been dashed following two wins in two matches.

Bastian Schweinsteiger, who missed the vital fifth penalty against Chelsea in Munich, was in sensational form against Holland in Kharkiv.

He may not wear the captain's armband but his experience and calming influence in a young side with relatively little major tournament experience is invaluable.

Schweinsteiger racked up a 93 per cent successful passing ratio from 69 attempts, with 16/18 passes completed in the attacking third of the pitch.

The Germans have scored three goals so far in this tournament and it is no coincidence that Schweinsteiger has been instrumental in all three.

Mario Gomez rightly took the plaudits after scoring both goals against the Dutch but it is Schweinsteiger's ability to set the tempo that could help Germany claim its first major tournament success for 16 years.

Best goal

Jakub Blaszczykowski: Poland v Russia

The night after Andriy Shevchenko sent Ukraine into raptures with a brace against Sweden, fellow co-hosts Poland found their own hero in the shape of Borussia Dortmund midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski.

With the Poles 1-0 down to bitter rivals Russia, captain Blaszczykowski cut in from the right to arrowed a thunderous left-footed shot past Russian goalkeeper Vyacheslav Malafeev.

Blaszczykowski's piledriver earned Poland a deserved point, strengthening their push for a place in the quarter-finals and will surely be remembered as one of the tournaments’s enduring moments.

Best pass

Steven Gerrard: England v Sweden

With 23 minutes played in Kiev, England captain Steven Gerrard opened his right foot and orchestrated a sensational dipping cross from deep onto the forehead of Liverpool team-mate Andy Carroll.

Carroll sent a bullet header past Andreas Isaksson with a swish of his ponytail.

Carroll deserved credit for jumping with venomous intent to head home but Gerrard’s inch perfect delivery was a peach.

Best save

Shay Given: Republic of Ireland v Spain

Shay Given may have been at fault for two of Croatia’s goals in Poznan but against the Spanish, the Aston Villa goalkeeper produced a stunning one handed save to deny Spanish playmaker Xavi from 12 yards ten minutes into the second half.

It is an early contender for save of the tournament.

Croatian goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa’s stunning double save to thwart Italy’s Claudio Marchisio in Poznan and Andreas Isaksson’s point blank stop to deny John Terry in Kiev are in second and third places respectively.

By George Milburn - Follow me on Twitter @gwmilburn


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