Top 5 players of Euro 2012
Last night, Spain thumped Italy to win their second consecutive European Championships. Here's Total Football's best five players of Euro 2012.
5 - Sami Khedira
Germany came into Euro 2012 as many people’s favourites to lift the trophy and end a 16 year wait for a major trophy.
Their mix of guile and pace was cited as a main reason why they could deny Spain a third consecutive major trophy, but in the end, it was an unsung hero who ensured they got to the semi-finals.
Mario Gomez’s two sublime finishes against the Netherlands were top class, but he – and his other strike partners – were disappointing for the rest of the tournament. As a result, much depended on Bayern Munich’s Bastian Schweinsteiger but it was Khedira who controlled most games.
In the games against Denmark and Greece, Khedira contributed so much to Germany’s attacking threat. An outstanding goal against Greece put Germany back in front in their quarter-final and although Germany were poor against Italy, Khedira’s dynamism ensured that the Germans still threatened.
4 - Sergio Busquets
Histrionics, playacting and diving come to mind when one thinks about Spain’s holding midfielder.
However, at Euro 2012, he was one of their best players. In a 4-3-3 (4-6-0) formation, the Spanish midfield more often than not controlled possession, but when they did lose the ball, it was Sergio Busquets who was on hand to win it back.
While players like Andres Iniesta, Xavi and David Silva provided the flair, it was the under-rated Busquets who kept things ticking over.
Always available for a pass, always in space when teammates were in trouble, Busquets operated as a spare defender at times, mopping up loose balls whenever his country’s adventurous full backs were caught too far forward.
3 - Andres Iniesta
UEFA have today named Iniesta their player of the tournament, but I have him a little further back. Whether you believe me or UEFA is up to you but, outstanding as he has been, Iniesta never quite hit the heights he managed at the last World Cup.
In a team which essentially played with no strikers in the absence of David Villa, Iniesta could be forgiven for looking a little out of place in a slightly changed role.
However, with Xavi, Xabi Alonso and Busquets behind, one would have thought that Iniesta would stay forward more often.
Instead, he often got pulled back into midfield and, although his passing was sublime, he often contributed to slight overcrowding in midfield. His dribbling and direct running made him different from Spain’s other midfielders, and he still had a brilliant Euro 2012.
2 - Andrea Pirlo
Many pundits touted Pirlo (pictured) as their player of the tournament after a virtuoso display against England.
However, it was his performance in the group game against Spain which should arguably gain more recognition. Italy were a major threat to a below-par Spain that day, and it was Pirlo who made it possible.
Spain recognised his threat second time around and he was much less of a threat in the final.
A third game in a week was probably too much for the aging midfielder, but he can still be proud of a brilliant tournament.
Without Pirlo, Italy may have struggled to get out of a tough group with losses potentially replacing draws in their games against Croatia and Spain.
1 - Jordi Alba
Before the tournament, most people would have thought that Spain’s main weakness would be their full backs, with Alvaro Arbeloa and Jordi Alba relatively inexperienced.
Although Arbeloa wasn’t at his best, Alba was well above his.
His goal in the final basically summed up the tournament of Barcelona’s newest acquisition. Seeing Xavi on the ball, Alba sprinted from the half way line and found himself clean though on goal after a brilliant first touch, before a cool finish put the final out of Italy’s reach.
Alba’s ability to break ranks and provide width to an often overcrowded midfield was crucial whenever Spain needed extra penetration against resolute defences. Alba’s fine run and cross broke down France’s rearguard in the quarter-final too.
In defence, Alba was solid, happy to tackle and happy to cover whenever fellow defenders were pulled out of position.
By Doug Elder