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Welbeck eases Hodgson pressure

European Championship Sep 9, 2014
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Richard Jolly profile picture Posted by Richard Jolly
Jul 2, 2012

Team of the tournament

From one to 11, they should be Spaniards - that, at least, is the evidence of the final. View the tournament as a whole and there are plenty of contenders for places, particularly in the centre of midfield. So while it has mere five Spaniards, our team of Euro 2012 might be the sort of side Vicente del Bosque would pick, packed with passers at the expense of centre-forwards or wingers. Indeed, as a tribute to Spain our side has no strikers and plays in a 4-3-3-0 formation.

Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Spain)

Admittedly, Spain’s goalkeeper has been a spectator for large swathes of the last three weeks. But he also made arguably the tournament's outstanding save, to deny Croatia’s Ivan Rakitic, a crucial penalty block from Portugal’s Joao Moutinho in the semi-final shootout and several stops in the final. Along the way, ‘Saint Iker’ became the most successful captain in international football.

Right-back: Joao Pereira (Portugal)

Joao Pereira seemed to inherit the position of Portugal right-back by default rather than earning it through merit. With Jose Bosingwa falling out with coach Paulo Bento, and with Miguel in international retirement, Pereira, uncapped until he was 26, emerged as first choice. Now there can be little doubt that his status is deserved. Quick to join the attack, he has also banished suggestions that he might be fallible in defence.

Centre-back: Sergio Ramos (Spain)

Had Carles Puyol been fit, Sergio Ramos would probably have remained Spain’s right-back. Instead, he may have booked his place in the centre of defence for years to come. An authoritative figure, he helped extend Spain’s long record of not conceding in knockout football, strolled out of defence to unleash some ferocious long-range shots and was outstanding in the semi-final against Portugal. After Andrea Pirlo, he took the second most memorable penalty of the tournament.

Centre-back: Pepe (Portugal)

Those who thought they knew Pepe, think again. The uncompromising hatchet man has been one of the cleanest defenders in Euro 2012, committing only three fouls in five games. He has also been one of the best, combining superbly with Bruno Alves to keep a clean sheet against Spain and impress against Germany and Holland. A commanding figure.

Left-back: Jordi Alba (Spain)

Jordi Alba was Euro 2012’s finest left-back even before a final in which he picked an opportune moment to open his international account and may have been game’s outstanding player. Given Spain’s success in recent years, it would be an exaggeration to say left-back was their problem position. It certainly isn’t now. A rare Spanish starter who wasn’t at Real Madrid or Barcelona, Alba has now concluded a move to the Nou Camp and it is easy to see why he was snapped up. He has raided forward with such frequency and such effect that France tried selecting two right-backs to stop him. It still didn’t work.

Centre midfield: Sami Khedira (Germany)

It is Sami Khedira’s misfortune that he often appears overshadowed by his team-mates, whether Cristiano Ronaldo and co in Madrid or Bastian Schweinsteiger, Mesut Ozil and Mario Gomez for Germany. Yet the midfielder showed his many merits in an excellent personal tournament: he helped subdue Ronaldo against Portugal, sat back intelligently while Schweinsteiger advanced against Holland and broke brilliantly against Greece, scoring one of the goals of Euro 2012.

Centre midfield: Andrea Pirlo (Italy)

The surprise is that so many people were surprised. Man of the match in the 2006 World Cup final and Serie A’s outstanding player, Andrea Pirlo’s class has been advertised for years but has rarely been more apparent. His tournament began with a lovely assist (for Antonio di Natale against Spain), continued with a glorious goal (against Croatia) and even encompassed a goal-line clearance (against Germany), before reaching an anticlimactic end in the final. Along the way, he set a record by completing 117 passes against England and shook off a man-marker, Toni Kroos, with elegant ease.

Centre midfield: Joao Moutinho (Portugal)

In no other position was the competition for places greater. Steven Gerrard, Xavi, Daniele de Rossi and Claudio Marchisio all excelled, but this was the tournament when Joao Moutinho came of age as an international footballer. Part of Portugal’s excellent defensive structure, he also showed the running power to get forward and set up Cristiano Ronaldo’s winner against Czech Republic and was much the classiest passer in Portugal's midfield.

Left wing: Andres Iniesta (Spain)

There should be no shock that an Andres Iniesta pass led to David Silva’s opening goal in the final: a man with a track record of delivering on major occasions did so again. He proved Spain’s most incisive distributor and,together with Jordi Alba, formed a fine combination on the left flank. Iniesta has also prospered in a deeper role, particularly in extra time against Portugal, and, while this vote would go to Pirlo, is a contender for player of the tournament.

False nine: Mesut Ozil (Germany)

Admittedly, it isn’t where Mesut Ozil is played by club or country, but it might be where Spain would pick him and where he could flourish in this side. He was overshadowed by Pirlo in the semi-final defeat to Italy but, until then, was one of the players of Euro 2012. His performance against Greece ranks among the finest individual displays, an evening of elusive movement, permanent passing and constant creativity that highlighted his many attributes. In a fearsomely tough group, Ozil also prospered, dragging defenders all over the place and fashioning chances.

Right wing: David Silva (Spain)

Once, the criticism of David Silva was that he was all style and no substance. Yet no man was involved in more goals at Euro 2012. It was Silva’s delectable pass that led to Spain’s first goal of the competition, scored by Cesc Fabregas, and it was his rare header that opened the scoring in the final. Along the way, the right winger who is a stranger to the right flank chipped in with three assists. Ozil’s tendency to wander to the right should enable them to interchange in this team.

Substitutes: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy), Rui Patricio (Portugal), Federico Balzaretti (Italy), Leonardo Bonucci (Italy), Mats Hummels (Germany), Fabio Coentrao (Portugal), Daniele de Rossi (Italy), Steven Gerrard (England), Xavi (Spain), Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Antonio Cassano (Italy), Mario Balotelli (Italy).
 

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