2 July 2012

UEFA Euro 2012 Team of the Tournament

My Euro 2012 Player of the Tournament is, er, Alan Rickman.
As UEFA Euro 2012 comes to an end, The Daily Transfer Request starts up with a look at the best players of this summer's European Championship.

TDTR has picked its team of the tournament, together with explanations, as well as dishing out a few other awards.

Casillas struggled in the first game against Italy, whose keeper Gianluigi Buffon could easily have been in this XI. But normal service soon resumed for the Real Madrid shotstopper, who made a number of great saves on his way to five clean sheets in a row. The Spain skipper has not conceded a goal in knockout international football for six years, and will be rightly regarded as the best goalkeeper of his generation.

Alba was the left-back-shaped final piece in the Spain jigsaw, and he showed why Barcelona are spending £11million on him. At just 23 years old, he came here as an international rookie, but his consistently brilliant performance belied his lack of experience. The energetic full-back was solid in defence and powerful on the attack, with the second goal in the Final being his crowning glory.

Hummels came into this tournament with a growing reputation at Borussia Dortmund but with relatively little international experience. Joachim Low's gamble on the 24-year-old paid off - his centre-back partnership with fellow youngster Holger Badstuber was solid, and Hummels made a number of crucial well-timed tackles. The Semi Final against Italy wasn't exactly a career highlight, but he was otherwise outstanding.

Pepe can be a very aggressive player, particularly when playing for Real Madrid, but he was once again the bedrock of Portugal's surprisingly sturdy defence. He got their campaign up and running with a goal against Denmark, and that was the start of an excellent tournament for him. Against Spain, he marshaled the back-line with aplomb, and after shutting the opposition out for 120 minutes was unlucky to lose a shoot-out in which he scored.

RIGHT-BACK: Theodor Gebre Selassie (CZECH REPUBLIC)
There were a number of full-backs that impressed at the Euros, but this previously little-known Czech stood out - and not just because of his ethnicity. Gebre Selassie showed he had the pace and stamina of Haile to get forward and create plenty of attacking chances for his team-mates. Perhaps an ambitious team from one of Europe's top four leagues should take a punt on the Sloven Liberec defender.

LEFT-WINGER: Cristiano Ronaldo (PORTUGAL)
We've waited so long for the Real Madrid man to stand up on the international stage - and he did this summer. Two woeful performances versus Germany and Denmark were followed up by a display of individual brilliance against Holland, scoring twice to get the Portuguese into the last eight. Ronaldo was by far the best player on the field against the Czechs, and with his silky skills, he showed why he can turn an average team into a very good one.

Despite the outcome of the Final, if one player had a stranglehold on this tournament, it would be Juventus's Andrea Pirlo. In the Quarter Final against England, Pirlo put on a display of passing that only Xavi can come close to, and he was instrumental in the Semi versus Germany. Other highlights from the undisputed player of the tournament were the free-kick he scored against Croatia, and of course, that 'Panenka' penalty over Joe Hart.

England's Steven Gerrard would have been in my XI had Iniesta not been so consistently excellent throughout Euro 2012. The Barcelona ace played arguably the best football of his career, as he oiled the Spanish tiki-taka machine and hit more than his fair share of defence-splitting passes. The diminutive midfielder, who scored Spain's 2010 FIFA World Cup-winning goal, played an even more significant role in this year's dream team.

The exciting young winger replicated his early Manchester City form in Spain's 4-0 demolitions of the Republic of Ireland and Italy. His pace left opposing defenders for dust, and with two well-crafted goals, he showed why the Spaniards don't really need a centre-forward from the onset. The Semi Final against Portugal was not his finest hours, but there are signs that Silva could become a massive football superstar in the next few years.

Bayern Munich's prolific striker Gomez used to wilt in big international tournaments, but this year was different. He bagged all three of Germany's goals in their opening two group games, and could surely have scored more - particularly if he played for more than ten minutes against Greece's shoddy defence. Now aged 26, he may well be hitting his peak form at the 2014 FIFA World Cup, where the Mannschaft will be heavily fancied.

FORWARD: Mario Balotelli (ITALY)
For the most part, it was Super Mario rather than Bonkers Balotelli that came to the European Championship party. Things started poorly for Manchester City's enigmatic striker, but after his stunning overhead goal against Ireland, things clicked into gear for him. He went two better in the Semi Final as he knocked out Germany with a stunning brace, but sadly for the Marmite man, he couldn't quite win the Henri Delaunay Trophy or the Golden Boot.

WORST TEAM: Republic of Ireland
BEST GOAL: Andrea Pirlo (ITALY vs Croatia)
BEST MATCH: Portugal 3-2 Denmark

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