My Team of Euro2012

Euro 2012 has been one of the better international tournaments in recent years

Goalkeeper- Gianluigi Buffon- The Italian has been in fantastic form and has produced a number of wonderful saves throughout the tournament. But the main reason I have chosen him as my number 1 is the fact that he has marshalled the defence in front of him superbly even though there have been a number of changes at the back for them.

Right Back- Joao Pereira- For me he did a very good job and was consistent in every game, although he didn’t stand out because of other players in the team, he did not let them down and was very good defensively with little support from Nani on the right hand side. He clearly has a very good footballing brain as he knew that when Coentrao went forward he had to stay back. He has possibly been the most underrated player in the tournament.

Left Back- Jordi Alba- The new Barcelona man wasn’t even a left back until recently but now he looks like he was born to play in that position. He was rarely beaten by a winger and stopped a lot of crosses coming in. But his main strength is going forward and his movement was sublime at times and he gave Spain a bit more width which they lack at times.  You have to be a special player if you add something to the World and European Champions.

Centre Back- Sergio Ramos- Another player that has changed position recently and has done very well there. The Real Madrid defender has carried on his club form for Spain and hasn’t given their opponents a sniff and that is why they have only conceded one goal this tournament. He still adds a threat going forward and he has shown when the pressure is on he remains calm with a wonderful penalty against Portugal.

Centre Back- Mats Hummels- He may not have been very well known outside of Germany but the 23 year old will have caught the eye of a lot of clubs during the tournament. He has everything a centre back should, he is quite quick, good positioning and his marking was on a whole superb.

Centre Midfield- Steven Gerrard- The England captain for me was their best player and seemed to be lifted by getting the armband for the tournament and he didn’t let anyone down. His free kicks were always dangerous and his defending was top class, he blocked a lot of shots and covered a lot of ground. If only England had got him into more attacking positions they may have gone further in the competition.

Centre Midfield- Andrea Pirlo- My player of the tournament by a long way. This has been competition, by himself basically he has dominated teams like England and Germany and even in the opening group game against Spain he looked like the best player on the pitch. His passing accuracy must be one of the best in the tournament but it’s not just his accuracy, it seems like very pass he makes has been well thought out and will create something.

Centre Midfield- Xabi Alonso- You have to have a Spain midfielder in your team and Alonso has been the best in the competition in my opinion. He is the most important to the team as he plays a very unique role, basically he sits alongside Busquets who gives him the ball at every opportunity and looks for a playmaker. Without him in the side I think a lot of their attacks would break down a lot earlier and is irreplaceable in the side.

Right Winger- Alan Dzagoev- Remember him from the group stages? Russia in their opening game and it was largely down to this man as he scored twice and ripped the Czech Republic defence to shreds. Then in the second game he scored against Poland with a header which just showed another attribute that he has. The most disappointing thing about Russia going out was that I couldn’t get to see more of him but he did enough to be in my team of the tournament.

Left Winger- Cristiano Ronaldo- Ronaldo started off the tournament pretty slowly and missed guilt edge chances against Denmark but after the Holland game, I’m sure a lot of people were asking whether this would be Ronaldo’s tournament and when he scored against Czech Republic it seemed even more likely however it wasn’t to be and his decision not to take a penalty against Spain cost the team.

Striker- Mario Balotelli- If he didn’t produce against Germany in the semi final he wouldn’t have got near this team however he did and could now win the Euros and the golden boot. He had been performing quite well, and causing problems for defenders but he wasn’t putting away his chances which meant he was criticised. However, the England defence couldn’t get to grips with him and the Germans had no answer to him.

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Players of the day- Petr Jiracek and Eugen Polanski

Czech Republic took on Greece in their second group game and had to avoid defeat if they wanted to stay in contention of qualifying for the knockout stages.

After the first 10 minutes it seemed as though it would be a stroll in the park as they raced into a two goal lead with goals from Petr Jiracek and Vaclav Pilar. They had numerous chances to extend their lead further but their final ball kept on letting them down and the Greeks were doing themselves no favours by defending terribly and looking all over the place at the back. Arsenal midfielder Tomas Rosicky was pulling the strings and when he went off at halftime, that is what changed the game in my opinion because they could not control the possession as well as they had done in the first half. Still, the Greeks didn’t look like scoring until a horrific error from Petr Cech allowed substitute Theofanis Gekas to score. Greece couldn’t get an equaliser and to be honest it never looked likely as they were just throwing balls into the box aimlessly. After seeing all the teams now, Greece are by far the worst in the competition but they do still have a chance of progressing if results go their way in the final game.

Man of the match- Petr Jiracek- The wide man stuck out for me in the game as he was constantly running away from defenders with the ball and his goal was a very good finish after a very clever run from him. No other players stuck out for the full 90 minutes, Tomas Rosicky was good while on the pitch, Vaclac Pilar looked good while on the ball, but he couldn’t get it as often as he would have liked and right back Theodor Gebre Selassie was a threat going forward but didn’t deal with Georgios Samaras that well when he was defending. Jiracek covered every blade of grass and created several chances for his teammates.

Jiracek currently plays for Wolfsburg

Co-hosts Poland have a massive rivalry with Russia and it is more to do with politics than the actual football and at times on the pitch it was a blood and thunder game with a lot of passion. Thankfully it didn’t spill over and it was a very exciting game. Alan Dzagoev who now looks favourite to be top scorer in the whole tournament opened the scoring with a header from a free kick and most neutrals must have thought that was curtains for Poland but they stuck in there and looked the better team in the second half and deserved their equaliser. The goal came from a very quick counter attack and it was finished off brilliantly by Jakub Blaszczykowski who unleashed a rocket of a shot with his left foot. Poland looked more likely to win the game in the end but a lack of quality let them down at teams, however this result will give them confidence going into their must win game against Czech Republic.

Man of the match- Eugen Polanski- This may seem like a strange choice as he didn’t stand out as much as other players but in my mind he was the most important player on the pitch as he broke up countless attacks from Russia and his tackling was near perfect. Plus nearly every pass he made, went forward and started his own teammates counter attacks and his own players recognised this and the Polish defenders after winning the ball gave him it as quickly as possible. It was a shame that he had to go off and he is irreplaceable in the Poland side so hopefully they can get him fit for the last game.

Polanski has 10 caps for Poland

Players of the day- Dimitris Salpigidis and Andrei Arshavin

Euro 2012 kicked off with two very entertaining games as co-hosts Poland drew against Greece and Russia destroyed Czech Republic.

The quality in the first game may not have been the greatest but there was certainly enough to suggest that this could be one of the best competitions in recent years. Poland took the lead through their main striker Robert Lewandowski after Kostas Chalkias’ couldn’t reach a superb cross from the right. Poland looked in control and they should have been comfortably in front and the home support must have thought it was game over when Sokratis Papastathopoulos was sent off for two very harsh bookings. But the second half didn’t quite go to plan with Dimitris Salpigidis scoring an equaliser after yet another error but this time from the Poland keeper, Wojciech Szczesny. The game went from bad to worse for the Arsenal goalkeeper as he conceded a penalty and was sent off. Fortunately for him substitute keeper Prezemyslaw Tyton saved the spot kick and kept the Polish on level terms. There was still enough time for a disallowed goal and a good chance for Georgios Samaras but 1-1 it finished.

Man of the match- Dimitris Salpigidis- The Greece substitute changed the game when he came on at halftime and whatever the manager said to him clearly worked. The team in the first half looked old and lacked creativity to break down the Poland defence but Salpigidis came on and added new energy to the side and was rewarded with a simple goal. He then broke the offside trap and got to the ball before Szczesny who took him down and gave away a penalty. Just before the end he thought he had won the game but unfortunately the player that crossed him the ball was offside. He deserves to start the next game and he provides a goal scoring threat which their original starting 11 didn’t.

Salpigidis has now scored eight international goals

Onto the next game and Russia showed why they are one of the teams to watch in this tournament with some fantastic counter attacking football. With goals from Alan Dzagoev, Roman Shirokov and Roman Pavlyuchenko, the Russian team look like they could be an outsider to win the whole trophy. Going forward at times they cut the Czechs open at will and if Aleksandr Kerzhakov had his shooting boots on it could have been an even more convincing score line. Vaclac Pilar managed to grab a goal for Czech Republic and even though they were badly beaten they will take encouragement from the game and will believe they can beat both Greece and Poland.

Man of the match- Andrei Arshavin- The winger was in very good form and he just seems to love the European Championships. He impressed in the 2008 tournament and he looks like he is going to be one of the best players in this tournament too. It makes you wonder why he couldn’t produce this form for Arsenal. His passing was spot on and he was not scared to try an ambitious ball. The captain showed all his talent and his only disappointment will be that he couldn’t get himself on the score sheet.

Arshavin spent the second half of last season on loan at Zenit St Petersburg