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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Player of the day- Fabio Coentrao

The first quarter final saw Portugal beat Czech Republic 1-0 and dominate from start to finish and the result never looked in doubt.

Czech Republic didn’t offer much in the game and never really threatened scoring apart from when their winger Vaclav Pilar raced down the left wing, beating a few players however his cross was awful and this summed up their performance. They were hardworking but not at any point did it look like they actually wanted to win the game. Their best player was Petr Cech and that just tells you everything about their performance, he produced some fantastic saves, particularly one which he tipped over the bar from long range as it was moving in the air. Portugal created numerous chances and also had a goal disallowed when substitute Hugo Almeida headed past Cech but he was rightly judged offside. The Portuguese needed a goal so up stepped their main man in Cristiano Ronaldo who made a good run from the left wing to head home a cross. It was a really good performance from the Real Madrid man and he always looked the most likely to break the deadlock or create something. There isn’t much more to say about this game, Portugal won the game comfortably and it would have been a better game had Russia got through instead.

Man of the match- Fabio Coentrao- For me the left back was the best player on the pitch, even though Ronaldo will get all the headlines, I think Coentrao does a lot of the work down that side of the pitch. When Ronaldo goes inside which he will inevitably do to try and get involved, the Real Madrid left back pushes on and stays out wide to give his team another option. I think he could be the most important player in the Portugal squad because if he wasn’t on the pitch, Ronaldo would be restricted to the wing a lot more. He defended well against Czech Republic and was a threat going forward, there was hardly ever an attack when he wasn’t involved. Plus he kept the dangerous Petr Jiracek quiet for the whole game.

Coentrao played 33 times for Real Madrid last season

Player of the day- Cristiano Ronaldo

Germany are looking like the team to beat as they came through the group of death with nine points and in each game looked very good.

Portugal will be joining them in the knockout stages and their game was the one I decided to watch as I personally felt that Germany would win their game and ultimately eliminate Denmark which did happen. Denmark actually surprised me a lot this tournament and maybe deserved to go through as they were very consistent and if only they had performed better in the first half against Portugal they would have finished second.

So onto the game I watched, Holland started the brighter and looked like they would cause Portugal some problems and they took the lead through a wonderful finish from Rafael Van Der Vaart and at that point I thought they would go onto win the game by at least the two goals needed to qualify but a lack of passion and drive has been evident all tournament and some of the players looked like they would have rather been on their holidays. Poor defending allowed Cristiano Ronaldo to break through the offside trap and finish off a one on one. The second half the Dutch were even worse and their attacking players were not performing and didn’t create much and yet again Ronaldo was able to grab a goal from a counter attack.

Man of the match- Cristiano Ronaldo- The man has the burden of being the best player on his shoulders and it isn’t like being at club level where Real Madrid can look towards Mesut Ozil or Karim Benzema to step up. He seems to have to do it all, as his support in Helder Postiga and Nani is nowhere near the quality of his teammates. His two goals were at crucial times and he held his nerve and confidently put them both in the corner. His all round game in the tournament has been fantastic in my opinion and he should have had more goals but he has frightened defences and could lead his country to the final.

Ronaldo cost Real Madrid £80 million in 2009

Portugal will take on Czech Republic and Germany will take on Greece and I fully expect these two from group B to go through however football is a funny game and anything could happen so maybe one of these will fall.

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

Trapattoni’s Republic of Ireland looking good for Euro 2012

Sunderland’s James McClean has been rewarded for his brilliant form at club level with a call up to the Republic of Ireland squad for their forthcoming game against Czech Republic.

Trapattoni must have been impressed with the way he has took to the Premier League instantaneously after being pushed into the starting line up by new Black Cats manager Martin O’Neill. The winger will be hoping his good form continues as he looks to secure a place in the squad for Euro 2012. This may have been slightly surprising as the Italian manager had stated that he will stick with the squad that qualified for the tournament in the summer but when a player is on form, he has to be given a chance. Maybe some former England managers should have followed his lead as they have constantly picked players that are their favourites rather than giving someone else a chance.

But back to Ireland and the rest of their squad is pretty similar to what we are used to and the only other inclusion which may have raised a few eyebrows is Derby County midfielder Paul Green. Green, scored on his first international start and will be hoping to add to this against the Czechs and give the manager more selection headaches.

The rest of the team is as you would expect, Shay Given the undoubted number one is in there being backed up by Kieran Westwood and David Forde who have both played quite well this season when called upon but unfortunately for them, Given has remained as consistent as ever and will definitely start the Euros in goal unless there is an injury. In the defence, they are missing Richard Dunne who could be a big loss as he is a leader at the back and has been one of the best defenders and possibly most underrated in the Premier League. Shane Duffy has been called up as a possible replacement after looking solid for Everton in the five games he has played this season. So, the only problem is whether he is experienced enough to cope at international level. But, they do still have John O’Shea who has had a new lease of life at Sunderland and is benefiting from playing every week.

The midfield is looking exciting with quick direct wingers in McClean, McGeady and to a lesser extent Damien Duff, but in fairness to Duff in recent seasons he has adapted his game and is still causing opposition defences problems. Also Seamus Coleman is able to play on the wing and when he is on form he is most definitely an Irish version of Gareth Bale as he has the pace to beat players and can produce moments of real magic when his team need it.

Robbie Keane is still in the squad and during his loan spell at Aston Villa he has proved that playing in America has not made him a worse player and his career is not coming to an end. He scored some fantastic goals and his movement is still fantastic and he seems to have a good partnership with Kevin Doyle at international level and could be key not only in the upcoming friendly but the tournament itself. Jon Walters is another underrated player in the Premier League as he does a very good job at Stoke and works his socks off every game so the two upfront know that he will be waiting to take their place. Also the West Brom pair of Shane Long and Simon Cox are decent strikers that have scored quite a few goals in the Premier League between them this season.

Ireland are shaping up nicely for the Euros with a hardworking and organised squad combined with their little bit of flair and skill they could just spring a surprise this summer and give some of the bigger teams a shock. It wouldn’t shock me if they got further in the competition than England.