Player of the day- Xavi

Spain have created history by winning their third major international competition in a row and they deserved their victory after yet another scintillating performance.

Firstly, though I did feel sorry for the Italians and it is always sad to see professional footballers crying on the pitch and to see players like Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo looking on with tears in their eyes was not easy to watch. They were gracious in defeat even though they lost 4-0 and in all honesty were never in the game. David Silva opened the scoring after some good work from Cesc Fabregas and it was all downhill from there, as Jordi Alba scored a second just before half time after an exquisite through ball from Xavi. The game was almost over and then when Thiago Motta had to go off injured, that was it they had no chance of getting back into it as they had already used all three substitutes. Then the game turned into the Fernando Torres show who had been wrote off a few times during the tournament but the man could be back as he has finished with the golden boot as he got a goal and the assist which he needed to take over Mario Gomez. His finish was superb as he beat the onrushing Buffon with ease then after being played through again he played it to his Chelsea teammate Juan Mata to put the ball into the net.

Man of the match- Xavi- For me he was the difference between the sides and he played slightly different to usual as it seemed like he was told to push on more. Not only did he dictate play for Spain, he also stopped Pirlo playing and made him look his age. His through ball to Alba for the second goal was in my opinion the pass of the tournament and not many other players in the world could have played it with the right amount of weight. It was a perfect performance from him as he hardly gave the ball away and won the ball high up the field. Italy didn’t have an answer to him and he just outshone Andres Iniesta and Xabi Alonso.

Xavi has 115 caps for Spain

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.

Player of the day- Mario Balotelli

Italy will meet Spain in the final after beating Germany 2-1 which could well be called the Balotelli semi final.

Mario Balotelli produced one of the best performances in his career as he scored twice and was a constant menace to the Germany defence. His first goal was quite predatory as his clever movement managed to get him away from his marker and power home a header from about six yards leaving goalkeeper Manuel Neuer with no chance. The second goal was really poor defensively again from Germany as it only took one long ball from the Italians to create a chance. Balotelli was through and hit a powerful shot which once again Neuer could do nothing about. In the very last minute with Germany pushing forward they won a penalty and Mesut Ozil scored but there just wasn’t enough time for them to get an equaliser. It was a disappointing performance from Germany both defensively and offensively but they still created a fair few chances and especially early on they forced Gianluigi Buffon into a few saves. Italy deserve their place in the final with this performance and will give Spain a good game and they have a very good chance of beating them. They were given no chance to beat them in the group stages but they have got better and better as the tournament has gone on and the Spanish have got worse in my opinion.

Man of the match- Mario Balotelli- The Manchester City striker was in fantastic form and his two goals were just superb and in my opinion his performance was the best of any striker in the competition, especially in the first half. His partnership with Antonio Cassano worked well and is developing with them each create chances and now Balotelli grabbing the goals. His movement was the most impressive part of his game as the German defence who hadn’t really been tested that much could not contain him. He has all the attributes to be the best striker in the world one day and maybe now he will start to show his potential on a regular basis.

Balotelli scored 17 goals in 32 games for Manchester City last season

 

Players of the day- Andrea Pirlo and Mario Mandzukic

The games in Group C kicked off and all eyes were on Spain, Italy, Croatia and Republic of Ireland.

The first game saw Spain kick of the defence of their European Championship against Italy in what showed two very different styles of football. Spain with their short, sharp passing style and Italy with their focus more on defending and counter attacks. As expected Spain had more of the ball but strangely they decided to start the game without a recognised striker so they had six midfielders in their starting line up. However, it was the Italians who had the better opportunities and looked the more likely to score the opening goal which they did through Antonio Di Natale who scored with almost his first touch after coming off the bench with a fantastic finish. But, Spain hit back quickly with a very good goal themselves, David Silva slipped through a perfect through ball for Cesc Fabregas to run onto and score past the advancing Gianluigi Buffon. That is how it ended, but not before Fernando Torres missed two very good opportunities to win the game.

Man of the match- Andrea Pirlo- The midfielder proved his worth to the team and a lot of people that don’t watch Italian football would have been surprised that a player of his age still gets into their national side. Bu for Juventus this season he contributed a lot to their title winning side and provided a lot of assists. His game today was slightly different as he got through a lot of work defensively and had to follow the Spanish midfielders around and he was always there putting them under pressure, forcing them into errors. His pass to set up the goal in my opinion could be the pass of the whole tournament as it was perfectly weighted and allowed Di Natale to finish first time.

Pirlo got 13 assists for Juventus this season

In the second game, the goals came at perfect times for Croatia, just a few minutes into the game they scored, then just before halftime they added another. They finished the game off just after halftime. Ireland did manage to pull back an equaliser to Mario Mandzukic opener through Sean St Ledger but were never really at the races, although they should have had a penalty when Robbie Keane was fouled and Keith Andrews put a few efforts wide. The Croatians just looked the better side and they may not be the best at the back but going forward they will cause Spain and Italy problems.

Man of the match- Mario Mandzukic- The striker looked on top form and scored twice (the second one did hit the post and then Shay Given but I think it should be his goal). He caused the Ireland team so many problems in the air and on the floor, Richard Dunne couldn’t handle him in the air and Sean St Ledger couldn’t handle his movement so they will be happy to see the back of him. He even outperformed Nikica Jelavic which not a lot of players have done since he joined Everton in the Premier League so that shows how well he played. I’m sure Croatia’s playmakers Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic love playing with him as he always makes himself available for a pass and wants to get balls both into his feet and in the air.

Mandzukic has 30 caps for Croatia