The European 2012 championships are over, and Spain is officially crowned the winner. As do any other post-analysis, we pick out outstanding individuals, from players to managers, to feature and wax lyrical about. Here are the best of the best who we think deserve to be on the list.
Star Striker – Fernando Torres (Spain)
The No. 9 forward picked up the Golden Boot award for leading the scoreboard with least playtime, plus a selfless assist to teammate Juan Mata in the final goal against Italy. Statistics-wise, his contribution of 3 goals to Spain’s cause helped them clinch their third successive championship and that also made him the only player to score in two consecutive European Championship finals. Talk about a comeback, considering his floundering ways when he first joined Chelsea for 50 million pounds.
Star Midfielder – Andres Iniesta (Spain)
There is much to be said about Spain’s No. 6, one of the star alumni of Barcelona’s famous La Masia academy. Nothing about the man is flamboyant, just an ordinary looking player with extraordinary talents in the passing game. Iniesta controls the tempo from midfield which has been so crucial to the success of their attacking football. His goal tally in the tournament may not be the best (actually, he scored none), but his slick dribbling and vision more than made up for it, earning him the Best Player of Euro 2012 accolade.
Star Defender – Pepe (Portugal)
In case you are thinking our take on the best defender is going to be yet another Spaniard, we decided to shed the spotlight on Portugal’s center back Pepe. It seems that he is already at the top of his game as part of Real Madrid’s first team, even breaking the deadlock against Denmark in the group stages. Of course, he fulfilled his defensive responsibilities brilliantly, and for that he became the recipient for Man of the Match award. "I'd like to say thank you for the award, but the most important thing tonight was the effort of the whole team – the 11 players who started and the ones who came on…” he humbly commented.
Star Goalkeeper – Gianluigi Buffon (Italy)
Buffon may have conceded a total of 7 goals and kept 2 clean sheets throughout the tournament, which borders on embarrassment compared to his Spanish counterpart Iker Casillas at 1 goal and 5 clean sheets. But it doesn’t justify the champion that he is if we focus on his disappointing Euro 2012 record. For one, he produced an amazing display in the quarter finals against England, with a reflexive save that denied Glen Johnson his goal. When the match went to penalties, the 8-time Serie A Keeper of the Year kept out Ashley Cole’s spot kick to book themselves against the Germans in the Semis.
Best Coach– Cesare Prandelli (Italy)
Despite the poor sentiments of the Italians at the final whistle, Prandelli still gave the thumbs up to his team for a brilliant performance in the tournament. “It was a fantastic tournament for us and I have to congratulate the lads,” he remarked. Props have to be given to him for experimenting with formations effectively, switching between 4-3-1-2 and 3-5-2. It is worth noting that Prandelli managed to bring out the best in the temperamental Balotelli, who found himself shortlisted for the Golden Boot award with 3 goals. Did I mention he could very well be the most stylish coach with his slick-back mane and sharp black suits?
Best Assist of Euro 2012 – Steven Gerrard (England)
The newly appointed captain of England embodies a workhorse. Playing in a deeper position compared to Liverpool, Stevie G produced one of his best performances in an England shirt at 32 years of age. Other than his defensive duties, he provided three important assists that got them through to the quarter finals, with a notable one involving a pinpoint cross to Andy Carroll who duly converted against the Swedes. You can harp on his injury tendencies all you want, but the fact that he stepped up to the plate to wear the armband and dictated the midfield with his vast experience gained him much respect. Gerrard is the only English player named in the Euro 2012 “All-Star” team.
Best Goal of Euro 2012 – Mario Balotelli (vs Germany)
The controversial Man City striker finally brought out the “Super Mario” in him when he single-handedly eliminated favourites Germany in the semi-finals. He was a man on a mission; he bagged all two goals within 90 minutes and his second is good enough for best goal of the tournament. Finding himself the target of a long pass, Balotelli was practically one-on-one with Germany keeper Manuel Neuer and he unleashed a powerful volley right into the top right corner. Best of all, he made it look effortless.