Wow! What a tournament! The group phase of Euro 2012 has yielded some fantastic games. No 0-0 draws and a total of 60 goals in 24 matches.
With the tournament now moving to the knockout stage, this is a good time to pick out some of the top performers so far. My choices are below, and let me know your thoughts about the action in Poland and Ukraine.
I am going for Danny Welbeck’s winner for England against Sweden. His flick was simply sublime and it narrowly beat the goals scored by Mario Balotelli against Ireland and Zlatan Ibrahimovic against France. The creativity and flair shown by the young Manchester United striker to conjure up that finish really impressed me.
I am picking Germany because they were the only team with three wins in three matches, and Joachim Low's side looked solid in every game. Have they been spectacular? No. But they don’t need to be because they still look like the team to beat.
Iker Casillas gets my vote. He came up with a couple of key saves against Italy in Spain's opening match and again in the decisive game against Croatia. He is still underrated because everyone talks about Spain’s creative players, but without "Saint Iker" La Roja may have already been knocked out of the tournament.
Pepe has been sublime. The Portugal center back has a deserved reputation for being overly aggressive, but he has been a picture of class and composure in this tournament. Simply superb.
Andres Iniesta. Voted man of the match twice, the Barcelona playmaker has been fantastic as far as I am concerned. This is the first tournament where he has been completely healthy and fit, and he is shining in Spain’s midfield. Some of his colleagues have looked jaded, but Iniesta is anything but.
Sweden's Ibrahimovic and Croatia's Mario Mandzukic had great tournaments but since their teams have been knocked out, I have to go for Mario Gomez. You can love him or hate him, but one thing is for sure - this guy knows where the goal is. He had a stinker in the European Champions League final but the Germany striker is proving once again that you can never count him out!
Group A. I never expected the Czech Republic and Greece to qualify, especially after the first round of matches. However, somehow, they managed to knock out the strongest team in the group, Russia, and co-hosts Poland. Now everyone is asking, can Greece do a Greece and repeat that shock 2004 success?
Best post-match quote
Oleh Blokhin gets annoyed with one journalist’s line of questioning after Ukraine’s defeat to England and suggests they take the argument outside: “Respect my job and me. I won't allow anyone to criticize my team, about (Oleh) Gusev or (Andriy) Shevchenko. If you're a man, go with me. One-on-one.”
The quality of football played has been extremely high. There are many games to pick from but I am going for Italy versus Spain. It only had two goals but I was thoroughly entertained. The level of skill displayed by both teams was exquisite and either could have won the game. This was one match I had the pleasure of attending in person and I won’t forget it anytime soon.
I'm surprised Welbeck was the choice for best goal. Clearly it was Balotelli Italy vs Republic of Ireland.
Pedro first of all i think Zlatan ibrahimovic's goal was the goal of the turnament, and i just feel sorry for him that Sweden did'nt qualify from the group stages. it is not his fault the problem is that there is not much quality around him (players). btw i think Germany gonna win the whole thing.
from a Swedish fan
I agree with most of Pintos choices! Just best goalkeeper I wouldnt have picked Casillas..
England deserve d trophy with the level of their players and team work,Rooney is gonna crown the best player of this tournament.from a portugal fan.
I disagree about Casillas being the best goalkeeper. For me, its Buffon, cause the Italian team played tough matches under pressure compared to Spain.
I respect your choices Pedro, but I will make my own list
Best goal: Ibrahimovic's goal against France, that was just an unbelievable finish
Best team: Germany, they look the team to beat
Best goalkeeper: Iker Casillas, he has made crucial saves against Italy and Croatia
Best defender: I'm going to go for Hummels, he's been fantastic, but Pepe has surprised in a good way
Best midfielder: Steven Gerrard he has played a crucial part for England and has set up 3 goals for England
Best forward: Its tight between Gomez and Cassano, but I will go for Gomez, he's been prolific so far
Biggest surprise: There have been so many I can't pick one. Czech Republic and Greece getting out of group A, Holland crashing out and Italy and England have also surprised, as they have had such bad preparations for the tournament
Best post match quote: The Ukrainian manager taking on jounalists
Best game: Spain v Italy, it was end to end, what more could you want
I will add to more categories
Best moment so far: Irish fans singing Fields of Athenry during the Spain match
Best fans: Ireland
Biggest dissappointment. The referees and Holland
Cristiano Ronaldo will lead Portugal to victory in this Eurocup. I am spanish but we don't have Soldado. Without Soldado we can't win this Eurocup.
Quick summary of english team captain words.
I agree with you pinto, but i think best of the match i go for holand and portugal. What a game it was
Honestly, Holland losing all their games was a surprise let alone them going home early. England skipper Steven Gerrard has a had a great shout and i think he deserves a mention in the midfield, he's been man of the match in England's all three games and created several chances for his colleagues not forgetting his visionary precise cross for Andy Carrol's goal against Sweden. Danny Wellbeck's goal is the best? Oh yes and sublime is the word for it. Unfortunately, I don't to stick my neck out on how the defenders have featured but I think Pepe has stood out, its no wonder he's my first transfer target for my fantasy football team for the Euros, but good accounts by Ramos, Hummels, Lescot, Mexes and many others. Best keeper for me is a 'cocktail' of names but I'd specifically mention Saint Iker, Hugo Lloris and Petr Cech have been top class. Cristiano Ronaldo, Luis Nani have given a great account of themselves and I see Portugal in the semis. The quality of football has just been amazing, I may not single out one game as the best – its just been amazing entertainment on the pitch. Sad that Sweden had to go home, I'd have loved to watch Ibrahimovic more in that yellow outfit. The knock-outs are going to be even more sumptuous and it maybe hard to predict who will win the cup, it may boil down to luck.
Milton Nyakundi, where are getting this idea Cech has been class, he has made lots of errors in this tournament
Pedro, normally I don't agree with you but this time I almost thoroughly agree, except in the best goal and team to beat. Ibrahimovic goal for me was the best, together with Silva´s against Ireland. And I don't think Germany will reach the final. I think Spain and Italy will progress to the final. As you correctly pointed out, Spain and Italy played the best game of the tournament and Germany, despite being a good team, I think may prove too knaive against the Italian rascals.
Euro Final will be Portugal x Germany. Portugal wins.
No doubts about that.
Best team: Germany
Best player: Ronaldo
Best goalkeeper: Neuer
Best defender: Pepe
Best midfielder: Iniesta
Biggest surprise: England in the quarter finals(terrible referee in game against Ukraine)
Career Award: Andriy Shevchenko
Pedro Pinto is a good portuguese and he knows that Portugal will win.
Let the others think they are the best. POOORRRTUGAL!!!!!
Euro Final will be Portugal x Germany. Portugal wins.
Dat was right 4 all d whole comment abt euro2012 bt d only tin is dat u did nt count england as one of d suprising team
I agree will alsmost all your analysis except that i feel it will be a germany-portugal finale.Thanks for your article.
I think Euro 2012 so far has been dominated by strikers. Goals by Mario Balloteli and Zlatan Ibrahimovich were top class. Those firmly headed efforts by Andriy Shevchenko were master pieces.
The best goal, obviously has to be Ibramovic one, against France. The best defender goes to Hummel of Germany. The rest are all well.
Pendro, your choices are wonderful. I'll just add Cristiano Ronaldo as the player with best individual performance of the tournament so far. He has once again showed his master class.
the welbeck goal is a great choice, great presence of mind at a crucial moment. some good calls here, still think there might be a twist with the 'imperious German juggernaut' that everyone keeps talking about. italy to beat germany tomorrow for me.
ronaldo's tournament surely has to be put into context after yet another hatful of misses tonight, sure he's a great player for getting into so many dangerous positions, but someone touted as the 2nd best player in the world should bury some of the chances he has missed. cannot stay on his feet either, utter disgrace....don't even start me on pepe.
Ur right lankan soul' they are the world 2nd biseggt population but stil they can't produce best cricketers, example of best cricketers from small sri lanka= murali(1st project mystery off spinner,highst wicket taker in da world,introduced the Doosra),mahela(best logical captain,and asia cup 2008 best captain award winner),TM dilshan(the world best batsman alive,t20 2009most runs nd best player award winner and introduced new batting style DILSCOOP'),finaly ajantha mendis(2nd project mystery off spinner,asia cup2008 man of da trnmt inroduced the carram ball). (0)
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