Line-up based on a 4-3-3 formation
Iker Casillas: While certainly not overlooked as the leader of the Spanish team, Saint Iker’s contribution to the team’s success is often overlooked. All the plaudits have been directed at Spain’s brilliant ball possession and exhaustive defensive pressure; yet, Casillas’ timely saves were integral to the team’s march towards the trophy. Just ask Ivan Rakitic, whose header could have moved Croatia into the knockout stages of the tournament.
Jordi Alba: This will be a summer to remember for the Spanish left-back: clinching a move back to his boyhood club, Barcelona, and scoring a wonderful goal in the final – his first for country – that evidenced his speed and skill. Much was said about Alba’s defensive frailties before the tournament, but given the fact that he spent most of the tournament on the opponent’s half, one can be forgiven for ignoring that little detail.
Pepe: Had Portugal progressed to the final, the Portuguese center-back would surely be amongst the candidates for player of the tournament. Solid and commanding in his partnership with Bruno Alves, and very composed on the ball when going forward, the Real Madrid stalwart cemented his place as one of the best players in his position, and went a long way into rehabilitating his dirty player image.
Sergio Ramos: When Jose Mourinho took over as the manager at Real Madrid, his first order of business was to restore the theretofore right-back to his best position: center-back. The move has paid dividends for Spain. With the untimely injury to Carles Puyol, Ramos proved an unshakeable man-marker, managing to completely nullify the threats posed by opposing strikers.
Fabio Coentrao: Although it’s unorthodox to place to left-backs in a tournament’s best XI, arguably no right back played as well as the Portuguese did. Arjen Robben and David Silva were just two of the world class wingers Coentrao was given the responsibility of marking, and he did so successfully, all but neutralizing them in their respective games. The world’s most expensive left-back also proved very adept offensively, forming an intimidating left wing with Cristiano Ronaldo.
Sammy Khedira: With a midfield populated by Mezut Ozil and Bastian Schweinsteiger, few would have expected Khedira to shine as brightly as he did. Germany’s anchorman provided the defensive stability that allowed Ozil the freedom to roam and create, and showed off his indefatigability when making lung bursting box-to-box runs. The Real Madrid man also showed off his finishing with a splendorous volley against Greece.
Andrea Pirlo: For many, the player of the tournament, Italy’s playmaker showed remarkable composure under pressure, and the kind of incisive passing that still places him among the most influential midfielders in the game. Very much at the center of Italy’s march towards the final, Pirlo’s performances in the Euro could place him in contention for the Ballon d’Or.
Joao Moutinho: Cristiano Ronaldo may have gotten all the attention, but there’s no doubt that Moutinho was Portugal’s heartbeat. Without an archetypal number 10, the Algarve native was responsible for providing the team’s offensive drive. Defensively, Moutinho was quick to close space, and never allowed those he marked enough room to maneuver comfortably. So good was his tournament that his missed penalty against Spain will hardly be remembered.
Andres Iniesta: (Bigsoccerhead player of the tournament) Iniesta is the kind of player that makes statistics irrelevant. Although he failed to score, and tallied up just one assist in the tournament, the Spaniard was crucial to his team’s offensive movements. It was his clinical pass that allowed Fabregas to set up David Silva’s goal against Italy, and it was his movement on and off the ball that contributed greatly to Italy’s defensive collapse. Iniesta’s immaculate skill and zigzagging runs are devastating to defenders, and awe-inspiring to those who love watching the game.
Cristiano Ronaldo: Often accused of not showing up for his country, the Euro provided the world’s most expensive player with the opportunity to prove his worth. A slow start to the tournament, and one glaring miss against Denmark, seemed to suggest that the pressure was too much for Ronaldo to handle. However, two goals against the Dutch and a masterful performance against the Czech Republic quieted his detractors, and confirmed Ronaldo as the Ballon d’Or favorite.
David Silva: It’s hard to believe that David Silva barely saw the field in South Africa. Now one of the first players on the team sheet, Manchester City’s playmaker contributed by scoring two goals and assisting three others. His header against Italy in the final was a testament to Del Bosque’s tactical approach, which precludes the use of striker. Equally comfortable maintaining possession in the midfield as he is taking on defenders on the wings, perhaps the only knock on Silva is his inability to maintain his form throughout the ninety minutes.
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