Euro 2012 review
Skysports.com's football desk look back at what transpired at Euro 2012 to deliver their verdicts on a tournament that saw Spain retain their crown in some style. Have your say on our top picks and leave your own by filling in the feedback form below...
Last Updated: 03/07/12 12:31pm
Favourite moment - Spain winning Euro 2012: There are so many to choose from in a thoroughly entertaining tournament. Andrea Pirlo's chipped penalty against England or Donetsk's apocalyptic storm are both worth of a mention. But the highlight was Spain's final win over Italy. It was a performance of sublime skill and confidence in the face of accusations of a boring style.
Best player - Andres Iniesta: To add to the Spain and Barcelona star's list of attributes, he also seems to be a thoroughly likeable individual. Iniesta's quiet nature means he does not receive as much praise as some other members of Spain's all-conquering squad. But his team ethic ensures he does not care for individual accolades. His pass to Cesc Fabregas in the build-up to David Silva's opening goal in the final was simply stunning and epitomised his tournament.
Biggest flop - Wojciech Szczesny: Described by many as one of the best up and coming goalkeepers in Europe, he was supposed to be a key player for co-hosts Poland as they planned for a place in the knockout stages. Instead, he looked a bundle of nerves in the tournament opener against Greece, was sent off after 69 minutes and was consequently suspended for the remainder of Poland's participation.
Emerging star - Alan Dzagoev: It will be a surprise if the 22-year-old lasts the summer at CSKA Moscow after impressing with Russia, despite Dick Advocaat's side surprisingly failing to make it out of Group A. Dzagoev scored three goals from the left side of Russia's three-pronged attack and he has since been linked with Arsenal.
Best coach - Vicente del Bosque: Dealt with the pressure of Spain being the favourites, remained fully committed to his methods and ignored any criticism from sceptics. He is now the only manager in history to have won the World Cup, European Championship and UEFA Champions League.
Best game - Poland 1 Russia 1: The group stages were more entertaining than most of the knockout rounds and this game was the pick of the bunch. Despite the unsavoury atmosphere off the field in Warsaw, the match was a gripping, end-to-end contest. Twenty-two attempts at goal resulted in a 1-1 draw, while Jakub Blaszczykowski's equaliser for Poland was one of the goals of the tournament.
Biggest gripe - Mexican Waves: It is tempting to mention Slavek and Slavko dancing to 'Moves Like Jagger' at the first semi-final, which combined two major peeves - official mascots and Maroon 5. But, instead, Mexican Waves and people who complained about dull football is the biggest complaint. Spain's technical brilliance has made them the greatest international team in history. Anyone who described them as 'boring' should be feeling slightly silly.England verdict: Roy Hodgson deserves credit for bonding the squad. But it should be remembered the much-praised base in Krakow city centre was selected in the days of predecessor Fabio Capello. On the field, it is difficult to understand all the disappointment. England performed to their usual standards as a squad who are behind the times both technically, tactically and mentally.
Favourite moment - Jakub Blaszczykowski's goal v Russia: That it was a superb strike against Russia would have lit up any tournament but the fact that it was scored by co-hosts Poland made it even more special.
Best player - Cesc Fabregas: Spain were criticised for playing without a recognised striker but the man asked to lead the line executed his role to perfection, passing and moving as well as any of the midfielders and providing an end product with crucial goals and assists, as well as the winning penalty against Portugal in the semi-final shoot-out.
Biggest flop - Arjen Robben: A host of Holland players have to be considered for this category following an abjectly below-par team showing, but Robben gets the nod not only for his lacklustre performances but also because the tantrum he threw against Germany summed up a general air of Dutch discord.
Emerging star - Vaclav Pilar: The 23-year-old winger caught the eye with a series of sparkling displays to help Czech Republic reach the quarter-finals. Speedy, skilful and composed in front of goal, he is one to watch for the future and Wolfsburg would appear to have pulled off a real coup after agreeing a deal to sign him before the tournament.
Best coach - Cesare Prandelli: Italy were not expected to make much of an impression at the Euros but Prandelli steered them to the final with some clever decision-making, staying flexible with his formations depending on the opponent and making effective substitutions.
Best game - Denmark 2 Portugal 3: Portugal had lost their first group game and roared into an early two-goal lead, only for Nicklas Bendtner to draw Denmark level with a deadly display of finishing that upstaged the wasteful Cristiano Ronaldo. There was a late twist, however, when substitute Silvestre Varela blasted home a spectacular winner.
Biggest gripe - UEFA's meddling: European football's governing body has its priorities so twisted that the fine given to Bendtner for flashing a sponsored waistband on his underpants was greater than that given to the Croatian Federation after racist behaviour by some of their fans. The tournament itself was very good, but UEFA is set to ruin the next one by increasing it to 24 teams.
England verdict: Satisfactory. England's poor level of performance pretty much matched the low level of expectation, but Roy Hodgson and his men deserve credit for battling through to the quarter-finals and making themselves tough to beat.
Favourite moment: Spain responded to suggestions that they had become 'boring' with a superb display of precision passing to destroy Italy in the final. The speed and accuracy with which Vicente del Bosque's players move the ball is a joy to behold and they fully deserve their place in history as the first team to win three major international tournaments in succession.
Best player: Iker Casillas rarely gets the credit he deserves such is the focus on Spain's brilliant midfield, but the goalkeeper boasts a stunning record which stretches to long before Euro 2012. The skipper, who now has 137 caps to his name at the age of just 31, conceded just one goal in the entire tournament - to Italy's Antonio Di Natale in the opening game - while his clean sheet in the final means the Iberian nation's defence has not been breached in 10 major tournament knockout games.
Biggest flop: Holland headed to Poland and Ukraine with high hopes after gracing the World Cup final two years previously. But their campaign began badly with defeat to Denmark and further reverses at the hands of Portugal and Germany followed amid the all-too predictable reports of disharmony in the Dutch dressing room. Coach Bert van Marwijk paid for the failure by leaving his post soon after.
Another Robin van Persie shot fails to find its target
Emerging star: Marco Reus can expect to become a key figure for Germany in years to come. The Borussia Monchengladbach winger was thrust into the starting XI for the quarter-final against Greece to make his Euro 2012 bow as Joachim Low rested several key men and justified the coach's faith by finding the net. Brought on from the bench at the interval against Italy but could not turn the tide of the semi-final.
Best coach: Cesare Prandelli deserves great credit for the way he guided Italy all the way to the final against the odds. With the domestic game mired in yet another betting scandal which impacted on the squad's preparation for the tournament, Prandelli united a dressing room which was supposedly short of the vintage quality Italy have enjoyed in the past. He also helped ensure the majority of headlines generated by Mario Balotelli were football-related.
Best game - England 3 Sweden 2: OK, so the quality may not have been as high as in many of the other matches, but for drama and nerve-shredding tension, then England's second group game with Sweden takes some beating. Roy Hodgson's men looked in control after Andy Carroll's towering header before two defensive lapses allowed Sweden to seize the lead. Cue super-sub Theo Walcott, with the Arsenal man firing home a long-range leveller before setting up Danny Welbeck's deft winner.
Biggest gripe: UEFA's Control and Disciplinary Body need to take a long hard look at the punishments they handed out during the tournament. While a number of nations were rightly penalised for the racist behaviour of their supporters, the fact that Denmark's Nicklas Bendtner was hit four times as hard financially for wearing the wrong pair of pants makes a mockery of the whole process.
England verdict: Predictable, poor and penalty pain pretty much sums it up. Hodgson's side did well to top the group before being found out by Italy in the quarter-finals as they were pushed further and further back into their own half due largely to an inability to retain possession. England were resolute, organised and determined, but were clearly lacking the ability or flair of the leading nations with the yawning gap in technique growing wider all the time.
Favourite moment: As part of a press junket taken out to Poland and Ukraine courtesy of Carlsberg it was difficult to top being in Kiev for the England v Sweden game. Outside the ground it was an ocean of yellow as 25,000 Sweden fans good naturedly told us all to 'go home to your ugly wives' in unison. The game turned out to be one of the tournament's most entertaining, with Andy Carroll's punchy header and Danny Welbeck's outlandish flick two of its best goals. A great day topped off by having free beer on tap...
Best player: Andres Iniesta and Xavi were as sublime as ever, Sergio Ramos pretty immaculate at the back too, but it was Andrea Pirlo who was the best to watch when on his game. In an Italy side that had its limitations he was the grand master in the centre of the field, spraying his passes with the precision and forethought of Garry Kasparov plotting his way around a chess board. It was remarkable how often his straight, lofted but always beautifully weighted passes to Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano caused mayhem for opposition defences. His performances against England and Germany were as close to perfection as it gets for a deep-lying midfield player. It was just a shame that the final proved a step too far, with even Pirlo fallible when faced with six of the finest midfield players on the planet. Lest not forget his Panenka penalty that reminded Joe Hart he still has some way to go before he's eligible to dine at football's top table.
One man at the peak of his powers; another gasping for air
Biggest flop: Holland hardly exuded Total Football, with the likes of Wesley Sneijder, Robin van Persie and Arjen Robben all enduring tournaments they'd like to forget. The same can be said of Wayne Rooney, who was a willing runner but badly off the pace against both Ukraine (despite his winner) and Italy. The optimists amongst us believed he'd be fresh coming into England's final group game, while the realists looked on with an expression that said 'he'll be breathing out of his backside after ten minutes'. It was the realists who were proved correct as Rooney was a passenger once again in a major tournament.
Emerging star: Russia's Alan Dzagoev lived up to his reputation as a player to watch, with three goals from as many games likely to earn him a big-money away from CSKA Moscow. Polish midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski is hardly unheralded but is now likely to receive the mainstream attention his form for Borussia Dortmund over the past couple of seasons deserves. In terms of unknown talents though, it is Theodor Gebre Selassie who perhaps most came to the fore. An attacking full-back capable of exploding down the right flank, the Czech flyer looks to be a shrewd signing for Werder Bremen, who secured his signature during the tournament at a bargain price.
Best coach: Vicente del Bosque deserves huge credit for delivering Spain a third trophy from as many tournaments and inventing a new formation to boot, but given Italy's disastrous World Cup campaign and the fact their preparations were hampered by a fresh fixing scandal, it is Cesare Prandelli who stands out. Not unlike England, expectations were low in Italy heading into the tournament. This isn't the most gifted set of Italians in memory but Prandelli managed to weld together a side that fully deserved its place in the final. That he not only kept Mario Balotelli in check but brought out the best in him is testimony to his man-management skills.
Biggest gripe: The only thing worse than people moaning about Spain being boring is people moaning about people who are moaning about Spain being boring. There's been a lot of that - let's all agree to disagree and move on. But then I thought the Stone Roses were underwhelming at the weekend when 69,999 other people disagreed, so what do I know?
England verdict: Depressingly predictable if acceptable performance out in Poland and Ukraine. It was a solid result to qualify for the last eight as group winners but I never bought into the idea England would be lucky to finish above the co-hosts and Sweden. There's no question that we're technically lacking to an embarrassing extent at times, but England are nonetheless a side packed with experienced players playing for top European clubs. Getting out of the group should have been expected; as should meek elimination in the knockout phase. All good then.
Favourite moment - Andrea Pirlo's penalty: Yes I am English and yes I wanted England to win, but you have to admire the audacity of Pirlo's spot-kick during a tense quarter-final shoot-out. I cursed him at the time, I admit, but I did so while repressing the desire to applaud. Antonin Panenka led the way when it comes to dinked penalties back in 1976, and the Euros were once again graced by such an effort in Kiev. It takes nerves of steel to step up and knock a penalty straight down the middle, but Pirlo is a class act and showed against England that even at the age of 33 he is capable of running a game and producing moments of magic.
Best player - Andres Iniesta: Lionel Messi may steal the headlines at Barcelona, but Iniesta is the main man when he links up with Spain. He makes the best international side on the planet tick, which makes him some player. Football comes effortlessly to him, with time and space seemingly always on his side. His vision is second to none, as he showed again during the Euro 2012 final, and he plays with a smile on his face - which is rare in the modern game.
Biggest flop - Holland: It is difficult to single out one player from a squad which underachieved massively in Poland and Ukraine. Having graced the 2010 World Cup final, Holland were considered by many to be the side to beat at Euro 2012. Dutch football history is littered with tales of near misses and spectacular failure, though, and once again they fell flat on their face. Holland crashed out without picking up a point, as star turns such as Robin van Persie seriously fluffed their lines, forcing coach Bert van Marwijk to fall on his sword.
Emerging star - Jordi Alba: He may be 23 years of age, but Alba has only recently burst onto the international scene. He did not make his senior debut for Spain until October 2011, against Scotland in their final qualifier for Euro 2012. It was quickly apparent that he possessed all of the attributes required to be a key figure in Vicente del Bosque's plans and he can expect to be a mainstay in the Spain side for many years to come. More of a winger than a full-back, Alba's buccaneering bursts down the left flank were a common sight at this summer's European Championship. He rounded off a spectacular tournament showing with a goal in the final and will form part of Barcelona's star-studded squad next season.
Best coach - Vicente del Bosque: How can you look past the man who guided his side to the continental crown? Del Bosque may have inherited a good side from Luis Aragones in 2008, but he has made Spain great - perhaps the greatest of all-time. His record as national coach speaks for itself, with European Championship silverware placed on the mantelpiece next to the World Cup. Del Bosque may shy away from the spotlight, but he deserves much of the credit for Spain's record-breaking success. He backs himself when it comes to big calls and stuck with the pretty passing and 'fake nine' approach to prove that Spain are anything but boring.
Best game - Germany 1 Italy 2: This was supposed to be the game in which Germany justified their billing as the best team at the tournament, ending their international hoodoo against the Italians in the process. They had not banked on Mario Balotelli being at his mercurial best. The Manchester City striker's deadly double proved that he is a man for the big occasion and that he has the ability to become a global superstar if he can control his demons. Italy produced the most professional performance possible, while Germany huffed and puffed before running out of ideas.
Biggest gripe - Mexican waves: I'm all for supporters having fun, but the Mexican wave was taken too far at Euro 2012. In some instances the game had barely kicked off and fans were already on their feet. The Mexican wave should only be pulled out when victory is in sight and a celebratory mood sweeps through the stands. Opposing fans will be reluctant to join in at this point, as they contemplate defeat, making the wave a show of superiority. Maybe I'm becoming a grumpy old man - or more grumpy than I already was - but for me, you attend a football match to view events on the field, not waste your time watching a human ripple sweep around stadium. I may be alone in this line of thought, but I stand by it.
A picture is worth a thousand words as England crash out
England verdict - Same old, same old: Heading into the tournament we were led to believe that there was no expectation on the England team to deliver, that we would do well to get out of the group and that Roy Hodgson would be given time in which to make his mark on the Three Lions set-up. Two narrow wins and top spot in the group later, England are billed as potential champions, with Hodgson having made the side hard to beat, and that could be enough. In truth, England were painful to watch, offered little as an attacking threat, gave the ball away cheaply and were fortunate to experience glorious penalty failure once again. Hodgson has much to work on if more of the same is to be avoided at the 2014 World Cup.
Favourite moment: Zlatan Ibrahimovic will always be an enigma but the Swedish striker provided one of the goals of the tournament. At 6ft 5in the AC Milan man showed amazing athleticism to score a quite phenomenal acrobatic volley in the victory against France to send the 'Yellow Army' into euphoria.
Best player: The Azzurri midfield wizard Andrea Pirlo proved that he's still got it at the age of 33. The Juventus maestro showed effortless authority pulling the strings in the heart of the Italian engine room, providing a masterclass of possession and distribution. His outrageous penalty against England will long be remembered.
Biggest flop: Dark horses Russia came into Euro 2012 in fine fettle having thumped Italy 3-0 in a friendly a week earlier. And although they hammered the Czech Republic with a show of superb counter-attacking football, the fire was soon extinguished with a draw against co-hosts Poland before a shock defeat against Greece. Dick Advocaat's red machine had run out of steam.
Emerging star: Marco Reus, the 23-year-old pacy German midfielder, plays like a Rolls-Royce. He is fast, slick, smart and easy on the eye. Borussia Dortmund snapped him up from Borussia Monchengladbach after he scored 21 goals for them last season. He loves to cut in from the right and his goal in the 4-2 win against Greece was exquisite.
Best coach: Cesare Prandelli took unfancied Italy all the way to the final exceeding expectations. The former Fiorentina boss found the right recipe, creating a club type spirit in the squad and welding the players into a genuine team. He was also able to change formations and adapt tactics to counteract opponents.
Best game: England 3-2 Sweden. Swedes 2 Turnips 3 is how it should have been reported in Sverige. The quality of football wasn't the best, but the drama, bad rank defending and quality of goals made up for it. With the Swedes 2-1 up, it was 'same old England' until Walcott and Welbeck capped a remarkable turnaround.
Biggest gripe: Lack of long-range goals, lack of quality free-kicks and a lack of good old fashioned tackling. I guess that's the modern game for you! And although many people talk about this Spanish team being the greatest of all time, I'd still rather watch Brazil '82 for pure entertainment any day of the week. Final rant - why play music after goals are scored?
England verdict: Same old 4-4-2, lack of ball retention and too many pre-tournament injuries. It's turning into a curse! Fans were talking about this back in 1990 before the World Cup and then Sir Bobby Robson decided to use a continental style sweeper system. Terry Venables and Glenn Hoddle also adapted formations during big tournaments. Now we seem to be back to square one again.
Favourite moment: I really enjoyed the first goal. Robert Lewandowski scoring for the hosts Poland seemed to kick-start the tournament and set it on the road to success.
Best player: It has to be Andrea Pirlo. Yes, Iniesta was great too, but Pirlo inspired one of the outsiders to the final.
Biggest flop: Robin van Persie had a woeful tournament and his agents would have been left fuming. A good tournament and he would have had licence to print his next contract - not that he will be left counting the pennies!
Emerging star: Jordi Alba showed he could become one of Europe's best players. Now at Barcelona he could become a world great.
Best coach: Has to be Vicente del Bosque with his decision not to play a striker, bemused the opposition but proved hugely successful and was not just a fad.
Best game: Not obvious but for me Denmark and Portugal had everything, culminating in a last gasp winner.
Biggest gripe: Ireland's inept performance, caused mainly by Trapattoni's negative tactics and team selection. I felt truly sorry for all their fans who made the long trip to watch that rubbish.
England verdict: As expected, tough to beat but dull to watch. I fully expect that will be the eulogy to Roy Hodgson's time in charge of the Three Lions.
Favourite moment - Andrea Pirlo's penalty: The Italy midfielder had dictated the entire quarter-final against England and capped a virtuoso performance with a cheeky penalty in the shoot-out.
Best player - Andres Iniesta: No player stood head and shoulders above the rest during the tournament as a whole, but Iniesta was immense in Spain's final win over Italy, so gets the nod over Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi.
Biggest flop - The Netherlands: After a stunning qualification campaign, and with a wealth of top-class talent at their disposal, to finish with three defeats was a shock to the system as some of the Dutch's age-old problems came back to haunt them yet again.
Emerging star - Jordi Alba: If only for emerging more into my consciousness as I'd not seen a lot of him pre-tournament. Penetrating runs down the left, he is only going to make Barcelona even more formidable next season.
Best coach - Vicente del Bosque: Slightly obvious and potentially 'boring', but even with the best team it is still some achievement to have retained the European Championship, and to be bold enough not to pick a recognised striker in several games.
Best game - Spain 4 Italy 0: May go against the grain, but I wasn't impressed by the overall quality of the tournament, but at least in the final Italy were prepared to open up against Spain, while the imagination and inventiveness of the winners' passing was a joy to watch.
Biggest gripe - Michel Platini: UEFA's president continues to lurch from one bad idea to the next by suggesting Euro 2020 could be held across Europe. His insistence that additional referees on the goal-line works also generally defies the visual evidence.
England verdict: Satisfactory in that Roy Hodgson was able to get results and fashion an organised team together after a less-than-ideal preparation. Many of England's deficiencies are not going to be solved by Hodgson, but he does need to be more bold in the 2014 World Cup qualifiers.
Favourite moment - Mario Balotelli's second goal against Germany: Whatever your opinion of the temperamental Manchester City striker, there's no denying the key role he played in Italy's run to the final and the venomous strike which completed his double against the Germans was the highlight of a fine individual campaign. Even Germany goalkeeper Manuel Neuer applauded after the young frontman blasted an unstoppable shot home from 25 yards and you wouldn't have expected anything less than Balotelli's scowling, shirtless celebration.
Andres Iniesta: Player of the tournament for many
Best player - Andres Iniesta: The Spain midfield maestro was a joy to watch and was ever-present at the creative heart of the eventual winners. If the Spaniards had a chance during a game, more often than not Iniesta was the orchestrator. His passing and movement, as well as being easy on the eye, proved central to his side's victorious campaign and his devastating performance in the final summed up a superb tournament for the Spaniard.
Biggest flop - Holland: The Oranje were tipped as pre-tournament favourites after their near-miss at the last World Cup but never got out of the starting blocks in Poland and Ukraine. For a team filled with so many potential stars, including last season's Premier League top scorer Robin van Persie, the Dutch produced three surprisingly underwhelming performances before they were unceremoniously dumped out at the group stage by Portugal without a single point to their name.
Emerging star - Mats Hummels: The inexperience of Germany's centre-back may have shown in their defeat to Italy which knocked them out of the tournament, but ahead of that game the Borussia Dortmund defender was a shining star in Joachim Low's young side. One of the top players of the group stage, the assured 23-year-old caught the eye as an imposing presence at the heart of Germany's defence.
Best coach - Cesare Prandelli: The Italy coach nearly took his side all the way after successfully steering them to the final, showing his tactical astuteness while remaining humble throughout. Prandelli managed to unite his group of players, including the volatile Mario Balotelli, and get the best out of them, while also bringing a fresh, attractive style to their play.
Best game - Sweden 2 England 3: The clash might not have been the prettiest, but the twists and turns ensured it was thoroughly entertaining and the atmosphere was electric. There was back-and-forth drama throughout the rollercoaster encounter as the lead changed hands three times, while Theo Walcott's introduction proved one of the tournament's most effective game-changers and the finale ticked all the boxes as Danny Welbeck scored a wonderful improvisational winner.
Biggest gripe: 'Pantsgate' and UEFA's ludicrously skewed priorities. Nicklas Bendtner was hit with an £80,000 fine and one-match ban for lowering his shorts to reveal his branded underwear. The Croatian Football Federation, meanwhile, were docked £15,000 less for the behaviour of their fans - which included racism offences. After concerns over racism had been large in the build-up to the tournament, it would have been refreshing to see UEFA take a firmer stance.
England verdict: Lower expectations definitely suited England and there was a sense of togetherness to the team that had been missing in previous major tournaments. While the Three Lions' performances weren't ground-breaking, the players were committed and hard-working under new boss Roy Hodgson, while Steven Gerrard excelled as captain. Their exit on penalties was familiarly heart-breaking and there was a definite case of déjà vu, but England can take comfort in the glimmers of hope for the future thrown up by the likes of Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain and Danny Welbeck.
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