Aidan Elder | Chief Sports Writer
We’ve seen some brilliant football over the last few weeks – despite the best efforts of Giovanni Trapattoni and Roy Hodgson. It’s time to honour the best players at the tournament. Not on the Paddy Power Blog though. As Andres Iniesta is named UEFA’s player of Euro 2012, here’s a look at our Alternative Team of the Tournament featuring some of the more remarkable (both good and bad) performances from Poland and Ukraine.
Shay Given (Ireland)
If points were awarded for commitment to your country and going through hoops to play, then Shay Given would have been goalkeeper of the tournament. They’re not however and Shay had a bit of a nightmare. His build-up to Euro 2012 was dogged with comments like ‘no, I’m not injured. I’m going out of my way to this hugely expensive and highly skilled knee specialist purely for a check up.’ Shay insisted he was fit and Trapattoni bought it.
It took all of three minutes and a leaden-legged attempt to keep out Mario Mandzukic’s fairly tame header to prove that wasn’t the case. It didn’t get much better for him after that, with extensive ‘picking the ball out of the net’ duty against Spain and a disappointingly buttery-fingered performance in the dead rubber with Italy. It may not be the end of the road for the caps-loving Donegal man, but he will need to shake off his injury troubles if he is to get anywhere near his best.
Alvaro Arbeloa (Spain)
Arbeloa is one of the less spectacular pieces of the Spanish puzzle. Solid and reliable with a sensible haircut, he’s a safe pair of hands defensively. He doesn’t offer the same attacking threat as Jordi Alba, but he does have other strengths – namely getting kicked a lot. He was the most fouled player at Euro 2012 with 20 fouls suffered, but don’t feel too sorry for him as he also did some kicking himself, racking up 16 fouls committed.
John Terry (England)
For a man who moves with the speed of an arthritic snail, John Terry did pretty well for himself – at least in terms of fulsome and possibly insincere praise. He got burned for pace a few times – most notably against Zlatan Ibrahimovic versus Sweden and Marko Devic for that Ukrainian ‘goal’ – but his lack of regard for his own personal safety was commendable. His chasing of the lost cause that was the Ukraine goal showed the relentless willingness to work hard that makes him such a threat when introduced to team-mates’ wives.
Carles Puyol (Spain)
Yes he was injured and didn’t play at the tournament, but his sitting in the stands, silently judging the Pique/Ramos axis was probably the greatest motivation the two centre-backs had not to screw things up. No-one wants to be the subject of all that ‘we would have won it if he was there’ garbage and in a bizarre and possibly incorrect way, he helped just by looking like Sideshow Bob on the sidelines.
Fábio Coentrão (Portugal)
He looks like Alf and he said if he wasn’t a footballer, he’d probably be a fisherman. What’s not to like? And he can play a bit. On the rare occasion when Cristiano Ronaldo passed the ball to a team-mate, Coentrao showed what he could do, making some surging runs down the left flank and creating great chances for Hugo Almeida to waste. Captain Birdseye’s loss is Portugal’s gain.
Arjen Robben (Netherlands)
For his sheer ability to ignore a simple pass to a better placed team-mate in favour of an outlandish shot from an improbable angle, Arjen Robben deserves immense credit. The stats say he registered nine shots off target and three on target during the Netherlands’ ill-fated campaign, but no stats can truly do justice to the number of promising attacks he ruined by trying to do it all himself. Plus he had the balls to throw a hissy-fit when substituted even though everyone could see he was playing crap. World class selfishness.
Gianlugi Buffon (Italy)
Buffon (above) won plaudits for some great saves and enthusiastic off-key shouting of the national anthem, but his distribution was also world-class. Or at least better than half of England’s midfield. With 199 passes attempt at a completion rate of 83%, Gigi is safely nestled inside the Top 15% of passers at the tournament. That translates into making more passes and doing it more accurately than, among others, Ashley Young (138 and 54%) and James Milner (136 and 54%). He slots nicely into our midfield.
Christian Poulsen (Denmark)
Step aside Pirlo, Xavi and Keith Andrews, there’s a new midfield maestro in town. Many people didn’t think Roy Hodgson didn’t get a fair crack of the whip at Liverpool. Those people didn’t watch Christian Poulsen a whole lot. The Dane was such a flop at Anfield, he made Paul Konchesky look like a relative roaring success. The midfielder made a cameo for the Danes against Germany. It was only 12 minutes, but what a 12 minutes as Poulsen played seven of the most accurate and unremarkable passes you’re ever likely to witness on a football pitch. It gave him one of only four 100% pass completion rates at Euro 2012.
Theo Walcott (England)
It’s not his fault, but when England were struggling, his was the name to the forefront of the clamour as if he was the solution to all the world’s problems. To his credit, he was the catalyst for England’s fightback against Sweden. But then he couldn’t have been more anonymous against Ukraine and Italy if he opened a fake twitter account and started trolling celebrities. I don’t want to dump on him so much as the unwarranted expectation that came with him because he’s decent player. What he delivered was pretty much what he always delivers – running fast and not really being able to control the ball. Sometimes it comes off, most of the time it doesn’t. Let’s not pretend he’s the Stanmore Solskjaer.
Aleksandr Kerzhakov (Russia)
Remember when Russia looked rampant and became serious contenders for Euro 2012? It lasted for about a game and a half at the start of the tournament. After ripping the Czech Republic to shreds, the best thing about the rest of their campaign was the massive banner the fans revealed against Poland as Dick Advocaat’s men crashed out at the group stage. There were a lot of players to be scape-goated, but Kerzhakov was more culpable than most. Impressively, the Russian striker managed 12 shots on goal on average every 15 mins. Less impressively, 11 of them were off target and he didn’t score. God loves a tryer. The Russian sporting public less so.
Juan Mata (Spain)
Three minutes of match time and one goal. And a solid effort at a beard. You can’t really argue with that. When Spain gathered for their pre-tournament training camp, the squad’s medical team conducted fitness assessments on everyone. The results showed that Mata was as exhausted as it’s possible to be without actually being injured. Or to use the language of the medical world, he was ‘totally banjaxed’. Thanks to Spain’s depth of talent, he wasn’t required, but his briefest of cameos brought the curtain down on a fantastic season for Mata and reminded everyone else that the Furia Roja may be hockeying everyone else for many years to come.