It all happened so quickly. Less than a month ago the collective eyes of the worlds of football and opening ceremony enthusiasts were on Warsaw to watch a Hungarian pianist’s failed attempt to juggle a ball; and now it’s over, and we are left to contemplate the rewards of a striker-less formation, and worship Zlatan Ibrahimovic in his multiple forms: printed, digital, imagined, and fleshy.
The last of its kind, with expansion to come in four years, Euro 2012 has been a glorious spectacle, full of the upsets, forgone conclusions, characters and subplots that we have come to expect from such intense festivals of the boot and ball. Here, a selection of first-class football writers and bloggers from across the treacherous internet seas have come together to share their thoughts on Euro 2012 with you. Who has Dermot Corrigan chosen as his man of the tournament? Which match did Miriti Murungi deem to be the best? And just what was Luke Moore’s favourite moment from Poland and Ukraine? Wonder no longer: it’s all here.
Mario Balotelli - The 21-year-old gets an undeserved amount of stick both in the tabloid press and the BBC studio, yet, for a young man, he is a phenomenal talent. His two goals that took care of Germany in the semi-final were both of exceptional quality in different ways, and he worked his socks off throughout the tournament and led the line in a way that no other player of his age could.
Runner-up: Andrea Pirlo - Not the best, but certainly the classiest operator of the summer.
Andrea Pirlo’s panenka - There are no words, only admiration. I would have to write a poem to do it the required credit. It just had to be against my nation, didn’t it?
Runner up: Jakub Blazczykowski’s goal against Russia - It was like he literally scored that on behalf of an entire nation. Some strike as well.
The Final - What a fitting end to a brilliant summer. Spain were irresistible and cemented their place as the best international team of all time.
Runner up: Denmark 2-3 Portugal - A relentless fiesta of a match, this rarely let up for a second and was decided in the final minutes by a goal of Silvestre Varela of bizarre quality.
Dermot Corrigan, Spanish football expert.
I’m possibly biased but Spanish coach Vicente del Bosque has been hugely impressive in everything he’s done. Even more than his selections and substitutions (which not everyone seems to realise are two sides of same coin / plan for the game), but for the calm and intelligent way he has reacted to criticism of himself and his team in Spain. “We have passed too quickly from being poor to being rich,” he said. “We do not know how to value what we have.” As well as an outstanding national team coach, he’s a very genuine and clever guy.
Sergio Ramos’ penalty against Portugal was Spain’s moment, but Mario Balotelli’s second goal against Germany was the tournament’s. After the ball flew in I sat for a second in silence, then laughed out loud for a good two minutes, from pure joy. The technique was perfect, the celebration brilliant, and the sheer audacity of it all blew me away.
Not everyone might agree, but Spain vs Portugal was an outstanding tournament match. The first half was an absorbing contest between Portugal’s pressing and Spain’s attempts to spring through with quick passes. In the second 45 minutes Spain gradually strangled the life out of their opponents (but still could have been caught by Ronaldo right at the end). Then Del Bosque’s brave decision to withdraw Xavi and play two wingers saw his side dominate extra-time. Then Ramos’ penalty, Ronaldo’s absence and Cesc talking to the ball… Jonathan Wilson is right “goals are over-rated”.
Fernando Santos; the coach of the Greek side. He never seemed animated or enthused by the football, but his face had this desperately endearing quality to it. He looked as though he’d learned that someone had just eaten his lunch, and he was resigned to the fact that he could do nothing about it. I also want to draw attention to Olof Mellberg, who was the man of the tournament – not because he played well, but because he was the best at being a man.
When Giorgos Karagounis was booked for simulation against Russia, he lost himself. He didn’t look angry with the referee, rather he was hopelessly emotional; crossing himself over and over and imploring some greater power to make it all better. Euro 2012 really meant something to the Greeks; it’s a shame that it all ended so brutally.
The opening match was gloriously, recklessly wild, but the semi-final between Germany and Italy was the classic this tournament was waiting for. Two traditional giants of the European game, two tremendous goals, wonderfully fluid football, and a diving header from a goalkeeper: if you don’t like that, then you don’t know what’s good for you.
Miriti Murungi, editor of Nutmeg Radio
There was always only one man perfectly situated to emerge from Poland/Ukraine as man of the tournament. The only question was whether he was going to be man of the tournament in the same way Joseph Stalin was Time Magazine’s Man of the Year (1942) or whether he would be more Martin Luther King (1963). Turns out Mario Balotelli was all of the above – part-hero, part-villain; socio-political pundit; statue; showman; goal scorer. Balotelli was an integral part of almost everything – both good and bad – that will end up a part of Poland/Ukraine’s Euro 2012 legacy.
Something about Joe Hart on the ground, watching Andrea Pirlo’s chip slowly floating down the middle of the goal, epitomized the cajones it takes to win at this level. There are good players, and then there are players who pull out the Panenka during penalties at the European Championship quaterfinal and then say, “ Hart seemed to be very confident in himself and I needed to do something to beat him.” It’s the kind of confidence that borders on arrogance, but also the kind of confidence that lies at the heart of so many iconic moments. Without that moment, perhaps Balotelli doesn’t get to take his shirt off.
Italy vs. Germany was the perfect storm. Two early, thumping goals from the world’s most controversial forward, followed by a siege from probably the most fluent attacking side in the world at the moment. Add a weathered Andrea Pirlo looking like the Fonz in the final season of Happy Days, a baby-faced MesutÖzil, arguably the two best goalkeepers in the world in Gigi Buffon and Manuel Neuer, a wide-open game of football featuring an Italian team, and a dash of history, and you have the ingredients for a delicious bowl of pleasure. And that it was. Given the mouth-watering match-ups on paper that never materialized during Euro 2012, Italy-Germany was a breath of fresh air and well worth the wait.
Eric Beard, founder and editor of AFR.
It’s hard to look past the likes of Andres Iniesta, Andrea Pirlo, and Mario Balotelli, but that’s exactly why I’m going to do. After two tumultuous matches, Cristiano Ronaldo broke out of his shell against the Netherlands and was electric for the remainder of Portugal’s Euro 2012 run. Amongst all the pressure, he finally lifted us shoulders and led his team to the semifinal, where he was desperately unlucky to lose against Spain. Messi is still the best player in the world in my opinion, but Ronaldo silenced his critics and earned recognition for the complete player he has become.
I have to say that I have a weakness for the hosts. Despite the various scandals surrounding Ukraine, their match against Sweden was something that few Ukrainians will forget. Of course, it would have been nice to see them progress into the knockout stage, but seeing Andriy Shevchenko light up the eyes of his fellow countrymen - young and old - was just about the exegesis of why many of us, myself included, enjoy football.
Context aside, Portugal’s 3-2 win over Denmark was a mess, and both nations were trying to avoid cleaning up after themselves. Against all odds, Nicklas Bendtner had an excellent tournament, and his two goals to bring Denmark back from their 2-nil deficit were nothing short of surreal. Cristiano played hide-and-seek with viewers on TV during this match - and won -, but Joao Moutinho stepped up and showed what a fantastic presence he is in the midfield. It is worth mentioning that Moutinho had a phenomenal tournament, and it will be interesting to see if he will stay at FC Porto or move elsewhere this season.
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- rosalindamoere92386 answered: Luke moore.
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- onthecornerstone answered: The rewards of a striker-less formation? Spain would’ve been so much deadlier with Torres up front instead of Fabregas.
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