The Best Players of Euro 2012
The Stars of Euro 2012
This article will showcase the best player from each of the 16 countries represented at the 2012 European football championships.
Like all major international football tournaments, Euro 2012 elevated a number of previously unknown players to global stardom. Picking the best player from each country was a difficult task.
For some countries, a well known professional stood head and shoulders above his teammates. For others, one particular player emerged from obscurity to shock the football world. Some countries like Spain and Germany had so many star players that picking one became an agonising endeavor.
The final selection considered three factors: consistency of performance, the surprise surrounding this performance, and the player's importance to the team. The selector watched each Euro 2012 match, and has been a fan of the beautiful game for over 20 years.
Andrea Pirlo, Italy
- 6 games (final), 1 goal, 2 assists
- Tournament Rating: 95
Despite Andres Iniesta winning the official player of the tournament award, the accolade deservedly goes to Andrea Pirlo. His mazy run and assist for Antonio Di Natale gave Italy a lead in their opening match against Spain. In the second group game he scored a precise free kick against Croatia, and in the final game against Ireland his corner was converted by an Antonio Cassano header. His exemplary performances in the knockout phase guided Italy all the way to the final. He is praised for dominating the English and German midfields, but was contained in the final against Spain. Had Pirlo been deployed in a more attacking role, his influence may have inspired them to a better result.
Xabi Alonso, Spain
- 6 games (final), 2 goals, 0 assists
- Tournament Rating: 89
There were many Spanish players that impressed at Euro 2012; Jordi Alba, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, David Silva and Cesc Fabregas in particular. All of these players were not as consistent, or did not get enough minutes on the pitch to top the overall performance of Xabi Alonso. Despite his lack of assists, he provided a crucial variety to Spain's attacking play, with an extensive range of cross-field passes and an ability to break into the box at opportune moments. His defensive display was equally impressive, leaving Pique and Ramos with very little to do. More than Xavi or Iniesta, he was the most influential player in the Spanish side. His two goals came against France, one being a far post header, and the other a penalty.
Zlatan Ibrahimovich, Sweden
- 3 games (group), 2 goals, 1 assist
- Tournament Rating: 86
Against Ukraine, Zlatan Ibrahimovich demonstrated quick reactions to score a well-directed tap in goal. He also hit the post in this game, and played a wonderful looped pass to Elmander (which deserved a better finish). He got the assist for Mellberg’s 1st goal against England, before scoring one of the goals of the tournament against France with a mid-air volley. This goal can be seen in the video above.
Against France, Ibrahimovich demonstrated further passing brilliance with a fantastic chipped pass for Christian Wilhelmsson. With better team-mates he would have had many more goals and assists, and would have gotten much further in the tournament. Nevertheless, his technical brilliance was on par with Pirlo and the Spanish team.
Joao Moutinho, Portugal
- 5 games (semis), 0 goals, 2 assists
- Tournament Rating: 84
There were many Portuguese players that stood out from the pack. In particular, the Real Madrid contingent of Ronaldo, Pepe and Coentrao. However, Ronaldo missed a lot of easy chances, Coentrao was inconsistent, and Pepe was one-dimensional. The most influential of all the Portuguese players was the surprisingly good Joao Moutinho. His passing range and ability shocked many fans into becoming huge admirers. Defensively and offensively, he gelled the Portuguese team into a cohesive unit and guided them to the semi finals. He provided the assist for Pepe’s goal against Denmark, and his great run and crossed assist for Ronaldo provided the winning goal against the Czech Republic. He was also massively impressive in their 0-0 semi-final against Spain.
Sami Khedira, Germany
- 5 games (semis), 1 goal, 1 assist
- Tournament Rating: 79
In Germany's first match of the tournament Sami Khedira provided the crucial cross for Mario Gomez's goal in their 1-0 win over Portugal. Against Denmark his creative passing, including an exquisite through-ball for Andre Schurrle, led to numerous chances. One of his driving runs ended in Lars Bender's winning goal against Denmark. Khedira then scored one of the goals of the tournament against Greece with a thumping volleyed strike. Throughout Euro 2012 he consistently outperformed fellow midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, and in their semi final against Italy, he was Germany’s best player by some margin.
Mario Mandzukic, Croatia
- 3 games (group), 3 goals, 0 assists
- Tournament Rating: 74
Mario Mandzukic's excellent finishing ability surprised everyone during the tournament, and it earned him a transfer to Bayern Munich. He scored two long-range headed goals against Ireland in Croatia's first Euro 2012 match. He also stunned Italy with the equalising goal in their 1-1 draw. Against Spain he made some great bursts down the right flank, and was unlucky not to be awarded a penalty when Sergio Ramos rashly fouled him.
Jakub Blaszczykowski, Poland
- 3 games (group), 1 goal, 1 assist
- Tournament Rating: 70
Poland only scored 2 goals in Euro 2012, and Jakub Blaszczykowski played a crucial part in both. His cross for their goal against Greece was inch perfect, landing the ball onto Robert Lewandowski's head from some distance.
Poland's other goal was all his, and it was one of the goals of the tournament. He finished off a quick counter-attack by cutting inside and firing a precise shot into the far top corner of the Russian net (see video).
Affectionately known as Kuba, Blaszczykowski's performance at Euro 2012 earned him a new contract with his club Borussia Dortmund. He has contributed greatly to their recent success in Germany and in the UEFA Champions League. Dortmund ousted Bayern Munich to win the Bundesliga in 2011 and 2012.
Petr Jiracek, Czech Republic
- 4 games (quarters), 2 goals, 0 assists
- Tournament Rating: 68
Petr Jiracek surprised many people who had never heard of him. His powerful runs from midfield and excellent dribbling ability made him the most exciting player in the Czech team. He combined this ability with an end product on two occasions. His quick goal against Greece forced the Greeks to abandon their defensive approach. Against Poland he picked up the ball in the penalty area and produced a lovely dummy and finish, giving them a 1-0 win, which eliminated the Poles.
Alan Dzagoev, Russia
- Attacking midfielder / forward
- 3 games (group), 3 goals, 0 assists
- Tournament Rating: 66
Russia thrashed the Czech Republic in their opening game, and Alan Dzagoev was the star man, grabbing two goals. Against Poland he scored a glancing header from an Andrei Arshavin free-kick. As a previous unknown, Dzagoev's finishing ability sparked attention from several big European clubs, including Arsenal, making him one of the most surprising stars of Euro 2012.
Michael Krohn-Dehli, Denmark
- 3 games (group), 2 goals, 1 assist
- Tournament Rating: 63
Michael Krohn-Dehli became an instant star of Euro 2012 when he struck the winning goal in Denmark's 1-0 defeat of the Netherlands. His brilliant run into the penalty area was finished with a powerful and precise shot through the legs of the Dutch keeper. He provided the assist for one of Nicklas Bendtner's goals against Portugal, and he scored against Germany with a header after taking up an excellent position in the penalty area.
Dimitris Salpingidis, Greece
- 4 games (quarters), 2 goals, 1 assist
- Tournament Rating: 61
Dimitris Salpingidis surprised his own manager in their opening game against Poland. Starting as a sub, he came on and scored their equalising goal against the Poles before winning them a penalty. He made a great run and provided the perfect crossed assist for Samaras's goal against Germany in the quarter finals. He then tucked away Greece's penalty in the same match. He demonstrated clever movement in all his appearances at Euro 2012.
John Terry, England
- 4 games (quarters), 0 goals, 0 assists
- Tournament Rating: 59
England's most consistent performer was John Terry. He produced a solid performance against France, keeping Benzema and Ribery quiet. Surprisingly, in this match he ended up with more passes than Steven Gerrard, demonstrating his influence in the team. Against Sweden he didn't make any mistakes, and both of Sweden’s goals came from Joleon Lescott’s defensive area. He almost scored against Sweden with a header, and against Ukraine, he cleared their disallowed goal off the line. He produced a fantastic defensive display to prevent Italy from scoring in England's 0-0 defeat on penalties in the quarter finals.
Yohan Cabaye, France
- 3 games (quarters), 1 goal, 0 assists
- Tournament Rating: 58
Yohan Cabaye is a rising star who further enhanced his reputation at Euro 2012. He scored a classy strike into the far corner of the goal against Ukraine, and also hit the post with a powerful drive from outside the box in the same match. Against Spain he produced France's one moment of quality with his brilliant free-kick effort. His passing ability was exemplary throughout, and he gelled the French team together in a way that was lacking at previous tournaments.
Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine
- 3 games (group), 2 goals, 0 assists
- Tournament Rating:55
Andriy Shevchenko bowed out of international football with his head held high. The veteran scored Ukraine's only two goals of the tournament. Both were near-post headed goals against Sweden, which saw them come from behind to win the game. Against France he produced a brilliant cushioned header to control a long ball, and set up a chance that forced a good save from Hugo Lloris.
Sean St Ledger, Republic of Ireland
- 3 games (group), 1 goal, 0 assists
- Tournament Rating: 52
Sean St Ledger scored Ireland’s only goal of the tournament against Croatia with a simple headed finish from a free-kick. Even though Ireland conceded a lot of goals, he showed some excellent defending ability that kept Spain and Italy's scoring down. This included brave and crucial blocks against both Spain and Italy, and a clearance off the line against Italy.
Maarten Stekelenburg, Netherlands
- 3 games (group), 0 goals, 0 assists
- Tournament Rating: 51
Despite being beaten with a shot through his legs against Denmark, and going down rather early when Gomez scored for Germany, Stekelenburg pulled off some incredible saves in Euro 2012. In particular his close range stops from Portugal's Nani, and Germany's Holger Badstuber. He was the Netherlands best player, but this isn't saying much. The defense was woeful, the midfield under-performed, and Robin Van Persie missed too many easy chances.
Every international football tournament is an opportunity for players to showcase their skills to a wider audience. Many players that were complete unknowns rose to become the stars of Euro 2012. These exceptional talents will no doubt follow Mario Mandzukic into bigger and better clubs as a result of their exploits on the international stage. Thank you for reading this compilation showcasing the best players from Euro 2012!
- Statistics are from ESPN.
- Player pictures not sourced above are from espnfc.com