As the dust begins to settle following another famous Spanish triumph, one argument that will be brewing up over the coming days will be the ‘Team of the Tournament’. I myself have been looking at the various stand-out performers at over the last few weeks, and after much careful consideration, I give you my Team of the Tournament.
Questions were asked of the veteran Juventus and Italy goalkeeper going into Euro 2012, but Buffon has been inspirational in this campaign and has certainly earned his spot in this list.
He made outstanding saves in the majority of Italy’s games, most notably from Glen Johnson of England in the Quarter-Final and a host of German efforts in the Semi-Final.
Although last night’s Final is one to forget for the 34-year-old, it would be harsh to let one game overshadow an otherwise fantastic tournament from the captain himself. Read the rest of this entry »
Spain went in to this sporting their unorthodox 4-6-0 formation fielding a team without a recognized centre-forward. The ‘eyebrow raising’ formation had been introduced by Spain in this tournament and had been working to their success until now. The Italians on the other hand only made one change to their team that beat Germany 2-1 in the quarter-final which saw the rather unfortunate Balzaretti, who had a world beating performance lose his place to Abate.
In the opening frames of the game both teams were working extremely hard to obtain command. Inevitably it was the Spanish, who once got their typical passing game going were always going to be hard to hinder. However, to Italy’s credit they were no push-overs and did not allow themselves to become besieged by Spain. They got frequent, although brief spells of possession and they looked to gain an advantage by pushing full-back Chielini high up the by-line and to get some deliveries in to Balotelli who displayed his areal potential against the Germans.
After a thoroughly enjoyable three weeks of fantastic football, thrilling matches, and stunning goals, we’ve finally come to the show-piece event of the whole tournament. Euro 2012’s final kicks off on Sunday, July 1st, with the winner and runner-up of Group C, Spain and Italy repectively, competing for the trophy.
Both teams have had great stories in how they reached the final, and both very different. Spain were the pre-tournament favourites to win the Championships, while many expected Italy to crash and burn like they did in 2010, with the domestic disruption going on at home for them. The Italian league and many players have been emboiled in a betting scandal that has even seen Italian left-back Domenico Criscito left at home for the tournament.
But out of the Italian ashes rises the phoenix, with players such as Federico Balzaretti, Daniele De Rossi, and the ageless Andrea Pirlo performing superbly. Balotelli, while sometimes being well off his game, has come up with two goals of immesurable importance in the semi-final, with a display he won’t forget any time soon.
(Key battles below)
So after the disappointment of last night’s first semi-final between Spain and Portugal, fans were hoping that Germany and rank outsiders Italy would serve up a better feast of football than their Iberian counterparts. Germany had won every game in the tournament up to that point (the only team to have done so), and had scored 9 goals. Italy, on the other hand, squeaked out of Group C at Croatia’s expense and it took penalties to see them past England in the Quarter Final stage.
As the teams came out it became apparent the sheer class on the pitch. Germany boasted top quality players in every position: Neuer, Lahm, Schweinsteiger, and Podolski. Italy themselves had a team to be feared, Buffon the talisman in goal, Andrea Pirlo the magician in midfield and Balotelli the livewire up front.
In case you didn’t know, the first semi final in the European Championships kicked off tonight in Donetsk. It was an Iberian derby between old rivals Spain and Portugal. Most football fans had been anticipating this game since Spain beat France to set up this tie. With a reported injury to Cesc Fabregas, Vicente Del Bosque was forced to make a change to his system of playing a false 9 – Sevilla striker Álvaro Negredo was preferred to Fernando Torres up top. Portugal, on the other hand, made one change from their victory over the Czech Republic, with Hugo Almeida replacing Real Zaragoza striker Helder Postiga.
Portugal started the game at a frantic pace. They forced some early corners from the Spanish who were made to look uncomfortable. They couldn’t get their foot on the ball and they seemed frustrated. But, as night follows day, they regained their composure and began to spray the ball around the park.
Penalties were, once again, England’s undoing in a major championship. Italy prevailed from this European Championship quarter-final via a shootout after a tense, scoreless game in Kiev’s Olympic Stadium.
England started the game brightly – they used Italy’s inherent narrowness to their advantage. Gli Azzurri started with a diamond 4-4-2, just as they did against Ireland in their final group game. Glen Johnson and Ashley Cole got forward from their full-back positions, to exploit Italy’s lack of wide midfielders. Johnson, especially, got a lot of space in the opposition half, as Daniele De Rossi neglected his defensive assignment.
This paid dividend within five minutes, as Johnson drifted inside, with the ball, from the edge of the Italian box – De Rossi didn’t challenge him. He laid it off, and some nice interplay created a chance for the Liverpool man, forcing a superb reaction from Gianluigi Buffon in the Italian goal.
Xabi Alonso reached the 100 caps milestone tonight in the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 against France, and certainly marked in style as he scored both goals in his nation’s 2-0 victory to set up a mouth-watering semifinal fixture against Portugal.
As expected, Spain were very much on top from the kick-off and it was no surprise when they took the lead in the 19th minute, but Gael Clichy, Adil Rami and Lorient Koscielny will all be kicking themselves for not picking up Xabi Alonso on the far post as he ran into acres of space to power a header beyond the reach of Hugo Lloris. Spain could have been two or three up at half-time had David Silva been on his game, but the Manchester City man’s passing just wasn’t up to its usual standard tonight.
France came out in the second half with a bit more fire in their belly, but in the periods of the half when they looked like they might create something, they did very little, as a very organised Spanish defence was able to see off any French attack. Samir Nasri and Jeremy Menez were introduced to change the game, but there was little they could do as Spain eventually delivered the killer blow when Xabi Alonso scored from the penalty spot in injury time after Pedro had been bundled over in the box by Anthony Réveillère.
Rumours had circulated of unrest in the French camp and it appeared to have translated onto the pitch with uninspiring performances from Karim Benzema and Florent Malouda in particular. The fact Benzema ends the tournament without a single goal says all you need to know about the Real Madrid man’s poor showing at Euro 2012. Read the rest of this entry »