independent

Monday 21 April 2014

The best XI: Picking the top team from a championship of thoroughbreds

WHILE Euro 2012 was a high-quality tournament, certain individuals showed consistent excellence..Here, Simon Stone selects his team of the tournament.









Gianluigi Buffon (Italy): Difficult to believe Buffon could have done a thing about those four goals that flew past him in Kiev. Drew Italy together magnificently and proved he is still at the top of his game.



Mathieu Debuchy (France): Outstanding group phase and although he struggled in the quarter-final defeat to Spain, easy to see why so many clubs want him.



Sergio Ramos (Spain): There are plenty who do not like the Real Madrid man. But he mixes brute force and downright cynicism at times with the qualities of a midfield player. Outstanding in the final.



Mats Hummels (Germany): Semi-final blunder should not obscure what otherwise has been a fine competition for the 23-year-old, who has quickly emerged as one of Europe's top defenders.



Jordi Alba (Spain): In my tournament XI even before that brilliant goal last night. Now we know why Barcelona agreed to pay Valencia £11million for the left-back before the tournament. He would cost a lot more now.



Andrea Pirlo (Italy): Destroyed England and then did it again to Germany, proving age is no barrier to true class. Calmness in position and consistent eye for a pass unmatched in this tournament.



Sami Khedira (Germany): Forceful midfield presence who keeps pushing Germany forward. Did more than anyone to try and drag his side out of the semi-final mire.



Xabi Alonso (Spain): Still difficult to believe Rafael Benitez felt Gareth Barry was a better bet for Liverpool. Doesn't get the attention of more illustrious team-mates but vital cog.



Andres Iniesta (Spain): No-one deserves to be called boring less. Doesn't say much off the field but then his football speaks for itself. Spain's most consistent performer and man-of-the-match in the final.



Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal): The true story of that penalty shambles will never be known but finally exploded the myth that he fails to perform for his country, who were almost a one-man team.



Mario Balotelli (Italy): Ended the tournament in tears and bewildered. But the experience has to be taken as a whole. Mario was largely becalmed and how Italy benefited. Superb semi-final double.





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