Former Liverpool Great Xabi Alonso And The Best XI Of Euro 2012
Managing this Euro 2012 best eleven will be the final’s losing manager - Cesare Prandelli - who made a name for himself on the international stage by taking a largely unfancied Italian team to the competition’s climax despite a string of injuries and selection issues as well as impressive man-management of the some of the game’s mavericks. 4-3-3 will be the formation of choice for the line-up, as it was the style most frequently used by teams during this summer’s tournament.
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas (Spain)
Casillas has been ever-present in goal for La Roja for over a decade now, and his performances in Poland and Ukraine as Spain wrapped up their third straight tournament success have been nothing short of exemplary. The Real Madrid stopper incredibly conceded just once in six Euro 2012 fixtures, in his sides opening clash with Italy to Antonio Di Natale. Oh, and Casillas is his country’s captain who holds the fabulous record of winning every tournament he has led the Spanish to since taking over from Raul in 2008. The current best goalkeeper in the world, and at 31-years-of-age he isn’t going anywhere soon.
Right Back: Mathieu Debuchy (France)
25-year-old Lille full-back Debuchy made a name for himself at this championship, with his form for Les Blues alerting interest from a host of Premier League clubs. Whilst Chelsea, Newcastle et al may not have been particularly astounded by the manner of his defending against Spain that allowed Jordi Alba to clip a cross in for Xabi Alonso to seal that game’s winner – the nine-time capped Frenchman was a solid performer during the group stage. His marauding runs will be most welcomed in England next season, if he does complete a much expected transfer from Ligue 1.
Centre Backs: Sergio Ramos and Pepe (Spain and Portugal)
As an (average) striker myself, I tend to rate central defenders on how much I would least like to face them. And in Sergio Ramos and Pepe, those are two defensive warriors that no forward would relish a battle with. Pepe was composed at the back and thunderous in the tackle, while Sergio Ramos made the transition from right-back to international centre-half effortlessly. Ramos kept Balotelli quiet throughout the final – something Germany, England and Ireland found impossible – by snapping at the Italians heels like a deranged terrier. They would form an aggressive but talented defensive pairing.
Left Back: Jordi Alba (Spain)
No prizes for guessing this one, but Barcelona’s latest signing has exploded at Euro 2012 and blown open the myth that there are few classy left-backs in the game to rival Ashley Cole and Phillip Lahm. And former Valencia man Alba doesn’t just rival those two, but on the evidence from the last three weeks, he betters them. And for around £12m, he is only a tad more expensive that Man City’s 2009 acquisition of Wayne Bridge. So there is still value to be found in the European transfer market.
Defensive Midfield: Xabi Alonso (Spain)
Another Spaniard makes my eleven, with former Liverpool star Xabi Alonso the perfect fit to anchor this attacking line-up. He practically overcame France on his own in the quarter-finals – that sumptuous placed header followed by a coolly taken penalty to ease his nation into the last four. When answering his co-commentator’s question of what he thought of Liverpool manager Rafa Benitez’s wish to replace Alonso with Gareth Barry, Mark Lawrenson’s reply of “mystifying” was spot on. And it says a lot about that decision if BBC’s mistake-prone pundit nails it on the head. Maybe Benitez will be better off in his new role as summariser/journalist/blogger than he was as a coach. Either way, Xabi Alonso was fantastic this summer and his old Liverpool boss was crazy to get rid of him.
Central Midfielders: Andrea Pirlo & Andreas Iniesta (Italy and Spain)
Two masters of ceremony for the respective nation’s, Pirlo and Iniesta have stood head and shoulders above the rest of the field at Euro 2012 in the middle of the park. Pirlo rolled back the years for The Azzurri to make a mockery of Milan’s decision to let him move to Juventus on a free last summer with consistently sumptuous displays. He dominated England from his favoured ‘quarter-back’ position in such a way that aspiring young players should be shown DVD’s of his performance. And Iniesta fully deserves his award of player of the tournament – again proving how he is the biggest of big-game players in the world at the minute, with a momentous final to cap a blistering competition from him.
Right Wing: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
C-Ron finally laid to bed the criticisms that he can’t perform for Portugal like he does for Real Madrid and did for Manchester United – by leading his nation to within a penalty shoot-out of the final. That he never got to take the fifth spot-kick is a travesty, as his confidence to take the final penalty is admirable. Unfortunately it wasn’t to be. His displays for A Selecção were full of swagger and arrogance, and his goals were important and well-taken. Silenced his early-tournament critics well and his brace against Holland was one of the best individual performances of the tournament.
Left Wing: Alan Dzagoev (Russia)
Perhaps controversial considering Dzagoev’s Russia did not emerge from the group stages, but the 22-year-old really justified his pre-competition hype with three goals in as many games. Whilst Russia may be accused of complacency after their initial 4-1 dismantling of the Czech Republic – Arsenal’s latest transfer target looked industrious on and off the ball and provided a finish that a lot of top midfielders in today’s game seem to lack. English football fans will hope to see more of Dzagoev next season (as long as it’s for your club).
Striker: Mario Balotelli
There are no false nine’s in this team, just the very obvious Mario Balotteli. This tournament has seen Mario fulfil the old cliché of growing from a boy to a man, and his double against Germany shocked European football to its stereotypical core. Balotelli was supposed to be hot-headed not clinical under pressure, and the Germans’ defence was not meant to buckle like that from the weight of a 21-year-old. But he has written his name in Italian football folklore, and could be The Azzurri’s star striker for over a decade. He has gained huge amounts of respect from his Euro 2012 showing, although his agents remarks that he is now worth £200m did bring a smile to the eye. Hopefully Balotelli can keep up the good work to prove Alan Hansen – and the remainder of his critics – wrong.
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