GDANSK, Poland -- The Euro 2012 group stage ended on Tuesday, and with 24 of 31 games in the books, it's a good time to offer my team of the tournament so far. I'm going with a 3-4-3 formation, which I usually find optimal for all-tournament teams, but I have sought to fill the right positions on the field (i.e., having a right back, a center back and a left back instead of three center backs.) Let's break it down:
"Saint Iker" has been special against Italy and Croatia, never more so than when he stoned Ivan Rakitic's point-blank header in the second half to prevent a goal that would have put Spain on the outside looking in in Group C.
I like fullbacks who can get forward but still defend, and Gebre Selassie has been a revelation in this tournament, outshining bigger names and providing the assist on the decisive goal in the Czechs' win over Greece. You'll see him move from the Czech league to a higher-profile destination soon.
Despite being in the Group of Death, the Germans were the only team to take nine points from the group stage, and a big reason was the defensive work of Hummels (and partner Holger Badstuber, for that matter). Hummels takes care of business in the central defense, but he's also dangerous on set pieces in the box.
Philipp Lahm has been very good for Germany, but Coentrão has been his equal, and the Portuguese man had the best single game by a left back in the 3-2 win over Denmark (dominating winger Dennis Rommedahl).
The co-host Poles are out, but it wasn't the fault of their captain, who was especially dangerous in Poland's first two games, and scored perhaps the tournament's best goal in a 1-1 tie with Russia.
Croatia ended up being in the real 'Group of Death', going out as Spain and Italy advanced in Group C. But the Croats were better than a few teams that did advance, including the Czechs and Greece (and maybe Portugal, too). Modric was the best player on the field in the Spain game, and he made an impact in the other group games as well.
I'm putting De Rossi in the central midfield, even though he has played expertly in the three-man back line Italy has used. Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has asked a lot of De Rossi in this tournament, and so far he has delivered, barely beating out Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger for this spot.
Iniesta has played as much centrally as on the left, but he has been Spain's best field player, involving himself in almost all of the defending champ's goals so far. Iniesta's understanding of movement and passing is a joy to watch, even more so in person.
It may seem crazy to include three players whose teams have been eliminated, but Dzagoev earned this spot with a tournament co-leading three goals in a breakout performance for the 22-year-old. Another player who seems likely to make a move (from CSKA Moscow), Dzagoev has speed, guile and a killer finish.
After failing to score at Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010, Gómez aced out Miroslav Klose for the starting role here and has been terrific so far, both in the quality and quantity (three) of his goals.
I know Silva is more of a midfielder, but he has played as a false nine in this tournament, and his Euro-co-leading three assists are enough to squeak him in ahead of Croatia's Mario Mandzukic and France's Karim Benzema.