Spain cements its place in history with unprecedented title run
The Spanish maestro was tremendous all tournament, keeping defenders off-balance and showing surpassing imagination. Iniesta's movements are like brush strokes from an impressionist. Remarkable stuff.
Spain never gave up a goal after Antonio Di Natale's strike in their opening game, but team's did have chances, and Saint Iker snuffed them out every time.
One of Euro 2012's weaker positions, but give Gebre Selassie credit for standing out with his pushes upfield. Not his best game in the quarterfinal vs. Portugal, but he was exemplary otherwise.
It's a lot easier to like Portugal Pepe than Real Madrid Pepe. This one was solid (but not thuggish) in the central defense and showed great poise in front of the opposing goal, too, scoring once and hitting a penalty against Spain.
Spain's stingy defense was due in large part to the partnership of Ramos and Gerard Piqué, but I'll give Ramos the nod for adapting to the role in the absence of the injured Carles Puyol -- and for the cojones to hit a Panenka penalty against Portugal in the semis.
I was about to give this to Germany's Philipp Lahm, but Alba's majestic long run and goal against Italy in the final put him over the top. Barcelona has just acquired one of the great left backs of the future (and perhaps the present).
Though Xavi didn't have his best tournament for Spain, Alonso did a lot to make up for it, producing hundreds of passes, covering acres of space and showing a scoring touch of his own.
Calling Alonso and Khedira "holding midfielders" is a little unfair, since both were dangerous moving forward in this tournament and scored important goals doing so. In fact, Khedira was more dangerous than teammate Bastian Schweinsteiger when he pushed up but still provided steel in the center of the park. (And yes, if you're noticing that there are six Real Madrid players on my Best XI, I noticed, too.)
Ronaldo was a truly dominant player for the Portuguese, scoring twice against the Netherlands and once against the Czechs, and if you could believe it he hit the woodwork four times, too. Had his chance late to beat Spain and missed it. You don't get too many of those.
If Italy had won in the final, Pirlo would have been the obvious player of the tournament. Written off as too old by many, the 33-year-old playmaker was devastating here, adding sterling moments of quality in every game.
It wasn't a good tournament for center forwards, and Balotelli struggled to make an impact in the final, but he was magnificent in the semifinal, scoring twice and providing a hint of what may be to come for the 21-year-old.
Thanks for following during Euro 2012. I had a blast!