Euro 2012 has wrapped up and like it did four years ago, Spain was the last team standing. Much was said about Spain’s performances at Euro 2012. Many suggested they were a team that had run their course and were on the decline. In the end, La Furia Roja saved their best performance for last and topped Italy 4-0 in the final.
Spain’s dominance on the international soccer stage over the last four years will go down as one of the most incredible accomplishments in sports. If you consider how international tournaments have gotten longer, the competition stiffer, and mix that with the grueling length of the club soccer season, the ability to for these players to win three straight international tournaments is all that much more impressive.
Overall, the tournament was a blast. The European Championships offer a higher total competition level. With only 16 teams compared to the World Cup’s 32, the Euros have less filler teams. The World Cup has a lot of teams who are not even close to the skill level of the tournament’s elite and that breeds a mentality of not wanted to be humiliated by the upper tier teams. The best way to save yourself from a beating is to sit back and defend which makes for a lot of boring low scoring soccer, just like it did in South Africa two years ago. The 16 teams at the Euros may not all have the same chance at winning but all teams believe they have a shot. They have a lot more confidence in themselves and are familiar with all the competition. This allows for a more confident attacking style of play which results in more goals. Even the games that featured no goals – like the Italy-England quarterfinal or the Portugal-Spain semifinal – were very exciting and full of scoring chances and creativity.
Team of the Tournament: Spain
Throughout their reign as champions of Europe and the World, Spain’s midfield has been lauded as brilliant and credited for being the heart that pumps the team’s creative blood. This tournament cemented that fact. With the absence David Villa, their all-time leading scorer, Spain’s midfield picked up the scoring slack. Through dominance in ball control and possession and constantly creativity, Spain was able to get through every team they faced. Whether it was coasting or authentic struggling, Spain always got the job done. Which is exactly what champions do: Win.
Surprise of the Tournament: Italy
The finalists were on the wrong end of a final drubbing but the score doesn’t truly represent the distance between champions and runners-up. Italy showed quality that a lot of people didn’t know they had. Italy’s midfield worked like a machine. Andrea Pirlo received high praise for his creativity and ball distribution, but his midfield partners played the part of unsung heroes. Daniele De Rossi and Claudio Marchisio quietly and effectively did the dirty work needed to win balls, stop attacks and create room for Pirlo. The attacking duo of Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli worked great together and probably formed the tournaments best strike partnership. Hopefully, the Azzurri will be able to harness the momentum gained in this tournament and use that going towards the 2016 World Cup. They definitely have the resources to be a contender two years down the line.
Flop of the Tournament: Netherlands
When the draw for Euro took place in December of 2011 you knew one of the big three: Germany, Netherlands or Portugal, were going home early. There was always a chance it would be Netherlands, but it could not have been more of a disaster. The Oranje were shocked in their opening match when they finished on the wrong end of a 1-0 score line against Denmark and never seemed to recover. Despite being packed with talent and only two years removed from being finalists at the World Cup, the Dutch went home without registering a single point.
Goals of the Tournament:
5) Andrea Pirlo vs. England
4) Sami Khedira vs. Greece
3) Danny Welbeck vs. Sweden
2) Zlatan Ibrahimovic vs. France
1) Mario Balotelli vs. Ireland
My Best Moments of the Tournament:
Here are a few moments I`ll remember this tournament by.
Shevchenko: Showing the New Dogs Old Tricks
People figured Andriy Shevchenko`s inclusion on Ukraine`s 2012 Euro squad as nothing more than a swan song for a once great striker. But Shevchenko`s two goal performance in Ukraine`s opening match against Sweden gave the co-hosts one last taste of magic from their national hero and served as a reminder as to why he is one of the greatest goal scorers of the last generation. It was a perfect bow for a brilliant player.
Buffon: Singing it one more time with feelin`
Every time the camera panned across the Italian national team during the anthem and stopped at the end at captain and goalkeeper Gianluigi Buffon, I`d get Goosebumps. No one sang the national anthem with so much conviction, pride, and patriotism. He said he thinks of his two great grandparents that died in the Second World War.
“This is the country where I live and I lost two great-grandparents in the war and this is my recognition of them, the recognition of how much they mean to me.”
It was something I`ll always think of whenever I hear the Italian national anthem.
Ronaldo: The Golden Boy Delivers
Ronaldo has enough going for him: Talent, looks, club and personal achievements. So, while it`s great for him to get some personal vindication, I think he`s had a pretty charmed professional life as it is. Who I am happy for are the long-time Portuguese Ronaldo fans. They have followed his club career and cheered for Manchester United and Real Madrid, but it was nice to see that their loyalty was rewarded when Ronaldo finally delivered for Portugal and had a great run to the semi-finals.
Balotelli: A Mother and Child Reunion
The picture of Mario Balotelli hugging his adoptive mother after Italy`s semi-final win over Germany was a beautiful emotional moment. The picture was also iconic when you consider it`s the perfect contrast to a tournament that was marred with racism.