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Difficult choices, as so many great keepers have graced this competition this year and succeeded, others failed and those that we never expected to excel have.
Joe Hart instantly springs to mind as one of the stand out performers of the competition, keeping England’s concede tally down to a mere four, despite an onslaught of chances made against them.
Another name is that of Manuel Neuer who, between the sticks for Germany, looked as calm and cocky as his outfield counterparts during their onslaught of the tournament.
Even in the semi-final where he ultimately failed to keep out Italy, he still looked safe – minus a slip after dallying on the ball – and even acted as the sweeper to his team’s attacks late on.
The player, I am, however, going to select is that of Rui PATRICIO of Portugal. His strong goalkeeping behind the giant like figures of Pepe and Bruno Alves has been a bedrock for the advances of his side through to the Semi’s of the tournament.
|Taken from Bleacher Report|
Though few chances were created by either side in their final game, he looked as assured, if not more so, than his counterpart Iker Casillas, and didn’t look like giving up the ghost despite a late Spanish onslaught.
Some of you may instantly argue with my decision here, but in my opinion it has to be France’s Mathieu DEBUCHY. Though France rarely seemed to get out of second gear, Debuchy’s running and overall wing-play from the back added constant threat in France’s two victories.
His defending, too, gave impression that he was one of the only French players looking to give his all throughout the tournament.
Being able to pick two players for this position at least gives me a bit more freedom from the masses that impressed in this tournament.
I could select any from; Bruno Alves, Olof Melberg, Oleksander Kucher, John Terry, who all gave admirable performances for their respective countries but the two I am going to select are; Daniel AGGER and PEPE.
I selected Agger, despite Denmark’s failure to qualify out their group, for the role he played in their challenge. As their captain and main defender it rested on his shoulders to keep out the Netherlands and keep his team on course for the memorable victory. Throughout their next two games, despite their failure to win, he continued to make the Danish defence a force, and inspire his team to come within inches of being favourites to qualify, until a late Portugal winner.
Pepe, to me, has been the stand out performer in this tournament, outside of the teams in the final, and with such performances has taken Portugal to the semi-finals and some – albeit a small amount – of the attention away from Ronaldo.
|Taken from The Telegraph|
His giant presence alongside Alves has struck fear into the hearts of many a team. Including their fans who find themselves safely on the other side if the television screen.
Despite being unable to convert his chance in the opening game, which could have seen Portugal claim a point off of their German counter parts, his defensive display was one out of the handbook as he kept the opposition, nearly, quiet.
Ashley Cole, to the annoyance of Cheryl and Leighton, always brings out his best for the England side and in tournaments, and is usually one of the few who can walk away with his head held high. And once again, he managed that this summer.
At times he seemed like the only Englishman who knew how to defend, he also offered great support to youngster Oxlade-Chamberlain and the Ashley Young down the flank.
It is, however, this continued success and now expected display, that is the reason why I am not selecting him. That may sound petty, and cheap, but it is also the success of the third Portuguese player I’m including, that has kept him out.
Fabio COENTRAO has given a display justifying his extensive fee to Real Madrid last summer. Against Spain he was a constant threat in attack and defence down the left had side, allowing Ronaldo to perform his free-role.
Little or no chances came from that side, and whilst on his own out there, it was because of Fabio’s outstanding performances.
This choice would have been made a lot easier had Hodgson decided to start Theo Walcott in the game against Italy.
His display alone against Sweden has me teetering on deciding to include him, but ultimately I must resist the temptation as his influence, although explosive, was for twenty minuets in the entire tournament. The decision then came down to one of two.
Nani, is the first, his eagerness and ability to win the ball back across the entire front line, added with the sort of crosses we know he can produce, made him a threat throughout the tournament.
His disciplined wing play also allowed for the adventurous Ronaldo to wander – as he does so successfully – over the pitch. Nani’s criticism comes, however, because of his former United team mate.
Now, well into his footballing adolescence, Nani should be looking to take the plaudits himself for country, as well as club, but instead he still plays like the teachers-pet looking to impress his favourite with his tricks and hard work, when on the same pitch as Ronaldo.
This leaves me with Jakub BLASZCZYKOWSKI – the player I hoped not to include for the simple reason of trying to spell his name.
Jakub, sporting the captains armband, gave his country his all and, with it, a glimmer of hope of qualifying. Following two impressive and successful seasons at Dortmund he stepped into this competition with every hope of making a difference, and he did.
|Taken from BBC|
Poland’s efforts may have gone in vein, but their captain’s did not. If no interest arouses for him following this tournament I shall be deeply surprised.
For once, after years of trying, Steven GERRARD has emerged from a tournament having not disappointed.
Newly crowned as captain he took the mantle and the wheel and guided the England side to an impressive group stage, supplying assists as well as an assured midfield display. The true question was; why hadn’t this performance happened before, in his golden years? The answer – as many had suggested before – can surely be put at the lack of Frank Lampard along side him?
As has now become expected of the Real Madrid man, Sami KHEDIRA once again gave a solid display.
His tough tackling, quick thinking and powerful football philosophy gave Germany they edge they needed to support their front line. The reason behind Sami’s selection above that of fellow midfielder Schweinsteiger, simply falls at the reason, that he gave better displays.
The forgotten man doesn’t really apply to the German team, but his understated performances gave him the edge.
Cristiano RONALDO – simple as that. Although we didn’t see him at his devastating best, which could have easily seen him storm the goal scoring charts with double figures, he still gave displays worth of being named the (co)best player in the world.
Though many seem determined to blame him for his “greed” for not taking one of Portugal’s first four penalties, or his chances – when he got them – in the Spain clash, his mistakes proved only one thing: That he is human after all, and yet still was the best out there.
With little expectation on his shoulders, the only challenge facing Nicklas BENDTNER was that if his own extreme narcissism, and despite that, he will no doubt be impressed. Scoring goals, as well as his strength and power in building pay for his side, he showcased the player he always claimed to be – even on those cold nights in the North East.
His all-round play and ability to not have his name in the tabloids for his woefulness asks the question “Could this be the moment Nicklas steps from his chrysalis in blossoms into the butterfly Arsen Wenger always dreamed he would be?” Possibly. Though, the only assurance that you can get from Bentner’s future is that he certainly won’t be wearing his “lucky” underpants again.
|Taken from Free Spin Bonus|
The second role has proven difficult, but much like Roy Hodgson, I have set my mind on 4-4-2 so I will be sticking with it, despite the array of midfield talent waiting to jump in. I could use young Polish starlet Robert Lewandowski, who entering the tournament was a little known, but massively talked about striker.
His goal in the opening game didn’t manage to materialize into anything he, or his team, would have been hoping for, but still the performances were promising nonetheless.
His story echoes around Danny Welbeck who, despite playing for Manchester United, was one of the least know superstars in the England squad. He too managed some big performances, and even a winning goal, but his inexperience, and inability to change a game showed – for now.
Instead I have two strikers here who, when the next Euro’s comes around, in four years time, will be two of the biggest stars, names and talents.
Instead I am choosing to go with a slightly more obvious choice – due to is goals – but one that perhaps doesn’t deserve massive plaudits.
Mario GOMEZ started the tournament on fire, scoring three goals with as little as seconds on the ball. It was, however, his lack of time spent on the ball in adding to teams attacks, and the sudden evaporation of his ability to score, that resulted in Germanys exit.
Overall, however, for the way he started and exploded into life in the competition, catching everyone’s attention, he gets in.
The young centre-back Mats HUMMELS would have found himself barging straight into this team had his performance against Italy not been cringe-worthy.
He – like Welbeck and Lewandowski – will no doubt find themselves as the superstars of this tournament when it next swings around in four years. It is important to note that the rest of his tournament had been, all but, flawless prior to that game.
Another mention from the Germany team is that of Philipp LAHM who, once again, gave outstanding performances from the left back slot. He was, however, in my mind pipped into mentioning by the only two defensive players who performed better – Cole and Coentrao.
Written by Chris Hames, who writes for @footandballblog
Follow him on Twitter @iamchames
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