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|SoccerAnchor Euro 2012 Special: The Player of the Tournament|
This years tornament has been thrilling in it's own right however one thing we have lacked is a real stand out individual. Due to this here at SoccerAnchor we are going to take you through a few players who we believe are worthy of being crowned 'Player of the Tournament'.
The Italian maestro has been at his mercurial best since leaving Milan 12 months ago and his renaissance has been a major factor for the Azzuri’s success this summer.
His ability to dictate the flow of a game without seemingly exerting himself physically is a quality which is, and has been, few and far between amongst the top players in Europe.
Italy coach Cesare Prandelli has been very experimental as far as tactics are concerned, even during the tournament, however it seems he has now settled on a system which utilises Pirlo and allows him to take the game by the scruff of the neck.
The Juve man has been instrumental in everything Italy have done this summer. In their opening group game, against tonight’s opponents Spain which ended in a 1-1 draw, he was fantastic, getting on the ball, linking play between the lines and even doing his bit defensively by closing down the space in front of his own back four. On top of this he created the goal with a beautiful through ball following some nice play in the middle of the field.
Once again Pirlo exerted his influence when Italy faced Croatia in their second match by scoring a free-kick, Italy didn’t manage to take all three points in this game but despite this they qualified from Group C in second place after their 2-0 victory against Republic of Ireland, with Pirlo once again the fulcrum of everything positive for the Azzuri.
His high quality performances continued throughout the knockout stages, against England he completely ran the show and capped off his performance with a ‘Panenka penalty’ during the shoot-out, (to The Fox’s delight.)
Andres Iniesta, is one of the most gifted footballers ever to walk the planet, he has been fantastic for both club and country over the last five or six years and once again he delivered on the biggest stage.
His quick feet, movement and above all vision are just some of the attributes that make him stand out even amongst all the Spanish stars. One reason for his stand out performances for Spain may be that they lack an iconic superstar. For Barcelona, Iniesta’s club side, Lionel Messi is the stand out player and no matter how much all the other players accomplish they will rarely take the limelight away from the Argentine, for Spain this is not the case and I believe that this has given Iniesta a real platform on which to shine.
Attitude and mentality are a major part of what this Spain side is built upon and the Barcelona man optimises that. The way he conducts himself on and off the pitch is impeccable and you can clearly see that he is appreciated massively not only by the fans but also his colleagues.
From the outset of the competition Iniesta has been simply outstanding. His ability to find space in between the opposition back-four and then the vision to find a team-mate from a seemingly impossible position has seen him become arguably the most integral part of this ever improving Spain side.
The little magician has been near unplayable over the last few weeks and there is no surprise that he is amongst the favourites with most major bookmakers to be named ‘Player of the Tournament’, especially after his man of the match performance in the final last night.
My third and final choice in this selection process was a straight toss-up between two left-backs who I believe have been crucial in their side’s progression throughout the tournament, Jordi Alba and Fabio Coentrao. After much thought I decided to opt for Alba due to the fact that he is slightly less known than Coentrao, however this shall not be the case next summer after he made his big money move to Barcelona last week.,
He has offered a solution to what has been seen as Spain’s biggest problem over recent times, the lack of a quality left back, it seems now that problem has been well and truly solved.
The Spaniard’s marauding displays down the left hand side coupled with his mature attitude towards his defensive responsibilities has shown him to be one of the finest full-backs that Europe has to offer.
His contribution in an attacking sense is not to be underestimated. Alba is amongst a minority in Del Bosque’s ‘favoured starting eleven’, although I don’t believe that Del Bosque even knows himself what that was throughout the tournament. Spain’s attacking force consisting of Andres Iniesta, David Silva, Xavi and Cesc Fabregas who are all fantastic players within their own right however the one thing lacking in each of their games is an injection of pace and this is one thing that Alba definitely brings to the party.
Andres Iniesta’s desire to drift inside give Alba the freedom of the left hand side and this was in evidence during the quarter-final against France; his surging run down the flank saw him escape the intentions of French make-shift right winger Mathieu Debuchy to provide the cross for Xabi Alonso’s opening goal mid-way through the first half.
The former Valencia man capped of a fantastic tournament for him personally with a wonderful goal in the final as Spain defeated Italy 4-0 to break all sorts of records.