Spain set a new world record on Sunday night by winning their third consecutive international trophy, with a commanding 4-0 win over Italy in Kiev confirming their place in history. It has been an exciting and enjoyable competition with some scintillating play, shows of skill and end-to-end games. Looking back over the last three weeks’ action, here are Soccerlens’ Euro 2012 awards.
Best Team – Spain – La Roja ended the Euro 2012 tournament in style, hitting back at their critics by beating Italy 4-0 in a one-sided competition final. Although at times Vicente del Bosque’s men have not been at their unplayable best, they have done what it took to win the trophy, and ended the campaign with an excellent performance in the final.
Best Player – Andres Iniesta – In a team loaded with superstars, Andres Iniesta’s poise on the ball and deft touches lift him head and shoulders above his team-mates. The Barcelona man was undoubtedly the spark that kept Spain ticking over, was a constant attacking threat, and without the use of an out-and-out striker Iniesta’s penetration in the last third was a necessity. Deserved MVP of the campaign.
Best Match – Italy 2 Germany 1 – Although the tournament has thrown up some good games, the clash between Germany and Italy in the semi-finals was undoubtedly a great match for the neutral. With Joachim Low’s men expected to overpower the Azzurri and progress, Mario Balotelli struck twice to give the Italians a shock lead. An end-to-end second-half ensued as Cesare Prandelli’s side got their tactics spot-on and made the final.
Best Goal – Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden vs France – With the Scandinavian side already eliminated from the tournament after defeats to Ukraine and England, Sweden were playing for pride in their final Group D game against France. AC Milan forward and national captain Zlatan Ibrahimovic had something to prove, and did so in style with an acrobatic volley from the edge of the area that led to a 2-0 victory.
Best Save – Shay Given, Republic of Ireland vs Spain – Although the Irish goalkeeper was beaten four times in a convincing win for the world champions, Given made an outstanding save to thwart Xavi. The Barcelona man found himself free to shot from eight yards but the Aston Villa man threw a hand out to turn the ball around the post, despite being wrong-footed.
Best Fans – Republic of Ireland – Their team did not give them too much cause for optimism, but the travelling Irish support created quite the racket at their side’s Group C games, without being involved in any trouble away from it.
Best Individual Performance – Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal vs Netherlands – After being heavily criticised after mediocre displays in his first two games of the tournament, the Real Madrid superstar sprang to life in the decisive game against the Netherlands. A man-of-the-match performance and two goals ensured Portugal won 2-1 and made the quarter-finals.
Best Goal Celebration – Mario Balotelli, Italy vs Germany – With one goal to his name already, Mario Balotelli rifled home his second goal in Italy’s 2-1 win over Germany in the semi-finals before running away, taking his jersey off and doing the Hulk pose.
Best Penalty – Andrea Pirlo, Italy vs England – With Italy having already missed one of their penalties in their quarter-final shootout with England, Juventus playmaker Andrea Pirlo stepped up to the mark. With Joe Hart jumping around trying to put his opponent off, Pirlo casually chipped his spot-kick down the middle to score.
Worst Team – Republic of Ireland – Completely out of their depth, Ireland lost all three of their Group C games, conceding nine goals and only scoring one.
Biggest Disappointment – Netherlands – With the likes of Van Persie, Robben and Sneijder at their disposal many fancied Netherlands to be a contender for the trophy. Unfortunately Bert van Marwijk’s men couldn’t gel and ended up losing all three games unexpectedly in Group B.
Worst Moment – Racism – Despite it being a good tournament played in the right manner generally, ugly incidents of racism reared their ugly heads at times. No place for this in society or the beautiful game.
Worst Miss – Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal vs Denmark – With a finely-poised game in the balance, Cristiano Ronaldo had a chance to put Portugal 3-1 up when he was one-on-one with the Danish goalkeeper. However, very unlike CR7, he shanked his effort well wide of the post.
Worst Haircut – Wayne Rooney – The England forward missed the first two games of the tournament before returning against Ukraine to head home the only goal of the game. However, the Manchester United attacker’s latest haircut leaves something to be desired.
Worst Capitulation – Russia – After beating Czech Republic 4-1 in their first game of the tournament, Russia were being spoken off as potential dark horses for the championship. However, blunt displays in the resulting two group games saw Dick Advocaat’s men eliminated at the expense of Greece.
Worst Diving Team – Greece – Fernando Santos’ men showed heart, determination and resolve to fight against the odds and make the knockout stages, only to be eliminated by a rampant Germany. However, the Greek players seemed overly keen to hit the deck with little or no contact from their opponents.
Worst Thing Now – It is all over……