Friday, June 15, 2012
The 2012 European Championships are well underway, and I must firstly say what an excellent first week to the tournament it has been on the field of play. I would even go as far as to say that it has probably exceeded most people’s expectations as we move into week two.
There have been some surprise results, a selection of excellent goals with the majority of matches so far being contested competitively and in a good spirit. With fourteen games completed thus far, incredibly there has not been a goal-less game. Mentioning that statistic is surely the journos kiss of death as England meet Sweden and the Ukraine face France this evening!
Based on what I have seen up to now I am going to try to put together ‘My Team of the Week’ based on all the fourteen games I have watched. I find this is an incredibly tricky and challenging assignment as it is a very subjective topic. However I will do my best to justify my selections in whatever means I seem fit.
Stephan Anderson: Denmark
The biggest upset of the tournament occurred on the second day when Denmark, the 1992 European champions, defeated an utterly wasteful Dutch side. Netherlands had 28 attempts on goal, which gives a measure of their dominance, but Stephan Andersen kept up the fine tradition of Danish keepers to keep them scoreless. A lot of credit must go to Danish defence also but on multiple occasions Andersen was there to deny the Dutch. 30 year-old Anderson had one of the best individual displays of the tournament so far, and although Denmark lost 3-2 to a late Portugal goal on Wednesday evening, it looks like the underdogs of Group B, could emerge ahead of Portugal and the Netherlands from the ‘Group of Death,’ and cement a place in the quarter-finals if results go their way this Sunday.
Fábio Coentrão: Portugal
Fábio Alexandre da Silva Coentrão is a 24 year-old who plays mainly at left-back for Real Madrid and Portugal. Although Portugal lost their opening group game against Germany, Coentrao was terrific in his side's narrow defeat to Germany and, along with Pepe, leads the Portuguese back line both in defence and attack. Where Pepe was culpable for letting Mario Gomez drop off to score Germany's headed winner, Coentrao rarely put a foot wrong all night. He has brought his club form at Real Madrid into Euro 2012 and offers a genuine threat when going forward. Strong in the tackle and electrically fast, he will be one of Portugal's key men in this championship. On Wednesday Portugal bounced back to beat Denmark 3-2 in an exhilarating game and Coentrao provided an assist for the winning goal three minutes from time.
Mats Hummels: Germany
Hummels helped Germany keep a clean sheet in their opening game of their campaign on Saturday. Against a solid Portuguese team that featured La Liga's second-highest goal scorer in Cristiano Ronaldo, the German back line was solid and commanding. The man at the centre of it was Borussia Dortmund defender Mats Hummels. Although relatively new to the German team, having only been capped 15 times, his tackling, positioning and composure on the ball make him one of the standout performers so far in Euro 2012.
A rock at the heart of a German defence that has conceded just one goal in their opening two group games against strong opposition in the shape of Portugal and the Netherlands. He has made 17 clearances, four behind Poland’s Marcin Wasilewski.
Jordi Alba: Spain
The Valencia full-back is the unsung hero in the Spanish defence. Alba is part of a side that has conceded just one goal in their opening two games, and has completed 156 passes . Despite the absence of Puyol through injury, Alba alongside Pique, Arbeloa and Ramos is a major player in a superb quartet of Spanish defenders.
Philipp Lahm: Germany
Incredibly he's only 28, although it seems like he's been playing for Germany for an eternity, but the Bayern Munich and German captain Philipp Lahm is the consummate professional. He stared the tournament with a clean sheet and an excellent performance in their win over Portugal. Again he was sublime in Germany’s victory over Holland. Lahm's has the ability to rise to the big occasion is one of the main reasons why he features here.With a combination of attack and defence, he's a hybrid player who adds an extra dimension to Germany. His 88 caps show his importance to the Germans and he will continue to add to that total if Germany can keep their unbeaten run intact.
Alan Dzagoev: Russia
Dzagoev has netted three times for Russia in their opening two games. The 21 year-old has been pivotal for Russia and his performances haven't gone unnoticed. His pace, touches and his ability to time his runs have caused all sorts of problems for the Czech Republic and Poland back lines in the opening group games.
The CSKA Moscow man was a menace throughout his time on the pitch against both sides and capped a hard-working performance with two well-taken goals against the Czech Republic in the opening game of the tournament, followed by the opening goal in their 1-1 draw with co-hosts Poland. Statistically: Five shots on target scoring three goals.
A master class from Barcelona's Xavier Hernández Creusi, ensured the Spanish got it right as they secured a point against a defensively solid Italian outfit and then tore the Republic of Ireland to pieces last night, helped by an Irish defence that was made to look woeful as Spain danced their way to an emphatic winXavi controlled the tempo of the Spanish attack through quick feet and vision and at times had the Irish back line mesmerised. The midfielder broke the record for the most passes in a European Championship game during the defeat of Ireland. The Spaniard accrued 136 passes in that one game alone, surpassing Ronald Koeman’s previous best for the Netherlands. In Spain’s two group games so far Xavi has made 243 passes, 60 more than his nearest rival Denisov of Russia. 11 of those passes have been key passes or led to goalscoring opportunities and Xavi has also contributed 13 crosse. In fact of the top ten passers of the tournament so far, 7 of them are Spanish.
Bastian Schweinsteiger: Germany
Renowned for his ball control, precise passing and his ability to tackle makes him one of the best midfielders in Europe. He has played a big part in Germany's first two games with a dominating performances first against Portugal and then providing the through balls for both Mario Gomez's goals in against Holland. His midfield partnership with Mesut Özil is one of the best in the tournament and with striking options in the Podolski, Klose, Götze,Muller & Gomez, Germany look the biggest threat to the current World and European Champions Spain.
Václav Pilař: Czech Republic
The 23 year-old Czech Republic midfielder has helped his side to second place in a group where all the teams can still qualify for the quarter-finals. The Wolfsburg midfielder statistics read six shots, five on target and two goals. He scored in the opening day defeat to Russia and again in the win over Greece.
There are many permutations in this group but a win against Poland will see the Czech Republic automatically qualify, but the Czechs can also qualify if they draw against Poland and Russia win or draw against Greece.
Mario Gomez: Germany
Contributing with a vital header in the 1-0 win over Portugal, Gomez followed up by netting twice against Holland in a famous 2-1 victory. The feelings are if he keeps up the form he's showing he may well end up with the golden boot and help fire Germany to the final in Kiev. Gomes has fired six shots in his two tournament games, four on target and scored three goals, which is an incredible conversion rate. To put that in perspective Robin van Persie has had the most shots, eleven, six on target and scored just the once!
For the record Russia’s Aleksandr Kerzhakov has had no shots on target but the the most shots off target with ten. The phrase “left his shooting boots at home” springs to mind!
Mario Mandžukić: Croatia
The 26 year-old Wolfsbug and Croatian striker has put his side in a commanding position in Group C following a good win over Ireland and an excellent draw with Italy. Their final group fixture is against holders Spain on Monday. Both teams have four points and a draw will see them both qualify.
Mandžukić’s pairing with Tottenham’s Luka Modrić is the fulcrum of the Croatian midfield and they are the key to a successful campaign. So far in two games Mandžukić has an impressive three goals from four attempts on target.