5. Andrea Pirlo
Despite having a limited impact in the final, the metronomic midfield maestro pulled strings better than an old-fashioned puppeteer in Poland and Ukraine, with the Italian especially shining against England and Germany.
411 completed passes (5th overall and best outside Spain) demonstrated the 33 year-old’s irrepressible mastery. And to throw out an over-used phrase, Andrea Pirlo was truly peerless this summer (Spain aside, of course).
4. The Spanish Elite
Singling out an individual from the Spanish squad would be to devalue the sum of the parts.
First, there is Andres Iniesta – UEFA’s player of the tournament – but then there is: Xavi, the tournament’s best passer (86% pass completion); Torres, the Golden Boot winner; and David Silva, the tournament’s most accurate shooter (89% shooting accuracy).
In short, Spain reigned supreme this summer: a sight we’ve become used to in the last four years. Now only time stands between them and a fourth straight tournament victory.
3. Cristiano Ronaldo
Many have wondered whether CR7 will ever replicate his club form on the international arena. In recent weeks, however, the Real Madrid winger-cum-forward may have put some of those doubts to rest.
With goals against Holland and the Czech Republic – and ostentatious displays against pretty much everyone else – Ronaldo finally showed the world what he is capable of in a major international tournament (even though he did not get to partake in the semi-final penalty shootout).
2. Mario Mandžukić
Six forwards (and three Marios) notched up a tally of three goals this summer; and of them, Mario Gomez, Mario Balotelli and Fernando Torres don’t come as much of a surprise. But Mario Mandžukić does.
The Croatian striker made a distinct impact in Poland and Ukraine, impressing against Italy and Ireland in particular. As a reward, Mandžukić has earned himself a move to Bayern Munich; not bad going for three games’ work.
1. Steven Gerrard
The only Englishman in UEFA’s squad of Euro 2012, the talismanic Liverpool midfielder answered his country’s call with pride and dogged determination; and all while wearing the captain’s armband.
Adapting impressively to manager Roy Hodgson‘s disciplined tactics, the 32 year old led by example. And with three assists in four games and endless defensive endeavour, Gerrard delivered some of his finest performances in an England shirt.