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Euro 2012: Best XI of the Tournament so Far

Stephen FennellCorrespondent IJuly 22, 2016

Euro 2012: Best XI of the Tournament so Far

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    Prior to the start of Euro 2012, I composed a slideshow on the seven superstars who needed to come up good in Poland and Ukraine.

    As with all tournaments, if a country is to be successful they need their superstars playing at the peak of their powers.

    The first round of games has come to a close and there have been a few players who've failed to live up to their pre-tournament billing.

    Fortunately for some countries, several players have raised their game for the big occasion and reversed their club form to position their country for qualification to the quarter-finals.

    It remains to be seen if the players featured here will be included in the official team of the tournament, but for now, these are the 11 best-performing individuals.

1. Stephan Andersen (Denmark)

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    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 defense also but on multiple occasions Andersen was there to deny the in-form Robin van Persie, Arjen Robben and just about any other player the Dutch could muster up to have an attempt on goal.

    Anderson had one of the best individual displays of the tournament so far, and Denmark will need another two if they're to progress from their group.

2. Philipp Lahm (Germany)

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    Germany captain Philipp Lahm led his team to the perfect start in Euro 2012 with a clean sheet and an excellent performance in their win over Portugal.

    Like many of the players displayed in this article, Lahm's ability to rise to the big occasion is one of the main reasons why he features here.

    In the first game of the tournament he offered an offensive threat, something he's done throughout his career.

    Incredibly he's only 28, although it seems like he's been playing for Germany for an eternity.

    With a combination of attack and defence, he's a hybrid player who adds an extra dimension to Germany.

    His 87 caps show his importance to the Germans and he will continue to add to that total if Germany can keep their unbeaten run intact.

3. Daniele De Rossi (Italy)

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    Italy surprised a lot people with their display against Spain in their Group C opener.

    Their cause was helped by Spain's decision to play without a recognised striker but that doesn't detract from De Rossi's performance at the hear of the Azzurri defence.

    Usually deployed as a defensive midfielder, De Rossi snuffed out any threats coming from the midfield with hard, perfectly timed tackles.

    His ability to read the game was central to Italy claiming a point, and with him anchoring the defence alongside Giorgio Chiellini and Leonardo Bonucci, Italy will always have a chance of winning.

3. Mats Hummels (Germany)

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    Hummels is the second German to feature here, having kept 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.

    He kept Portugal at bay and restricted them to very few chances in the 1-0 win of the opening game of Group B.

    Like his counterpart Philipp Lahm, Hummels' defensive efforts will count hugely as Germany look to capture their fourth European Championship.

5. Fabio Coentrao (Portugal)

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    Only one defender has been selected that was on the losing side for their country's opening game and that is Fabio Coentrao.

    The Real Madrid man was terrific in his side's loss 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.

6. Andrei Arshavin (Russia)

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    Russia exploded on to the Euro 2012 scene with a commanding 4-1 win over Czech Republic.

    While Alan Dzagoev impressed with a two-goal haul, the standout performer of the evening was Andrei Arshavin.

    Creative, efficient and determined, Arshavin looked like a completely different player to the one who rarely performed at Arsenal last season.

    There were some doubts over his form coming into the tournament due to a lacklustre season with the Gunners, but he silenced all doubters on Friday.

    Russia are strong throughout their entire 23-man squad and if Arshavin can maintain his form, Russia may well make it all the way to another European Championship final.

7. Andrés Iniesta (Spain)

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    As usual, Spain got off to a sluggish start in a major championship. Think back to World Cup 2010 and their loss to Switzerland reaffirms this anomaly.

    Against Italy and without a recognised striker, they struggled to make an impact in the first 45 minutes of the game.

    A half-time tactical review and master class from Barcelona's Andres Iniesta, the Spanish got it right as they secured a point against a defensively solid Italian outfit.

    Iniesta controlled the tempo of the Spanish attack through quick feet and vision and at times had the Italian back line mesmerized.

    If Iniesta can keep this form up, as he did in the last two championships, Spain will remain favourites to defend their crown.

8. Luka Modrić (Croatia)

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    There had been some suggestions that Croatia might be the dark horses of the tournament due to the depth and proficiency of their squad.

    They went a long way to back up that suggestion as they dismantled an Irish side that were undefeated in their last 14 matches.

    The man responsible for the majority of their excellence was Tottenham Hotspur midfielder Luka Modrić.

    Much like Spanish maestro Iniesta, Modrić reigned supreme in the middle of the park.

    Always looking to set up a new attack or make himself available as for a pass, he added to his stock for the potential suitors who hope to acquire him for next season.

9. Samir Nasri (France)

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    Nasri was another player who was highlighted at the start of Euro 2012 as one who needed to step up to the challenge if France were to be successful, and he did just that.

    He was everywhere on the pitch against England, skillfully holding up the ball or playing a variety of long and short passes across the whole pitch.

    He was involved in anything good that the French could create and capped off his performance with the crucial equaliser just before half-time.

    If France can find the consistency throughout the team and Nasri maintains this creative form, a third European Championship could be in the cards.

10. Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine)

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    Sometimes you can tell that something is so inevitable that you need to immediately have a bet on its outcome.

    Fortunately for the Ukrainian nation, the moment of inevitability was to be the performance of their greatest ever player against Sweden.

    The 2004 Ballon d'Or winner had been written off by many as over the hill, only finishing his career in Ukraine because of a lack of other options.

    While it's true that he is coming to the twilight of his playing days, Shevchenko's movement and ability to be in the right place is still evident.

    For many years the former AC Milan man was adjudged to have been hard done by, due to his country of birth.

    While it may be true, the elation of his celebrations against Sweden highlight that he probably wouldn't change it if he had the chance.

    Ukraine face an uphill task to qualify from Group D, but at home and with Shevchenko in goal-scoring form, they won't fear France or England.

11. Alan Dzagoev (Russia)

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    Dzagoev is the second member of a Russian team to feature here, following their demolition job on the Czechs in the opening game.

    At 21 years of age, Dzagoev is the future, having scored six goals in his 21 caps for Russia so far.

    The CSKA Moscow man was a menace throughout his time on the pitch against Czech Republic and capped a hard-working performance with two well-taken goals.

    While not in the same league as the emotional Marco Tardelli, his celebrations are some of the most iconic of the tournament up to this point.

    Dzagoev sits joint top of the goal-scorers' chart for Euro 2012 and with games against Greece and Poland still to come, he will be confident of adding to that tally.

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