Defenders are the backbone of any national football team. They have the ability to make or break a squad with their vision, performance and skills.
Germany captain Philipp Lahm has emerged as one of the most beloved defenders in Europe and in the world. The Euro 2012 makes way for many other experienced European defenders to shine for their national team.
From Spain's Gerard Pique to Italy's Giorgio Chiellini, here is a look at the top six defenders in the Euro 2012.
The La Masia youth system product is considered one of the greatest defenders in the world. It won’t be a surprise if Gerard Pique one day becomes the captain of the Spanish national team.
Pique has the fantastic ability of making quality performances at club and international level. The defender had won the heart of his nation as the defensive partner to the beloved Carles Puyol during the World Cup in South Africa. Pique and Puyol had remained back to defend while Sergio Ramos and Joan Capdevila had gone forward.
The self-possessed defender comes in at a towering height of 6’4” and thus is able to assist the team during cornerkicks. Pique can also be seen leading counterattacks and making long passes to the striker.
Now that he is at Real Madrid, I know all of his tricks, because he was my rival every day in practice. However, this does not guarantee anything, because I know that he is a very complete player.
Pique and Ronaldo were once teammates at Manchester United in the early 2000s but now are archrivals at Barcelona and Real Madrid, respectively.
Gerard Pique has the star quality and talent to reassure any team’s line of defense. Millions viewed Pique chase and block Mario Balotelli tirelessly throughout Spain’s match against Italy, which proves that the defender can tackle any player in the world for as long as it takes.
The disconcerted career of Fabio Coentrao finally blossomed during the World Cup in South Africa when he became a face to be known. Exactly a year later the player moved to Real Madrid, after being linked to multiple clubs.
Although Coentrao was at first a winger, in 2009 Benfica manager Jorge Jesus decided to use the player in defense. Coentrao answered with marvelous defensive acts for the Portuguese club.
A year later he won a call-up to the Portugal national team as their wing-back (a defensive winger). He played in all of Portugal's matches at the 2010 World Cup, earning admiration in the process.
His versatility allows him to play as a midfielder, a defender and a wing-back when needed, making him a valuable asset to the national team. His speed and accurate crosses are threatening to the opposition.
However as a former midfielder, the defender has the tendency to move forward on the wing, which could become costly to Portugal’s line of defense. Nevertheless when placed in the proper position he is a dangerous full-back.
A regular face in Spain’s defense since 2005, Sergio Ramos has won the Euros and the World Cup with his national team. His sharp focus and stamina are fantastic assets when the defender runs forward to make crosses in attack and when he is required to fall back into defense.
He is often seen making the difficult challenges on the right of the penalty box. The Real Madrid player is now one of the most admired defenders in the world.
Ramos excels in stamina, versatility and clean tackles. He can take long free kicks and provide threatening accurate crosses into the middle. However, Ramos’ tendency to move forward may see him leave a vulnerable opening in the line of defense.
The Real Madrid defender can be a danger to the opposition both defensively and in attack. However as Spain overflows in attacking midfielders, we may see Sergio Ramos take a more defensive role this summer.
Giorgio Chiellini is an advocate of the Italians' traditional rough defending. The Juventus defender was instrumental in his side’s unbeaten season at Italy’s Serie A.
Chiellini has established himself as one of the best defenders in the world as he appeared in 17 matches this season without conceding a goal.
His ability to win headers and make the strong tackles has won the admiration of Italians all over the world. If Italy make it to the quarter-finals, then the in-form 27-year-old's career will shine in front of millions.
Patrice Evra challenges Ashley Cole as the best left-back in the world. The French defender has a strong presence on the field for France as he brings experience and a winning mentality to the team.
He also has ability to move forward into attack when his team needs him. His deadly crosses and through passes can reach a player at any spot on the pitch.
His vision and accuracy have allowed him to establish himself as the first-choice left-back in both club and international level.
His talent and strength also translates into his leadership skills as he has captained Manchester United. It will not be a surprise if the defender soon takes the French captaincy from Hugo Lloris.
As Manchester United had failed to win a trophy this season and Evra had not won a trophy with France yet, Evra may be dead set on winning the Euro this month.
Lahm has established himself as the backbone of the German national team since his debut in 2004.
Although the 28-year-old defender is only 5'7", he has been instrumental in his side winning third place at the World Cup and second place at the 2008 Euros.
Philipp Lahm is one defender that can stay firmly in his full-back position throughout the game. His vision helps him spot openings in attack for long passes and often sets up the attack for Germany.
The defender can also use both his feet for passing, shooting and tackling. Hence, the player now captains at both club and international level. Lahm is now one of the most loved and acclaimed defenders in the world.
As the Bayern Munich skipper has failed to win a cup with his national team, we may see Lahm give his all to win the Euros this month.