Euro 2012: 5 Best Players for Spain so Far
Spain has cruised through Euro 2012 so far, and their embarrassment of midfield riches is largely to thank for it.
While many teams are faltering, Spain seem to be getting stronger as the tournament progresses. They have successfully advanced to the semifinals—something no defending champion of the Euros has done since the Netherlands in 1992.
So yeah, they're pretty good.
But every tournament run relies on a collection of top performances from elite players. Spain's run has been no different.
Many in the side have contributed, but five players in particular are having a whale of a tournament.
5. Iker Casillas
Iker Casillas has been touted as one of the top keepers in the world for many years now. He's the final defense of the best team in the world.
And he doesn't disappoint.
He has now recorded three clean sheets at Euro 2012, while no other remaining keeper has more than one.
He's stopped all but one shot against the Spanish side to date—a tidy strike from Italy's Antonio Di Natale in Spain's opener.
Spain's progression to the knockout stage would've been in grave jeopardy if not for Casillas' save of Ivan Rakitic's dangerous header in Spain's group-stage finale against Croatia.
Casillas doesn't always have a ton to do, but he comes up big when Spain needs him.
4. Cesc Fabregas
Cesc Fabregas has started only two of Spain's four Euro 2012 matches, but he's been superb.
His performance is especially notable because he's been playing as Spain's so-called "false No. 9."
Essentially, he's a midfielder playing at the top of the formation in the absence of a striker. He's split time with Fernando Torres as the lead attacker for La Roja and he's done a fine job. The Barcelona man has tallied two goals to date.
Cesc's willingness to play any position for his country is commendable and his performance in doing so has been top class.
3. Xabi Alonso
While he hasn't enjoyed the flashiest tournament, Xabi Alonso has been a vital cog in Spain's tournament run. His wide range of abilities give the Spanish midfield a great deal of flexibility. Additionally, his leadership qualities are often overlooked.
Alonso has been excellent when required to drop into defense and in moving the ball forward to Spain's forward options.
His brace against France and 100th cap for his country cemented what has already been an admirable campaign in Poland and Ukraine.
2. Sergio Ramos
Besides Sergio Ramos, who else is really defending for Spain?
Jordi Alba is more interested in getting into the attack. Alvaro Arbeloa can't decide exactly what he's expected to do.
Worst of all, Gerard Pique is still suffering from the shaky form he endured most of the club season for Barcelona.
And yet, somehow, the Spaniards have kept more clean sheets than any other team in the tournament.
Ramos is that "somehow."
The Real Madrid center-back has been absolutely dominant since being pushed inside for his club earlier this season. With Carles Puyol lost for the tournament, Spain was forced to use him inside, as well.
Ramos has been nothing short of brilliant.
1. Andres Iniesta
He doesn't show up a ton on the stat sheet, but Andres Iniesta is a magician that creates magic at an amazing rate for Spain.
While the tiki-taka of the Red Fury puts their opponents to sleep, Iniesta is the creative genius who pressures defenses. His on-ball technical ability and nearly unrivaled vision make him arguably the most dangerous midfielder in the world.
Iniesta also provides versatility that many of his compatriots lack, as he is able to play both centrally and on the wing.
Even though his name doesn't always make the headlines, his fingerprints are all over the result of every Spanish victory.