Euro 2012 Power Rankings: Grading the Top 16 Players of the Tournament
Euro 2012 is over. It has been a memorable tournament that has produced great champions—Spain.
La Roja hammered Italy 4-0 in the final after putting in one of the best performances of the competition with a number of Spanish players rising to the occasion—from Xavi to Iniesta to Cesc Fabregas.
But while Spain will rightly dominate the headlines there have also been a number of superb individual performances from the likes of Ronaldo, Andrea Pirlo and Michael Krohn-Dehli amongst others.
Which players have captured the eye and stood tall when others around them have wilted?
Who had the strength of character to lead their team to victory when all else had failed?
And who has just been brilliant?
Here I look at the top 16 players of Euro 2012.
Read on for the complete rankings and be sure to leave your top stars in the comments below.
16. Petr Jiracek (Czech Republic) Ratings 7-7-8-6: AVG: 7.0
While the Czech Republic fell victim to Portugal in the first quarterfinal, the biggest victim of the defeat was probably Petr Jiracek.
Jiracek had excelled in the group stages as an all-action attacking midfielder and had even waded in with a couple of goals as the Czechs came from the dead after a 4-1 opening defeat to Russia to qualify for the knockout stages.
However, when facing Portugal, Michal Bilek chose to play defensively, and in effect, he "neutered" his best player. A bad decision that, perhaps, cost them a place in the semifinals.
15. Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) Ratings: 8-8-6: AVG: 7.3
The giant Wolfsburg striker was outstanding in Croatia's first two games against Ireland and Italy but paid the price for his manager tinkering in Game 3 against Spain.
It was always going to be next to impossible for Croatia to get the win they needed in the final game, but neither their nor Mandzukic's cause were helped by Slaven Bilic choosing to play one up front.
In the end, his final performance in Euro 2012 was functional rather than inspirational, but he still managed to make a nuisance of himself against the odds.
14. Luka Modric (Croatia) Ratings: 8-8-8: AVG: 8
The Tottenham Hotspur man is the one true talent in the Croatia squad. Having done everything in his power against Ireland and Italy, the little man came up against an immovable object in Game 3—Spain.
Despite that, he was easily the best Croat player on show. But when push came to shove, he was just a class or two above his own team for them to have the ability to read his passes and quick thinking.
Like every footballer, he must look on the Spanish team with envy, but not for the same reasons as others, because Modric would fit right in to Vicente Del Bosque's team without even breaking a sweat.
13. Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany) Ratings: 7-9-7-7-5: AVG: 7.0
Germany eased into the semifinals after making light work of the group of death—Holland, Denmark and Portugal—and then Greece in the quarterfinals. But they met their Waterloo when they faced a rampant Italian side in the semifinals.
On each and every occasion that Germany was successful the foundation has been set and provided by Bastian Schweinsteiger. The German and Bayern Munich vice-captain is the most important player in either team and is often asked to play a number of different roles, even if it means sacrificing himself for the better of the team.
Unfortunately for Germany the recurrence of a niggling injury reduced his effectiveness after his best game against Holland and both he and his team paid the price for that lack of fitness in the semis.
12. Sami Khedira (Germany) Ratings: 7-8-7-8-6: AVG: 7.2
Sami Khedira's reputation as the lynchpin the German side is growing. More athletic than his two midfield compatriots, Schweinsteiger and Ozil, the Real Madrid man is making an art form of moving from box-to-box.
The great gift that Khedira possesses is that he is always willing to support, either in defence or attack and is brave enough to take on the ball regardless of the pressure he is under.
Having a player with kind of honesty is a Godsend for any manager and you can easily see why he is so important to Joachim Loew.
11. Xabi Alonso (Spain) Ratings: 7-7-7-8-6-8: AVG: 7.2
He is the silent voice in Spain's great team, going about his business with great effect, while all those around him take the plaudits for their style of play and victories.
The highpoint of Euro 2012 for Alonso was against France in the quarterfinals where he ran the show and stepped up to the plate while the likes of Xavi, Iniesta and Busquets had off-nights. His reward was two goals and a man-of-the-match display on his 100th international appearance.
10. Mesut Ozil (Germany) Ratings: 8-8-7-8-5 AVG: 7.2
The semifinal defeat to Italy proved a bridge too far for Mesut Ozil and Germany after they had impressed so much during the early stages.
If anything, Ozil's performances were the personification of Germany and when he played well, they played well.
The 23-year-old Real Madrid player is ultra-important for Joachim Loew and Die Mannschaft, as he is the only player with the range of passing needed to bring every player and every type of attack to Germany's game-plan.
And when Italy shut him out of the game, something Greece, Denmark, Holland and Portugal had all failed to do, Germany were left looking for answers.
9. Steven Gerrard (England) Ratings: 8-8-8-5: AVG: 7.3
After being England's best player in the group stages, Steven Gerrard put in one of his worst performances in recent years when he was out-classed against Italy in the quarterfinals.
Before that fateful game, Gerrard was easily England's best and most potent player of a disappointing Euro 2012. He is the one midfielder England have that is capable of keeping the ball and being creative at the same time and was really head and shoulders above his teammates.
8. John Terry (England) Ratings 8-6-7-9: AVG: 7.5
He has his fair share of detractors, but John Terry was brilliant for England at Euro 2012. And it is no exaggeration to say that he is probably the finest central defender on show at the tournament.
He was brilliant against France in the opening game and was phenomenal against Italy in the one-sided quarterfinal where England were embarrassed—but he was not.
He is a rock at the back for the Three Lions and really is capable of awe-inspiring performances, such as his showing against Italy.
7. Pepe (Portugal) Ratings 7-7-8-7-8: AVG: 7.4
Pepe was brilliant at Euro 2012 for Portugal. The Real Madrid man has been pushed back into the centre-back position by Paulo Bento and both he and A Seleccao have reaped the benefits.
And like his Los Blancos teammate, Sergio Ramos, he has led by example and has shown none of the histrionics we associate with either player at their club team.
He has done everything with quiet confidence and organises everything defensively for Bento so Ronaldo and Nani can do what they do best.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) Ratings 7-7-9-9-5: AVG: 7.4
The Portuguese skipper was having a great tournament up until the semifinal against Spain where he was little more than a spectator. The main reason for both Ronaldo's and Nani's anonymous performances can be directly attributed to their manager, Paulo Bento, who chose to play deep and defensive against La Roja instead of to his best players' abilities.
Before that fateful game Ronaldo had been in sparkling form. He was at his inspirational best against Holland in the final group game and the Czech Republic in the quarterfinals.
He led the line brilliantly and if Portugal can find a centre forward of true international class to link up with a vastly underrated defence and midfield and Ronaldo and Nani out wide they will return with a vengeance in Brazil 2014.
5. Daniele De Rossi (Italy) Ratings 8-8-7-7-9-6: AVG: 7.5
It is somewhat ironic that Daniele De Rossi, one of the best midfielders at Euro 2012, has put in two of his best performances for the Azzurri at centre-back.
In their first two games at the Euros against Spain and Croatia, De Rossi was nothing less than brilliant and was a real calm and assured figure at the back.
Then, when Prandelli was faced with the combative nature of the Irish and English midfields, he was pushed into centre midfield to provide a bit of steel and to bring something of a combative nature as Italy looked to fight fire with fire and again, he was excellent.
However, he saved his best performance for Germany in the semifinals where he literally ran the show with Pirlo as they picked Die Mannschaft apart.
He disappointed against Spain in the final but still managed to bring his incredible work ethic and honesty to the game, despite the insurmountable midfield he was facing.
Play him wherever and he is almost without peer.
4. Sergio Ramos (Spain) Ratings 7-8-8-7-8-8: AVG 7.6
Sergio Ramos has been a phenomenal for La Roja at Euro 2012. The Real Madrid centre-back did not put a foot wrong all tournament and his composure and steel at the back was just as important as Xavi or Iniesta's passing and movement.
3. Xavi (Spain) Ratings 9-9-8-6-6-8: AVG: 7.6
The Barcelona star was in imperious form over Spain's three group games and ran the show against France in the quarterfinals without even breaking a sweat.
He had something of an off day in the semifinal against Portugal but returned to form to orchestrate matters in the final against Italy.
No other player in the competition is as influential or as skillful at dictating the pace and tempo of a match and he does it with such effortless ease.
2. Andres Iniesta (Spain) Ratings 8-9-8-6-7-8: AVG: 7.7
Like many of his teammates, Andres Iniesta has had a very good Euro 2012. He was instrumental as Spain walked through Group C without too much hassle and was good without being great as they eased past France in the quarterfinals and then Portugal on penalties in the semifinals.
In the final against Italy he was back to his best as he ran the Italian defence ragged with intelligent runs before ripping them to pieces with some great passes.
He does all the damage for Spain by linking the attack to midfield in the final third of the field and there really is no one better at the role in world football.
He is the most creative and selfless player in the competition, is blessed with an almost telepathic and emphatic ability to always know where his teammates are and to always choose the right pass, regardless of whether it denies him a goal or not.
1. Andrea Pirlo (Italy) Ratings 9-8-7-9-10-7: AVG: 8.3
Andrea Pirlo had a tournament to remember. The 33-year-old Juventus player has been nothing less than a revelation at Euro 2012.
He has been a joy to watch and has shown how a technically gifted player with vision and a superb range of passing will never go out of fashion, regardless of how the game moves towards a move physical style.
From picking the ball up deep and dictating the tempo of the game to linking up with his strikers Pirlo has shown every aspect of midfield play and has brought it to a new level.