Power Ranking the Best Strikers at Euro 2012

Neri SteinFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2012

Power Ranking the Best Strikers at Euro 2012

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    Spain capped off their domination of international football with a resounding 4-0 victory over Italy Sunday, and they did it largely without playing any recognized strikers. 

    Euro 2012 was all about midfielders. Andrea Pirlo, Andres Iniesta, Mesut Ozil, the list goes on and on. But that doesn't mean the striking talents weren't on display at all in Poland and Ukraine. 

    New, young strikers made a name for themselves on the international stage, and some veterans got the perfect send off with their countries. 

    Which strikers had the best Euro 2012 campaign? Read on to find out. 

Honorable Mentions

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    Andriy Shevchenko hasn't been the striker he once was for many years, but he certainly resembled that man in Ukraine's first ever match of the European Championships. 

    Shevchenko's two second-half goals against Sweden earned the host nation the perfect beginning to their Euro history.

    Miroslav Klose also etched his name even further into the German history books. He did not start many matches for Germany and notched just one goal against Greece in the quarterfinals, but most importantly, Germany has won every game Klose has ever scored in. 

    Lastly, Andy Carroll didn't get many chances for England, but when he was in the lineup, he looked ready for a fight. Carroll scored England's first goal in their 3-2 win over Sweden in the group stages, and when he was on the bench, the Three Lions' attack struggled.

    Danny Welbeck impressed, but Wayne Rooney struggled, though he did not receive many opportunities. England's defensive and long-ball tactics might've been better suited to someone with Carroll's height. 

Alan Dzagoev

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    Alan Dzagoev is definitely one of the hot, young strikers to watch after his performance at Euro 2012. 

    The Russian and CSKA Moscow forward tied for most goals at the tournament with three, all in the group stages, and he and his team were unlucky to miss out on a quarterfinals spot to Greece. 

    Russia were definitely not lacking in possession or shot attempts during their three group games, but Dzagoev in particular was always a threat to opposing defenses. 

    The 22-year-old is already wanted by Tottenham according to his agent, but his speed would be useful in just about any league. 

Mario Mandzukic

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    Much like Dzagoev, Croatia's Mario Mandzukic scored all three of his goals in the group stages of Euro 2012, and he was unlucky to see his side not reach the knockout stages. 

    The newly minted Bayern Munich forward scored twice in his nation's opening match against Ireland and then scored a vital equalizer against Italy in the second match, giving his team much more of a chance to reach the knockout stages than anyone expected. 

    Going up against the two finalists, Spain and Italy, was too much for a young and way overmatched Croatia, but their 26-year-old striker proved his worth and earned a spot with last year's Champions League runners-up. 

Nicklas Bendtner

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    Unlike many players, Nicklas Bendtner has the not-so-classic problem of over-performing with his national side but underperforming with his club team. 

    The Arsenal man continued that trend this summer in Poland and Ukraine.

    Denmark were one of the most surprising sides at Euro 2012 thanks to their win over Netherlands in the group stages, and Portugal just beat them to a quarterfinal spot in the end.  

    The big striker was a huge threat in Denmark's second game against Portugal when his two headers brought his side back from two goals down, though they still lost 3-2. 

    He was again a threat against Germany in the final group game, but couldn't do enough to see his side through to the knockout stages. 

Cesc Fabregas

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    Cesc Fabregas isn't a striker, but Spain pretended he was for a little while, so we can too. 

    Fabregas couldn't get near Spain's starting lineup for Euro 2008 or the World Cup two years ago, but he was a key figure for the champions this summer. 

    The Barcelona man scored Spain's first goal of the tournament to secure a draw against Italy, he scored the winning penalty (again) in the semifinals against Portugal, and he was again in top form in the final, providing the assist for David Silva's opening goal.

    Fabregas had a great competition with Spain, and given he's only 25, Spain will certainly be contenders in Brazil in two years with him in the middle. 

Mario Gomez

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    Mario Gomez only scored three goals, all in the group stages, for Germany at Euro 2012, and given he and his team were expected to do so much more in Poland and Ukraine, it doesn't seem like much. 

    Euro 2012 didn't see any players hogging the goal-scoring exploits, and Germany exemplified that more than any team, but Gomez was a constant threat up front. 

    With Miroslav Klose not likely to make the trip to Brazil in two years, it will be up to Gomez to end his country's run as almost winners. 

Fernando Torres

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    Fernando Torres did in fact win the Euro 2012 Golden Boot thanks to his three goals and one assist, which was the deciding factor in the end. 

    Two goals came in the group stage against a struggling Ireland side, and Torres looked like a completely different player when he started the next match against Croatia. Torres then came on as a substitute in the final after Italy were down to 10 men, scored an insurance goal and added an assist for Juan Mata. 

    In doing so, Torres became the first player to ever score in consecutive Euro finals, which counts for something. 

    Though Torres likely won't be a starter for his national team much longer, he's certainly showed he has something more to offer. 

Cristiano Ronaldo

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    The best striker at Euro 2012 is a very close call and can really come down to how you're feeling. Not much is separating Cristiano Ronaldo from the top spot, except for the fact that he didn't act as selfishly as most would've thought when it mattered most. 

    Ronaldo has long been criticized for not being as good with Portugal as he's been with either Manchester United or Real Madrid, but he laid all those doubts to rest this summer. 

    The captain led his team to the semifinals, scoring three goals in the process. Two against Netherlands to secure his team's spot in the quarterfinals and a late winner against the Czech Republic to book Portugal's ticket to the semis. 

    This is where it all unraveled.

    He posed a threat to Spain's back line, but not enough, and then, Ronaldo did not step up to take a penalty in the shootout. One of the best players in the world was slated to take the fifth penalty, but he should've spoken up sooner and made his coach Paulo Bento place him earlier. 

Mario Balotelli

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    The gap between Mario Balotelli and Cristiano Ronaldo's performances at Euro 2012 is a very small one, but football fans expected Ronaldo to finally step up for his country. No one expected more than at least one red card from Balotelli. 

    But the Manchester City forward was on his best behavior for Italy in Poland and Ukraine, though he got off to rough start against Spain and Croatia. 

    Unlike many strikers on this list, Balotelli (and Ronaldo) made his goals really count. He scored on a fantastic overhead kick against Ireland to make Italy's spot in the quarters a certainty. Then Super Mario scored two superb first-half goals against Germany to lead Italy to the final. 

    Sergio Ramos and Spain did an excellent job of marking Balotelli in the final, so he was not able to have an impact, but his attitude throughout the tournament (storming off the pitch immediately after the whistle blew in the final notwithstanding) and his previous goals earned him spot as top striker at Euro 2012.

    And with just over a month before Balotelli turns 22, Italy are looking good for the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.