With the second phase of group matches underway, let’s take a look back at the top eleven players from the initial round of group play. 4-4-2 format will be used.
Goalkeeper: Bogdan Lobonţ (Romania) – The Dinamo Bucureşti goalkeeper was up to the challenge against the French attackers. Granted Henry did not play, but Bogdan made several important saves to preserve the draw.
Left Back: Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Netherlands) – Utilized in the left back role for the Netherlands, the Feyenoord player scored the final goal in his team’s 3-0 disposal of Italy.
Centre Back: Petter Hansson (Sweden) – The Stade Rennais defender scored one of the oddest goals in Euro history against Greece. He also played a vital role in his team’s shutout as he stopped several attacking chances by the Greeks.
Centre Back: Pepe (Portugal) – The Real Madrid player and recent citizen of Portugal performed extremely well in only his fourth international cap as he shut down the Turkish attackers. He also showcased his offensive skills when he scored the game-winning goal.
Right Back: Sergio Ramos (Spain) – Another Real Madrid player makes the list, and he certainly deserves his place after his performance against Russia. His runs down the right side caused the Russian fits all day which no doubt contributed to the vast space afforded Spain’s forwards up front.
Midfielder: Andrés Iniesta (Spain) – Much like Ramos, the Barcelona player’s passing and pace allowed Villa and Torres the freedom to create up front. He assisted on Villa’s second goal.
Midfielder: Gelson Fernandes (Switzerland) – The Manchester City midfielder is the only player from a losing side to make the list. In the match against the Czech Republic, he was the link between defense and midfield. Several of his passes started Swiss attacks (that sadly were not converted) and he expertly aided a back line that allowed only one shot on goal. Tragically, one mistake by the Swiss was all that the Czech Republic needed to steal three points.
Midfielder: Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands) – The Real Madrid player’s classy goal against Italy sealed the Azzurri’s fate. He was the leader of a Netherlands side that dominated their opponent throughout the match with pace and power. Italy came away from the match looking long in the tooth.
Midfielder: Lukas Podolski (Germany) – The most memorable moment of the first round ended up being Podolski’s celebration after his first goal. He was subdued even somber upon the realization that he had doomed the nation of his birth to yet another defeat at the hands of their nemesis. His second goal was electric. Hopefully, he can transfer his international form back to Bayern Munich.
Forward: Zlatan Ibrahimović (Sweden) – In the 67th minute, he finally broke through the Greek’s defenses with a world-class goal. Rightfully so, he was named Man of the Match for the strike. He is one of a select group of players at the tournament who can carry their teams through to the quarter-finals.
Forward: David Villa (Spain) – The first hat trick in eight years at the European tournament easily earns the Spaniard a place in the top eleven. The 26-year-old stole Torres’ thunder and showed that Spain may finally have what it takes to win the Euro championship for the first time since 1964.