With the quarter-final phase underway, let’s take a look back at the top players from the third round of group play.
*Note* With so many teams using reserve players in the third phase, a list of players versus a top eleven is used.
Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy) – Against Italy’s fiercest rival, Buffon again stepped up and performed at an elite level to guarantee his country’s entrance into the quarter-final round.
Left-Back: Ludovic Magnin (Swizterland) – Taking over the captain’s role for injured superstar Alexander Frei, Magnin guided the backline in the team’s shutout against Portugal. The 29-year-old now returns to Bundesliga power VfB Stuttgart.
Centre Back: Sergei Ignashevich (Russia) – The CSKA Moscow player kept the Swedish attack under control helping to shut down Henrik Larsson, Kim Kallstrom, Marcus Allback, and superstar Zlatan Ibrahimovic. In a must-win game, Ignashevich played with a focus and dertermination.
Midfielder: Tuncay Şanlı (Turkey) – The 26-year-old Middlesbrough player willed the Turks back into their match against the Czech Republic. He set up goals, organized the midfield, rallyed his teammates, and even spent time in goal once starter Volkan Demirel was sent off.
Midfielder: Michael Ballack (Germany) – When the Germans needed to secure a spot in the quarter-finals, the captain came through with a goal in the 49th minute.
Forward: Andrei Arshavin (Russia) – Finally able to compete, the Russian playmaker showed why is he quickly becoming one of Europe’s hottest transfer targets. He could be the X-factor in Russia’s quest for the Euro 2008 title.
Forward: Nihat Kahveci (Turkey) Two goals against in the final fifteen minutes of a must-win game solidifed Nihat’s hero status in his home country. The forward will be looked upon to add to his scoresheet today versus Croatia.