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Euro 2008: Top XI from the Second Phase of Group Play

With the third phase of group matches underway, let’s take a look back at the top eleven players from the second round of group play. 4-3-3 format will be used.

Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy) – With one tremendous swat of his right hand, he has again added to his hero status both in his country and abroad.  If the World Cup champions make it into the final eight, Buffon certainly can carry the team on his back for three games.

Left Back: Giovanni van Bronckhorst (Netherlands) – Again, utilized in the left back role for the Netherlands, the Feyenoord player caused fits on both the offensive and defensive ends for the French players, most notably Franck Ribéry who disappeared for long stretches.

Centre Back: Christian Panucci (Italy) – His goal shortly after Romania scored keeps the Italians’ chances of advancement alive. The 35-year-old A.S. Roma man also became the oldest player to score in the tournament’s history sans penalty kicks.

Centre Back: Raúl Albiol (Spain) – The 22-year-old entered early in the first half and after finding his feet, helped shut down the Swedish attack.  For someone with only four international caps, he rarely looked phase during the game.  If Puyol cannot go because of injury, Albiol becomes the most important Spaniard on the squad.

Right Back: Vedran Ćorluka (Croatia) – The Manchester City defender disrupted Germany’s attack down the left that had been so devastating against the Poles.  He also looked solid during Croatia’s counter attacks.

Midfielder: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) – The game’s greatest player finally found the back of the net against the Czech Republic.  It will be interesting to see him in action during the final eight.

Midfielder: Arda Turan (Turkey) – In a precursor of events to come, Turan’s strike in stoppage time against Switzerland proved to be crucial for Turkey’s advancement in the tournament.  The 21-year-old Galatasaray player may end up one of the summer’s most sought after transfer targets.

Midfielder: Arjen Robben (Netherlands) – The Real Madrid winger came on as a second-half substitute and instantly transformed the Dutch attack.  His pace, crossing ability, and creative flair were evident.  He nearly scored a second goal before Wesley Sneijder’s world-class blast in stoppage time.

Forward: Fernando Torres (Spain) – His first-half goal was a clever little poke.  Unlike his first-round group match, Torres consistently brought effort and energy to the game.

Forward: Ivica Vastić (Austria) – Win free beer for life and keep your country’s hopes of qualifying alive.  Not bad for the 38-year-old who was surprisingly added to the Euro roster.  His last appearance for Austria came in 2005.

Forward: David Villa (Spain) – Clearly, the tournament’s most valuable player to date, Villa snatched three points for Spain from what certainly should have only been one with his stoppage-time goal against Sweden.