With the big kick-off looming large, it’s hard not to get excited about the European Championships – especially with such a glittering array of talent about to take the stage in Poland and Ukraine.
So with that in mind, we’ve scoured YouTube for some examples of the continent’s finest players producing some of their greatest work in the international arena.
Let us know who you’re most looking forward to seeing by posting a Comment below – and if you’ve found a video clip too, feel free to share it with us.
Karim Benzema – France
Benzema struggled to live up to his £30million price tag in his first two seasons at Real Madrid and was repeatedly linked with a move away. But the 24-year-old has exploded into life this term for Jose Mourinho’s men, surpassing the 30-goal mark for club and country.
He scored three goals for France in Euro 2012 qualifying – against Bosnia, Luxembourg and Albania – and each of them was rather special.
Gianluigi Buffon – Italy
Arguably the greatest goalkeeper of the last 20 years, Buffon was one of the key figures behind Italy’s 2006 World Cup win and – now captain – is still going strong aged 34. He conceded just one goal in six qualifiers for the European Championship after missing the first four through injury.
Here we see the agile Buffon in action as he dives full stretch to his left, his fingertips keeping out a Benzema shot in Italy’s 2-0 win over France in Zurich at Euro 2008.
Xavi – Spain
Xavi has set the standard for all Spanish midfielders to come. More than any other player, the 32-year-old exemplifies the philosophy of both Barcelona and Spain and it’s hard to see how either could have enjoyed their current success without the man who almost never gives the ball away.
Spain head to Poland and Ukraine as holders of the Henri Delaunay trophy, thanks in no small part to this perfectly-weighted threaded pass from Xavi which gave Fernando Torres the chance to score the winner in the 2008 final against Germany in Vienna.
Andres Iniesta – Spain
Xavi’s partner in crime for both club and country, Iniesta is ensured legendary status in Spain after scoring the goal that won the country their first World Cup in 2010. Arguably even more naturally gifted than the man he plays alongside, he will be key to their hopes of defending their European crown this summer.
The artistry of Iniesta is perfectly encapsulated in this move leading to a David Silva goal in a pre-World Cup friendly against Poland in Murcia two years ago.
Luka Modric – Croatia
Had Modric played in the famous Croatia side of the mid-1990s, he might have had a shot at European Championship glory. As it is, he carries his country’s hopes almost single-handedly. The Tottenham schemer is one of the most sought-after players around, and could be even more so after this summer.
Long-range shooting is a hallmark of Modric’s game – this belter set Croatia on their way to a 3-1 win over Israel in a Euro 2012 qualifier in Zagreb last September.
Mesut Ozil – Germany
The creative hub of an exciting Germany team, Ozil is arguably the one player Joachim Low’s men cannot do without if they are to win their first major trophy since 1996. The 23-year-old shone at World Cup 2010 and has continued to do so since joining Real Madrid.
Ozil is not just a pass-master though – here we see him lash home a fierce strike in off the crossbar from outside the box in Germany’s 3-1 win over Belgium in Dusseldorf in a Euro 2012 qualifier last October.
Cristiano Ronaldo – Portugal
Indisputably the best player at the tournament and on his way to becoming one of the greatest of all time, Ronaldo’s only misfortune is to play in the same era as Lionel Messi. It is no exaggeration to say that Portugal’s chances rest squarely on his shoulders this summer.
After this run which shows his extraordinary skills and balance in the 4-0 friendly win over Spain in Lisbon in October 2010, Ronaldo was left fuming with team-mate Nani after the latter headed in on the line – from an offside position.
Wesley Sneijder – Netherlands
The inspiration behind Inter Milan’s 2010 Champions League win, Sneijder went agonisingly close to adding the World Cup with Holland weeks later. The former Real Madrid midfielder is key to his country’s hopes this summer, especially in a nightmare group containing both Germany and Portugal.
Sneijder has not enjoyed his most productive season at club level, but as this compilation of his highlights from Saturday’s 6-0 friendly win over Northern Ireland demonstrates, the 27-year-old is still likely to be one of the Dutch side’s most creative forces.
Robin van Persie – Netherlands
Rated by many as the best player in the Premier League, Arsenal captain Van Persie has never gone into an international tournament in better shape. The 28-year-old has 30-plus goals to his name and has looked unplayable at times this season. He may finally land the major prize that has eluded him since 2005.
Van Persie has found the net 28 times in an Oranje shirt, including these five in the qualifier against San Marino.
Christian Eriksen – Denmark
The Ajax playmaker will be one of the brightest young talents to take the field in Ukraine this summer, and looks set to enhance his reputation – and the inevitable Laudrup comparisons – still further. As with so many Eredivisie talents, Europe’s biggest clubs are poised to swoop as soon as Eriksen decides to move on from Amsterdam. However, he only turned 20 in February and may stay put for a season or two longer unless he is guaranteed first-team football.
Here, Eriksen’s accurate long-range free-kick from wide on the left catches Scotland goalkeeper Allan McGregor by surprise in a Hampden friendly last August.
Select your Euro 2012 YouTube hero by posting a Comment and link below…