TEAMtalk’s Top Men: Euro 2012 group stars

Date published: Wednesday 20th June 2012 8:37

With the Euro 2012 group stages concluded and the quarter-finals line-up finalised, we pick out the players that we feel have been the leading lights and take a place in our team of the tournament so far.

We then explain our selections and invite you – our loyal army of readers – to pick your team of top men. We’re looking for the players who caught your eye with dazzling displays or powerful performances from the tournament’s opener between Poland and Greece on Friday 8 June right through to the Group D finale on Tuesday night.

You can choose any formation and there’s no limit on how many players you can pick from each team – so have a think, then get involved.

TEAMtalk’s Top Men (4-3-1-2): Buffon; Debuchy, Badstuber, Chiellini, Alba; Schweinsteiger, Dzagoev, Iniesta; Ronaldo; Mandzukic, Gomez.

Selected by James Marshment and Simon Wilkes

Goalkeeper

Gianluigi Buffon (Italy): The 34-year-old gets the gig between the sticks as he provides an irrepressible last line of defence and brings calmness and authority to any backline. The Italians came into the tournament with little expectation surrounding them, but with Buffon in net they’re always going to be a tough nut to crack – and could surprise a few pundits.

SW

Defenders

Mathieu Debuchy (France):

One of the most sought-after full-backs in the world game right now, Dubuchy offers calmness, poise and balance to what is otherwise a less-than-secure French defence. A marauding full-back, Dubuchy has been Les Bleus’ most consistent player in the group stages. So much so, that Newcastle might now think their initial £4million bid, which was rejected earlier in the week, might need doubling at least if they’re to land their man.

JM

Holger Badstuber (Germany):

Big, bad, brooding Badstuber. The heartbeat of the German defence and one good reason why his suspension in the Champions League final cost Bayern the chance of trophy glory.

Not quite as menacing to look at as his centre-back ‘partner’ Chiellini, Badstuber manages to marry up no-nonsense defending with an air of finess which suggests he’ll become a regular for club and country for a good number of years yet. Exemplary so far for the Germans.

JM

Giorgio Chiellini (Italy): The 27-year-old centre-back is the epitome of a Roman defender, both in style and looks. Uncompromising in the tackle and on the eye, the Juventus hardman has barely put a foot wrong in the group stages so rightfully takes his place in our team of top men. His absence in the last-eight tie against England cannot be underestimated and his loss could very much be England’s gain.

SW

Jordi Alba (Spain):

So natural has Alba looked playing left-back for Spain, it’s hard to believe he only won his first senior cap in September 2011. Solid in the tackle and equally adept at marauding down the flank, Alba, for me, is the natural heir to Ashley Cole as the ‘world’s best left-back’.

JM

Midfielders

Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany): Any thoughts that the Bayern Munich schemer might be carrying some baggage from his Champions League final penalty misery were soon dispelled as the classy midfielder caught the eye in the opening win over Portugal. Mario Gomez may have hogged the headlines with his goals – but it’s Schweinsteiger who has had the purists purring following three powerful performances.

SW

Alan Dzagoev (Russia): CSKA Moscow star Dzagoev was the headline pick in TEAMtalk’s Top Transfer Targets blog ahead of Euro 2012, with our very own Matty Briggs waxing lyrical about him.

And the 21-year-old delivered the goods for the Russians, dazzling in a four-star rout of the Czech Republic and also netting against co-hosts Poland.

Russia’s shock exit is a shame as it was a pleasure to watch Dzaego’s silky skills – and don’t be surprised if he is running out in the Premier League come the big kick-off.

SW

Andres Iniesta (Spain): Defending champions Spain topped Group C in fairly unconvincing fashion and are slowly building some momentum – but one thing that has been as constistent as their patient passing game is the form of Iniesta.

He rarely grabs the spotlight in a star-studded line-up but is the glue that holds the Spanish midfield together, and never, ever gives the ball away.

SW

Forwards

Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal):

He may have taken a game or two to find his Euro 2012 groove, but Real Madrid flyer Ronaldo takes his place in the side on the back of a stunning display against Holland which booked Portugal’s place in the knock-out stages.

The consummate ease with which he took both goals suggests Ronaldo is in the mood to not only reproduce his electrifying club form, but to also fire his country into the last four at least.

JM

Mario Gomez (Germany):

For some reason I was quite heavily criticised by some readers for tipping Gomez as the Euro 2012 top scorer in TEAMtalk’s pre-tournament tips. But three goals in three Group B games suggests the Bayern Munich man is ready to prove me right and his doubters wrong. One of the best headers of the ball around, Gomez has everything you want from a central striker and is just one of the reasons why I think it Jogi Low’s side will lift the trophy in Kiev on 1 July.

JM

Mario Mandzukic (Croatia): Not many people knew too much Mario Mandzukic before Euro 2012 kicked off – but they do now, and Wolfsburg will do well to hang onto the powerful hitman this summer.

The 26-year-old burst the Republic of Ireland’s bubble within three minutes of their opening Group C game, beating Shay Given with a well-placed header.

And he continued to impress against the Italians and Spain, prompting talk that Everton are planning to pair him with national team-mate Nikica Jelavic at Goodison Park this summer.

Strong in the air, a good eye for goal and a great first touch, he seemingly all the attributes needed to shine in England’s top tier – and it’s a shame we won’t be seeing more of him in Poland and the Ukraine.

SW

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