Armchair Pundit

Euro 2012 team of the quarter-finals

Alex Chick

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After each round of Euro 2012 matches, we will publish our pick of the top performers.

A strange set of quarter-finals produced four somewhat one-sided games, though the last one went to penalties as England clung on against Italy.

However, seven of the eight teams are represented in our team of the round - the winning teams' defences were largely untroubled, while there was some heroism in defeat from Petr Cech, Laurent Koscielny and John Terry.

Into midfield, where Andrea Pirlo's god-like display against England sees him take pride of place alongside two-goal Xabi Alonso and the improving Joao Moutinho.

Our three-man front line includes no out-and-out strikers (Ronaldo has been playing ostensibly on the wing) but hopefully you can forgive us the omission of a genuine number nine when we have three players as good as Ronaldo, Andres Iniesta and Mesut Ozil.

Goalkeeper - Petr Cech (Czech Republic) - Expert rating 9, user rating 8.0
Most of the Czech team simply failed to turn up for their quarter-final against Portugal. So it was left to their captain to keep them in the match with an array of fantastic saves. A night of quality saves was highlighted by brilliant stops from Joao Moutinho and Joao Pereira, while there was nothing he could do about Cristiano Ronaldo's headed winner. Only Peter Schmeichel (20) has conceded more European Championship goals than Cech (16).

Right-back - Ignazio Abate (Italy) - Expert rating 7, user rating 6.4
When Italy switched from wing-backs to a back four after two matches, Abate replaced Christian Maggio - ostensibly because he is a better defender. Yet Abate was a constant menace for England with his positive raids down the right. As the Three Lions backed off, Abate raided down the flank, delivering quality crosses into the box. At the other end, he made a crucial challenge to force Wayne Rooney to head over.

Centre-back - Laurent Koscielny (France) - Expert rating 7, user rating 5.2
The Arsenal man came into the France side as a replacement for the suspended Philippe Mexes, and certainly had a busy evening. Although France disappointed, the 2-0 scoreline could have been much worse if not for Koscielny's positional sense and some key interventions. He charged down a Xavi volley, made a superb sliding challenge to prevent a Fernando Torres tap-in and blocked Torres again in stoppage time. Emerged with credit.

Centre-back - John Terry (England) - Expert rating 8, user rating 5.9
There is probably something peculiarly English about lauding a player whose chief skill is getting in the way of the ball. And you might also point out that several of those heroic blocks came after Terry and his defensive colleagues played an Italian forward - usually Mario Balotelli - onside. The image of Brave John Terry the chest-beating lionheart may have long passed into parody, but he did have an excellent tournament.

Left-back - Philipp Lahm (Germany) - Expert rating 8, user rating 7.1
This tournament has featured a certain amount of angst regarding the best way to break through a team that parks the bus. Well, how a swerving 25-yarder from your left-back? That'll do nicely. Lahm has been so good for so long that we are in danger of taking it for granted. Equally comfortable on the left or right side, Lahm is fundamentally a footballer rather than a defender - a player in the great tradition of Franz Beckenbauer, Paul Breitner and Matthias Sammer.

Central midfield: Xabi Alonso (Spain) - Expert rating 8, user rating 7.8
Not a bad way to celebrate your 100th cap. Alonso scored both goals in the 2-0 beating of France, the first with an excellent header, the second from a penalty spot. Alonso has spent much of his international career playing wingman to the extraordinary Xavi but Saturday provided a timely reminder of his own prodigious talent. Only four players have more caps - Iker Casillas, Andoni Zubizarreta, Xavi and Raul.

Central midfield: Joao Moutinho (Portugal) - Expert rating 8, user rating 6.2
There were not many headlines left for anyone else after Cristiano Ronaldo's match-winning contribution for Portugal against the Czech Republic, but Moutinho deserves praise for a superb midfield display. Mirroring his team, the Porto man has grown into this tournament after a shaky start. He produced a few crunching tackles - most notably on Milan Baros - and nearly always used possession wisely.

Central midfield: Andrea Pirlo (Italy) - Expert rating 9, user rating 7.8
England have been criticised for their inability close Pirlo down, but if you are defending deep, how do you expect to get to the opposition's deep-lying playmaker? Allowed the freedom of Kiev by a retreating England side, the veteran tore them to shreds with his relentlessly excellent use of the ball - he racked up 131 passes over the two hours. And then there's that penalty, dinked masterfully over Joe Hart - it summed up Italy's superiority nicely.

Attacking midfield: Andres Iniesta (Spain) - Expert rating 7, user rating 6.9
He's been here before, and in all likelihood he'll be here again. Iniesta has been the star of the show for Spain at Euro 2012 - passes like Xavi, dribbles like David Silva. Even Zinedine Zidane was moved to describe the Barcelona man as a paler version of himself - not a pale imitation, just pale. Provided a smart ball down the line for Jordi Alba to set up Spain's opener.

Attacking midfield: Mesut Ozil (Germany) - Expert rating 8, user rating 7.2
Like Iniesta, Ozil should probably have been given lifetime membership of these Euro 2012 dream teams at the start of the tournament. Yet again, Ozil was Germany's attacking fulcrum. Yet again his passing were superb. Yet again he spotted passes nobody else could see. It would get boring if it were not so beguiling to watch. One suspects the Ozil-led German midfield may pose more questions of Italy than England did.

Striker: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal) - Expert rating 9, user rating 7.1
Footballers like to say individual accolades don't matter to them. And, to a man, they are lying. Particularly Ronaldo, for whom the constant comparisons to Lionel Messi (see, done it again) threaten to obscure his transcendent brilliance. But this is Ronaldo's year. Having won La Liga with Real Madrid, he is probably one more commanding Euro 2012 performance away from wrapping up the Ballon d'Or. And against Spain? That would make victory even sweeter.

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