Midfield string-puller Andres Iniesta has been named the best player of the Euro 2012 tournament. Nine more of his Spanish colleagues made UEFA's 23-man top squad. Some Germans were notable in their absence.
Andres Iniesta, arguably the brightest creative spark in a Spanish team hardly lacking technical ability, was named the best player of Euro 2012 by tournament organizers UEFA on Monday.
Iniesta started all six games for Spain, playing as a nominal winger. The 29-year-old played a key role in their 4-0 win over Italy in the final. UEFA officials conceded, however, that the choice wasn't easy.
"Andrea Pirlo was magnificent for Italy, Xavi won it last time and could have won it again. Xabi Alonso was magnificent but Iniesta sends a message about creative and incisive football and was superb throughout," the head of UEFA's technical group, Andy Roxbrough, told reporters in Kyiv.
The UEFA assessment of Iniesta's performance contrasts with DW sports writer Tobias Oelmaier, who wrote that Barcelona's dynamic midfield duo of Iniesta and Xavi were something of a let-down.
"There weren't many fireworks provided by the top Spaniards Xavi or Iniesta with the exception of the final. They were parts of a collective. But nothing more," Oelmaier said. "Had Cristiano Ronaldo taken his Portuguese side to the final, the question of the outstanding player of the tournament would have been rather easy to answer."
With 35 shots to his name, Ronaldo certainly was one of the most involved players in front of goal. On 20 occasions, though, he failed to hit the target. His decision-making might be questioned after a tournament in which "CR7" considered any free-kick, irrespective of distance or angle, to be a cast-iron shooting chance. There's a reason why no Portuguese player besides Ronaldo had more than three shots on target all tournament.
Spaniards dominate UEFA's top team
The cup winners in red impressed the panel of judges throughout the tournament, with 10 Spaniards making UEFA's 23-man top squad. Only starting right back Alvaro Arbeloa failed to make the cut, every other member of Spain's most common starting lineup got the nod.
That of course did not include Fernando Torres, Spain's substitute striker, but he could content himself with the golden shoe award. He scored three goals and set another one up, putting him level with Germany's Mario Gomez, but won the trophy for having delivered those numbers in fewer minutes on the pitch.
German keeper Manuel Neuer and captain Philipp Lahm both made the top squad, as did Germany's Spanish exports at Real Madrid - holding midfielder Sami Khedira and playmaker Mesut Özil.
Conspicuous in their absence
DW's Oelmaier and UEFA are in agreement on two key players for the German side who failed to set the tournament alight.
"Mats Hummels first appeared on his tournament debut to be an unbeatable central defender, until that calamitous mistake befell him in the semifinal against Italy's [Antonio] Cassano," Oelmaier wrote.
The Dortmund star must be waking up at night and wondering why he didn't just stand still and contain Cassano, rather than committing himself and allowing the Italian to turn and create the opening goal. As Mehmet Scholl said on German television after the semifinal defeat, "that's a mistake Mats will never make again."
Germany's answer to Xavi, holding midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger, also failed to make the cut after being one of the shining lights at the World Cup in South Africa. Schweinstieger "got stuck in as usual, had the most touches of the ball, but it was clear to see that he wasn't fully fit," Oelmaier lamented - pointing to "unusually frequent poor passes, losses of possession and barely any creative moments" as the tell-tale signs.
Schweinsteiger created both of Mario Gomez's goals against the Netherlands in arguably Germany's best performance of Euro 2012, but was quiet in the other games.
Hit-man Mario Gomez suffered the same slight as Spaniard Torres, three goals were not enough to earn him a spot among the five best "forwards" of Euro 2012. In defense of the sharp-shooters, only Mario Balotelli and Zlatan Ibrahimovic would class as typical number 9's in that lineup - Cesc Fabregas, David Silva and to some extent Cristiano Ronaldo might be considered misplaced midfielders. But that's just a sign of the Spanish times in which we're living.
Author: Mark Hallam
Editor: Rina Goldenberg