Armchair Pundit

Euro 2012 awards

Alex Chick

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From Mario to Michel, from Robben to racism, Alex Chick looks back at the best and worst of Euro 2012.

BEST PLAYER - Andres Iniesta (Spain)

Nobody relishes the big occasions like Iniesta, the man who provides Spain with much-needed incisiveness to go with their metronomic tiki-taka. Described by Zinedine Zidane as a paler verison of himself, Iniesta might just go down in history as the great man's equal if he keeps this up. Was the pick of an exceptional Spanish bunch in the final to cap off a wondrous tournament.

On the podium: Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Jordi Alba (Spain)

BEST GAME - Denmark 2-3 Portugal

This one had it all, including a Nicklas Bendtner brace, some horrific Cristiano Ronaldo misses, a team coming back from two down, and an emphatic late winner from Silvestre Varela. Plus it had a major impact on the outcome of the group - but for Varela's strike Portugal may well have gone out.

On the podium: England 3-2 Sweden, Portugal 2-1 Netherlands.

BEST MANAGER - Cesare Prandelli (Italy)

Dragged a team supposedly made up of has-beens and misfits all the way to the final. Prandelli did so with a combination of tactical innovation and expert man-management. Reinvented Italy as an attractive, attacking team, and showed himself to be a thorougly decent man.

On the podium: Vicente Del Bosque (Spain), Paulo Bento (Portugal)

BEST SINGLE-MATCH PERFORMANCE - Mario Balotelli (Italy v Germany)

He might not have dominated the match, but what he did was done with such aplomb that the award cannot go anywhere else. Derided by Alan Shearer as having "done nothing in the game yet" (career trophies: Balotelli 6, Shearer 1 - unless you count Le Tournoi) - Balotelli blasted Germany out of the competition with two emphatic goals. The outpouring of love from a previously sceptical Italian public augurs well for the future.

On the podium: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal v Netherlands), Andrea Pirlo (Italy v England)

BEST PASS - Wesley Sneijder to Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Netherlands v Denmark)

To the Dutch number 10 for his extraordinary ball in the opening game against Denmark. Sneijder hit the ball 40 yards with the outside of his right boot, guiding it perfectly into the striker's path. Huntelaar missed, of course.

On the podium: Xavi for Jordi Alba (Spain v Italy), Joao Pereira for Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal v Netherlands)

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Mario Balotelli's iconic celebration after scoring his second goal against Germany (AFP)

BEST SAVE - ;Andreas Isaksson (Sweden) from John Terry (England)

Isaksson may not be Gordon Banks, and god knows John Terry isn't Pele. But for an instant this was Mexico 1970 as the England man powered a downward header goalwards. The crowd rose to acclaim a goal, but somehow Isaksson twisted his body to get a glove on the ball and turn it over the bar. A moment of enormous quality in a shambolic (though hugely entertaining) match.

On the podium: Iker Casillas (Spain) from Ivan Rakitic (Croatia); Stephan Andersen (Denmark) from Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Netherlands)

BEST VOLLEY

Euro 2012 provided some superlative goals, including two absolutely brilliant team goals in the final.

But let's focus on the razzle-dazzle, and an uncommonly rich crop of volleys. Not your bouncing-ball pseudo-volleys, but genuine, taken-on-the-full volleys.

Here are the best five:

5-Marco Reus (Germany v Greece)
Not an especially difficult finish given the goalkeeper was stranded, but my goodness Reus made it look good. He took a dropping ball inside the box and absolutely thumped it in off the underside of the bar.

4-Sami Khedira (Germany v Greece)
A downside of living in the super-slomo age - if a player strikes the ball less than perfectly off his instep, people will find out. Khedira's crashing strike into the roof of the net looked incredible on first look, but the replays showed he shinned it.

3-Mario Balotelli (Italy v Ireland)
An absolute beauty, which kick-started Balotelli's tournament. Alessandro Diamanti swung a corner in from the right, Balotelli held off John O'Shea, swivelled and hooked the ball over the defender's shoulder into the Irish net.

2-Danny Welbeck (England v Sweden)
You get the feeling that had a more celebrated striker scored Welbeck's outrageously improvised flick, we would never have heard the end of it. With his back to goal, Welbeck swivelled and diverted the ball in off his heel. Did he mean it? Well, what else could he possibly have been trying to do?

1-Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden v France)
A magnificent goal that showcased Ibrahimovic's impeccable technique - and his confidence to take the shot on. The looping cross had echoes of Zinedine Zidane's classic goal for Real Madrid against Leverkusen (though from the opposite side), but Ibrahimovic's execution was even more spectacular, briefly leaving the ground as he powered a scissor-kick into the left corner of the French net. Sheer poetry.

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BEST FANS - Ireland

Roy Keane managed to provoke a decent-sized backlash against the green-clad hordes in Poland. Their crime, it seems, was singing while their team was getting torn a new one on the pitch. Keano's assertion was that the fans should take matters more seriously - presumably by booing Giovanni Trapattoni's men and hurling abuse at their septuagenarian manager. Irish fans have a right to feel let down by their team, but it is hard to see why they should not be allowed to enjoy themselves.

On the podium: Netherlands, Ukraine.

WORST 'FAN EXPERIENCE' INNOVATION - Kick-off countdown

It's hard to know exactly what made this so obnoxious, but it raised hackles around the continent. The concept is simple - a PA announcer bellows a countdown from 10 to nought before kick-off. On paper, it doesn't sound so bad. In practice it served as yet another step in the progressive lobotomisation of football fans, as attempts to 'create atmosphere' suck all the spontaneity out of the game.

On the podium: Seven Nation Army, an opening ceremony before EVERY GAME.

BIGGEST FLOP - Arjen Robben

The pouting, sulky personification of the Netherlands' disastrous tournament. Robben played badly and behaved worse - Wesley Sneijder's blast at "pathetic egos" was directed at him. His worst moment came when substituted against Germany; Rather than cross the pitch and complete the substitution normally, Robben merely stepped over the nearest touchline, ripped his shirt off and skulked angrily around the side of the pitch.

On the podium: Wayne Rooney, Fernando Llorente (not his fault)

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BEST SCAREMONGERING - 'Stay home or come back in a coffin'

In the weeks before the tournament, Ukraine was painted as a nasty, dangerous, aggressive place. It was full of racists, hooligans and mafiosi, all ready to knife visiting fans into an early grave.

Panorama made sensational claims about racism, Sky Sports went undercover with local thugs, and Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain's family opted out of a trip to the tournament.

The whole sorry saga reached its nadir with Sol Campbell uttering the immortal words: "Stay at home, watch it on TV. Don't risk it because you could end up coming back in a coffin."

As it turned out, Ukraine was a warm and welcoming place. What trouble there was occurred mainly in Poland, and was perpetrated almost exclusively by travelling fans, not the locals.

By the end, the same press men who predicted armageddon were cheerfully declaring this the best tournament ever.

On the podium: 'England's training ground isn't fit for for a pub team', 'There's only one hotel in Donetsk'

BEST NON-STORY - ;The ball

Every tournament in the last 20 years has begun amid a chorus of whingeing about the ball. From the Fevernova to the Teamgeist, the Europass to the Jabulani; all have produced howls of disapproval. It's too light, it doesn't fly straight, it smells of biltong. You know the sort of thing. Not this time. Uefa simply employed a regulation Adidas Tango and all those troubles simply melted away.

On the podium: Diving, refereeing

BIGGEST GAFFE

To whatever klutz allowed 20,000 Russia fans to march through Warsaw to celebrate 'Russia Day'. That's 20,000 Russians marching through the Polish capital. What could possibly go wrong? It resulted in 183 arrests in the biggest incidence of hooliganism for decades.

On the podium: Antonio Cassano's homophobic remarks; Samir Nasri's foul-mouthed rant.

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BEST PANTO VILLAIN

Michel Platini - The UEFA chief has done plenty to provoke the storm of anger and resentment towards him. His opposition to goalline technology is baffling; his insistence on expanding the Euros to 24 nations baffling; his suggestiong that Euro 2020 could be played in 12 countries needs some fine-tuning.

But such is the level of hatred for him in the British media, he could promise to build a hospital for sick kittens and the papers would hate it. Platini has reached the Blatter zone, where every sentence that leaves his lips, good or bad, gets ripped to shreds.

Especially when that sentence is: "I've drunk a lot of vodka." Monsieur Platini, you are ready to assume the mantle of FIFA President.

On the podium: Every additional assistant referee, Mark Lawrenson.

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Alex Chick - @alexchick81

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