With the group stage now over, Dave Taylor looks back on the 24 games to date in order to put together the best XI of the championship so far.
Stipe Pletikosa [Croatia]
Needed to be awake against Ireland although hardly tested, but in the Italy game he was outstanding, especially his double save from Claudio Marchisio. For the first shot he swiftly powered off the line before sprawling to the right to save the follow up. Also kept the Spanish quiet, foiling Fernando Torres at the near post with his knee and blocking a fierce Jesus Navas shot late on. Steadfast.
Glen Johnson [England]
Wasn’t as brilliant as some in individual games, but overall he quietly worked away intercepting balls, blocking shots and making several absolutely crucial tackles. Against France he kept the normal vivacious Frank Ribery quiet and had the pace to recover when pulled out of position. Generally made England difficult to beat. Critical.
Mats Hummels [Germany]
The Dortmund defender was a tower in the back line and his intelligence and anticipation – in particular during the game against Holland – was typical of his attitude throughout all three ties. He was always ready to cut out danger and marshalled his side to maximum points. Uncompromising when needed to be, but also calm when coolness was the order of the day. Attentive.
Daniele De Rossi [Italy]
Just when Spain thought they had a free run on goal, up would pop the Roma midfielder to foil them time after time. If Andrea Pirlo got swamped in the midfield then he would step up, finding the time and space to pick out his teammates and put Italy on the front foot once again. It was the same in the Croatia game where he dealt with any danger in the box and cleared up any loose balls like an old fashioned sweeper. Almost scored against Ireland when returned to midfield. Rock-solid.
Federico Balzaretti [Italy]
Perhaps should have played in every game such was his performance down the left flank against Ireland. A continuous menace and blocked the Irish wingers at every turn. Also made a couple of chances for the forwards with his crosses and sliced through the opposition defence every time he got forward. Voracious.
Bastian Schweinsteiger [Germany]
Never really put a foot wrong in any of the games and was one of the main reasons Germany collected nine points. Set up both goals for Mario Gomez against Holland, but also put in a shift at stopping the Dutch midfield from getting into its stride. Always classy, holding up the play and forever looking for the perfect pass. Integral.
Sami Khedira [Germany]
Protected his defence with an unerring ability to be in the right place when trouble looked like erupting. Also linked up the play in the middle of the park and was forever looking to set up his colleagues. Never stopped running and was particularly cutting in the Denmark game. Inspiring.
Luka Modric [Croatia]
The Spurs’ midfielder was the Andreas Inestia of Croatia with his total involvement in all things creative. Always menacing whenever he had the ball, his timing was immaculate and his pinpoint cross for Ivan Rakitic’s failed header in the game against Spain deserved a goal simply for its imagination. Essential.
Andrea Pirlo [Italy]
As usual, he pulled the strings and was behind everything good the Azzurri tried. Although he produced several real moments of magic, his brilliant free-kick against Croatia from the left hand side edge of the area was inspirationally sublime. He also set up Antonio Di Natale’s goal against Spain with an inch-perfect pass, as well as Antonio Cassano’s opener against Ireland. Vital.
Mario Gomez [Germany]
Bayern Munich’s striker showed his worth by scoring two fabulous goals against the Dutch as well as netting the winner against Portugal. Always looked to get into position to receive the ball and his first goal against Holland was a perfect example of a striker at the top of his game - when he turned and shot low into the goal, all in one movement. Alert.
Alan Dzagoev [Russia]
One of the stars of the tournament with three goals and was always looking to be first to the ball. Showed class beyond his years when he pounced on a rebound for his first goal against the Czechs. His second was even better as he collected the ball from Roman Pavlyuchenko then blasted it past an awe-struck Petr Cech in goal. Also scored against Poland, but it was his general play and movement that impressed everyone who saw him. Sensational.