• Thursday, 21 June 2012

    Team of the Tournament (so far)

    After the group stage, it seems customary to make a team of the tournament so far. With a whole day of cold turkey where we've all been jonesing for another hit of live football (just hours to go now, hang in there), we've had time to think. This is often a dangerous thing, but we've tried to keep it positive. Here's our XI of the players we've most enjoyed watching. Most enjoyed watching - not 'best'. Therefore we're not saying that this is the best team, formation, anything. We like these dudes the bestest just because.

    Goalkeeper: Przemyslaw Tyton
    We like the resurgence of the goalkeeper as captain - Buffon, Lloris, Casillas - in the Dino Zoff envelope, but as Roy Carroll will testify, there's one way to make yourself an instant hero: make your first touch of the ball a penalty save. Moreover, the last time we saw Tyton play was in the Eredivisie early in the season where he was wiped out by a team-mate's knee to the noggin, prompting the little seen double figures on the added-time board. Coming on in the opening game following Wojciech Szczesny, he turned Giorgios Karagounis's penalty away earning himself near-legend status in the blink of an eye.

    Defence: Mats Hummels, Theodor Gebre Selassie, Olof Mellberg
    Olof Mellberg is the manliest man alive. Hewn from granite 34 years ago, he looks as good as he ever did. Frankly, UEFA have a right cheek to credit his second goal against England to a Glen Johnson own goal. The ball was in. Also, cool beard.
    It's our thesis here that the full-backs are the most important players on the field in the modern game. Gebre Selassie looks every inch the part. He gets forward, he's comfortable on the ball, he looks good in defence. What's not to love?
    Mats Hummels is just brilliant.

    Enduring image of the tournament

    Midfield: Andrea Pirlo, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Yohan Cabaye, Luka Modric
    Yes, we've picked a midfield of tiny football pixies, but we like tiny football pixies. We could watch all five of these all day long. Pirlo's range of passing is incredible, his free-kick against Croatia magnificent. Good luck to Spain and Barcelona finding a new Xavi, Cabaye is a real driving force in the French midfield, has a bit of bite in the tackle and thunderous shot on him. Modric did his level best to drag Croatia into the knockout stages and but for a brilliant Iker Casillas save would have done just that. But the king among the princes is Andres Iniesta.
    Ahh, Iniesta. What can you say that these pictures don't?

    Not a lot really.

    Forwards: Karim Benzema, Mario Mandzukic
    He hasn't scored yet, but Benzema's all-round play has been quite outstanding. He's a man on top of his game after a stellar season in Spain, he's quick, strong and inventive and has looked right up for it from the off in this tournament.
    Mandzukic has found the net, been a massive handful for whoever he's been up against and is a bit of a throwback to an old-style, hairy-arsed centre-forward. Strong, powerful and direct - there's a lot to be said for that.

    Who to manage that lot though? It's a choice of two. We like Erik Hamren turning up dressed like Terry Griffiths circa 1979, but it can only really be Slaven Bilic, mainly because we'd fear being bundled into the boot of a car, driven to some wasteland and buried under a new motorway fly-over if we didn't appoint him. Oh, and the suit-and-beanie look is coming to a high street near you soon, whether you like it or not (HINT: you do like it, or else).

    No comments: