Andrew McQuillan dishes out the awards for Euro 2012 in his own inimitable style…
There endeth the Euros. Therefore let the condensed highlights and lowlights of an engrossing tournament begin. First of all, that final. My purple prose cannot describe what we have just seen. Boring boring Spain? I think not.
Player of the Tournament – The Don, Andrea Pirlo. Imperious and majestic in every game apart from the final. Honourable mention to Mario Balotelli though; yes he’s about as rational as a hybrid of Paul Gascoigne and Ozzy Osborne, but he has matured into a fine centre forward. He’s also a social figure; an incredible and intriguing tornado of a man who will fascinate us for years to come.
Nearly Man of the Tournament – This is probably the best tournament Cristiano Ronaldo has had in the colours of Portugal. However, his performance against Spain and his grandstanding over the penalty showed that despite everything he has already achieved there is still something out there holding him back.
Disappointment of the Tournament – I’m struggling to think of a single Dutch player who can come away from Poland and Ukraine with any credit, however, the Germans, for all their collective skill let a few of us down, and busted my coupon into the bargain. I thought it was the English who were the international nearly men?
Manager of the tournament – Del Bosque has it easy with Spain given the squad at his disposal, yet to keep on churning out the results shows a special knack. To think Real Madrid punted him because the football wasn’t sexy enough. Yet, Cesare Prandelli gets the thumbs up from me. Let us not forget that when he took over from Marcello Lippi there were genuine concerns over whether Italy would get to EURO 2012 or not. From finishing bottom of a group containing Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand to getting to the final of the European Championship, the man deserves applause.
Game of the tournament – The Italian nullification of the Germans will take some beating, testament to their ability to dictate and boss the play. Dare I say it, despite sounding more Scottish than Alex Salmond’s wettest dream, England v Sweden was quite the exciting game. The News-International-induced hysteria after it reminded me why people go for the “Anyone But England” option though. However, I think we can all agree that the way in which the Spaniards suffocated the Italians with a slow death by passing will live long into the memory. A fitting finale for a fabulous tournament.
Bright Young Thing of the Tournament – Alan Dzagoev, despite taking part in the hastiest Red Army retreat since Tom Hanks and the Afghans started firing rocket launchers at them can emerge unblemished from Russia’s exit. He might even get a transfer from CSKA Moscow too.
Revelation – Where did Jordi Alba come from? (Valencia apparently…Ed.)
Goal of the Tournament – We’ve a fair few to pick from. If one were to go with technique, Ibragol’s angle slashing strike for the Swedes against France was supreme. Yet, something about Poland’s Blaszczykowski‘s equaliser against Russia makes the hairs stand up on my neck every time I see it.
Creaking Old Timer of the Tournament – Fair play to Andriy Shevchenko. With the hopes of a nation on his thirty something shoulders, his goals against Sweden will stand out as one of the most memorable moments of the championship, as Kiev’s Olympic Stadium convulsed in a rhapsody of yellow and blue.
Most Likeable Team – Both sets of hosts for being incredibly enthusiastic, not to mention the Greeks, whose conga into their hotel after getting out of the group was the funniest thing to be seen on ITV amid the poor patter of Adrian Chiles and the grimacing of Roy Keane.
Joke of the Tournament – Spain are boring. Rubbish. It shows how the Sky generation are spoiled. Frankly, I doubt we’ll ever see passing like that for a while. I stood up in the living room of my summer palace in Perth and applauded so loudly that the rabbits outside ran off into the distance. Viva Espana!
Greatest Moment of Formbook-shredding – Greece beating Russia. I suppose they needed to win something. Another busted coupon. Fernando Torres conspiring to get the Golden Boot was another pinching-yourself moment. (Did someone say Andy Carroll? Ed.)
Best Media Performance – Watching Oleg Blokhin challenge a journalist to “have a man conversation outside” was a reminder of the halcyon days of when casual violence was an accepted part of football management.
“Last Night of the Proms” Moment of Nationalistic Fervour – When Kuba Blaszczykowski’s shot blasted past the Russian keeper, there was probably an earthquake in Warsaw, such was the reaction of the Polish people.
Pundit of the Tournament – Given Lawrenson and Chiles still stalk our TV screens for some perverse reason, I’m going to give this to Clarence Seedorf for being one chill big fella. Roberto Martinez was good too. I’m sure Jamie Carragher was talking sense. If only I could understand him. (Andrew McQuillan might squeak in ahead of Lawro…Ed.)
Best Fans – Ireland are the new Scotland. A thoroughly underwhelming team followed by a bunch of deluded, alcohol fuelled crazies who are only there to live up to national stereotypes. They fulfilled their role brilliantly. A nod in the direction of the Swedes and Danes, who travelled in armadas of Vikingesque proportions.
Things We’ve Learned – You can win without a striker, the Italians need a good match fixing scandal to get them going, the Germans are maturing into bottle merchants, England are still rubbish at penalties, Eastern Europe isn’t run by the Ku Klux Klan whereas the Italian media is, France are still stuck in their post-2006 mire, the Dutch can still self-destruct, Mark Lawrenson and Adrian Chiles are more suited to shopping channels than football punditry, Roy Keane is still about as cuddly as a cactus, and deep deep down, we all want to be Andrea Pirlo. Or at least have Vicente Del Bosque as our favourite moustachioed uncle.