Everyone's doing a 'best XI' of Euro 2012, so it's time for SB Nation to weigh in. I'll organise our all-stars in a rough 4-3-3, like Spain, although I'm actually going to use centre forwards in the team. Follow along as I come up with basically the same team everyone else did (i.e. Spain plus some extras).
This is much better than the MLB all-star game selection, incidentally, because nobody gets to vote. Except me. One man, one vote - the SB Nation way.
Coming into the final, this was neck and neck between Gianluigi Buffon and Iker Casillas. Both had excelled, conceding a combined total of three goals from open play over the course of the tournament, and each won a key penalty shootout in the knockout stages. After the final, there was no contest. Buffon's goals allowed tally more than doubled after an absolute hammering; Casillas' went unchanged.
Spain have now gone almost 1,000 minutes since conceding a knockout-round goal. They've won the last three major tournaments they've participated in. Iker Casillas generally doesn't have much to do, but when he's called into action he's been able to stop everything that gets thrown his way. Only Antonio di Natale managed to get anything past him this tournament, and Casillas stopped him when it mattered.
Manuel Neuer was also in consideration for the backup after Buffon shipped four in the final, but ultimately it's impossible to give any sort of honour to a goalkeeper who contrived to concede against Georgios Samaras.
Starter: Iker Casillas (Spain).
Backup: Gianluigi Buffon (Italy).
Consider Euro 2012 Jordi Alba's coming out party. Although the ex-Valencia left back (he was sold after the semifinals to FC Barcelona) was well known to anyone with even a token interest in La Liga, he was still a relative unknown compared to the rest of the stars on the Spain team. He was like a breath of fresh air, the one player on his side who consistently excelled at rapid vertical penetration. His goal in the final was icing on the cake, but he contributed heavily to Spain's attack in the rest of their matches as well.
There were some other decent options here, and the best of the rest is probably Portugal's Fabio Coentrao. He suffered an up and down season with Madrid after a brilliant 2010/11 with Benfica, but he was back to something like his best here, defending competently and providing killer runs down the left flank. Philipp Lahm was also in consideration, but a poor performance against Italy in the semifinals drops him out of contention.
Starter: Jordi Alba (Spain).
Backup: Fabio Coentrao (Portugal).
It wasn't a standout performance for centre backs. Mats Hummels and Giorgio Chiellini were tossed around as names to watch pre-tournament, but both ultimately made the errors that knocked their teams out of the tournament. So we have to look elsewhere. Spain shipped one goal in their six matches, and while much of that is to do with the midfield screen of Xabi Alonso and Sergio Busquets, Sergio Ramos did very well indeed. He might be slightly lucky in that his various mistakes weren't noticed by the referees, but it'd be harsh to penalise him for that when they didn't.
Although many have suggested fellow Real Madrid man Pepe as Ramos' partner, I'm not entirely sure that's wise - he was responsible for both Germany's winner in the first match and Niklas Bendtner's equaliser in the second, putting Portugal in a very difficult position. He did well afterwards (and scored a goal), but it's very difficult to give much credit to a defender who makes so many key errors. So, we'll default to Gerard Pique despite him being caught out by di Natale in the first game. It all worked out pretty well.
Pepe can drop to the bench, where he's joined by... er. Let me come back to you later on this one.
I think I'm going to have to do it: Joleon Lescott. Part of the England defence that successfully held off Italy, which took a pretty phenomenal effort from the centre backs. Scored against France. Wasn't responsible for any of the goals England conceded. But seriously? Lescott. Yeesh, Euro 2012. You disappoint me. Other names on the potentials list include Bruno Alves and Daniel Agger.
Starters: Sergio Ramos (Spain), Gerard Pique (Spain).
Backups: Pepe (Portugal), Joleon Lescott (England).
Welcome to the world's weakest position. When the winners are starting the likes of Alvaro Arbeloa, you can tell there's not going to be much here. On paper, the best right backs in the tournament were Darijo Srna and Christian Maggio, but thanks to Croatia's early exit the former failed to shine, while the latter still looked exhausted from a long and injury-hit season with Napoli.
So instead, we get names like Valencia's Joao Pereira popping up. Pereira caught the eye with some very good two way-displays, and in absence of better competition take this contest, beating out France's Mathieu Debuchy (one of the few bright spots of that particular campaign) to start. Also on the list were the aforementioned Arbeloa for not screwing anything up as well as the Czech Republic's Theodor Gebre Selassie, who opened some eyes with his raw tools during his team's drive to the top of Group A before running into the Cristiano Ronaldo meatsaw in the quarterfinals.
Starter: Joao Pereira (Portugal)
Backup: Mathieu Debuchy (France)
Prior to the final, Andrea Pirlo would have been top of the list for 'Player of Euro 2012'. After Italy's demolition, it's less clear whether he even deserves to be part of the midfield trio. He was, of course, excellent against England, got two assists and a goal and was generally considered the heartbeat of the team, but a collapse on the biggest stage means that it's difficult to paint him as the tournament's top man. Nevertheless, he makes it in here, barely edging out teammate Daniele de Rossi (who was superb), Spain's Sergio Busquets and Croatia's Luka Modric.
The other two spots in the midfield three are easier. Xavi Hernandez is a lock - he put on a show in the final and was quietly excellent throughout Spain's six games. Scott Parker is the final name we'll use here. That was a joke - it's actually Sami Khedira. With Bastian Schweinsteiger essentially useless for much of Germany's campaign, almost the entirety of the midfield gruntwork fell on Khedira's shoulders, and he still managed to charge Germany into the semifinals, making some key attacking contributions on the way. If you didn't think particularly highly of him before the tournament, those displays should probably have changed your mind.
Honourable mentions go to Holland's Wesley Sniejder (the only player on that team whose average match rating was above 'LOL'), Riccardo Montolivo, Xabi Alonso and Joao Moutinho.
Starters: Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Sami Khedira (Germany), Xavi (Spain).
Backups: Sergio Busquets (Spain), Daniele de Rossi (Italy), Luka Modric (Croatia).
I'm being somewhat broad with my formation at this point, and that's because there's no way I'm going to leave both Cristiano Ronaldo and Andres Iniesta off this team, despite them both starting at some variant of left wing. Iniesta was named player of the tournament, and there's certainly plenty of merit in that suggestion, and Ronaldo was also excellent until he ran into Spain. But nobody looks excellent against Spain, except perhaps Modric, so he's forgiven.
Those two are obvious choices, as is Mesut Ozil for the first backup spot. But with David Silva not quite at his best (which is scary considering he grabbed two goals, including the winner in the final), there's space for a less orthodox selection: Alan Dzagoev, who was absolute superb for Russia in the group stages, despite their surprising exit against Greece.
Starters: Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal), Andres Iniesta (Spain)
Backups: Mesut Ozil (Germany), Alan Dzagoev (Russia).
Fernando Torres may have won the Golden Boot at Euro 2012, but it's clear that he wasn't the best striker at the tournament. It's not entirely clear who was, however. Marios Gomez, Mandzukic and Balotelli each got three goals as well, and it's the latter who was most impressive in does so, showing versatility, intelligence and incredible athleticism - as well as a great sense of timing with each finish.
Balotelli, then reigns supreme(ish) as the top centre forward of Euro 2012, but it was, in general, a disappointing showing from the big men. He'll be backed up by Swedish demi-god Zlatan Ibrahimovic, who was, alas, not quite able to get Sweden out of Group D by himself. The other Marios, meanwhile, are on the outside looking in, as is Andriy Shevchenko despite making that one cute kid really really happy in Ukraine's opening match.
Starter: Mario Balotelli (Italy).
Backup: Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden).