Euro 2012 is finally here and that means weeks of the planet’s top footballing talent tackling each other in an attempt to win the continent’s biggest bauble. Sadly, Scotland won’t be there to join in the fun.
While this might seem like a proverbial boot to the balls, it also means that we can sit back and enjoy the tournament for what it is without having to constantly prepare ourselves for the inevitable disappointment.
In many ways the Euro’s are a stronger tournament than the World Cup. Sure Brazil and Argentina might be missing but so too are international also-rans such as New Zealand and North Korea. This is a tournament with few weak sides, lethal starting groups and a veritable smorgasbord of penalty box predators, toe punters and tough tacklers.
The smart money might be on Germany or Spain to win, but we’re not interested in backing up the bookies. We want to focus on a Frankenstein’s Monster, an International Mongrel, a Dream Team if you will.
This select eleven are drawn from the talent pool of Europe’s finest national squads, they’ll be playing a 4-4-2 formation and they’ll be walking away with the trophy – if they existed. Now we just need to pick a name for the made-up country our team will magically come from. Spaitugal anyone? Wonder if Ryanair fly there?
Keeper: Iker Casillas
Real Madrid and Spain
Realistically the number one role was only ever going to go to either the still brilliant Gianluigi Buffon or Iker Casillas. However when you weigh up their club seasons, it’s difficult to see beyond the Spaniard. With World Cup and European Championship winners medals sitting alongside his two Champions League and Four La Liga titles Casillas can easily lay claim to being the best there is.
Left Back: Ashley Cole
Chelsea and England
93 Caps, 0 Goals
At 31 he might not be as quick as he used to be and his swashbuckling nature has been curbed somewhat because of this, but he still possesses the ability to link defence to attack. Ashley Cole is still the best left-back in Europe right now.
Centre Back: Giorgio Chiellini
Juventus and Italy
50 Caps, 2 Goals
Chiellini is a rugged and aggressive defender with a strong will to win and enough ball skills to play his way out of trouble. Tall, strong and composed the 27 year-old has been at the heart of a tough Italian defence for the last three years or so.
Centre Back: Łukasz Piszczek
Borussia Dortmund and Poland
21 Caps, 0 Goals
There are few stars in the Polish or Ukrainian national sides, but in Piszczek is one of them. A tall, intelligent and cultured defender the Pole has been at the heart of Borussia Dortmund’s impressive league season. He leads from the back and would hopefully spur on the native fans who turn out to back our fictional side.
Right Back: Sergio Ramos
Real Madrid and Spain
83 Caps, 6 Goals
At just 26 years of age Ramos is already one of the most mature and experienced defenders of any top international side. Pacey, smart and able to switch from the flanks to the middle of the backline, there are few strikers on the planet that he’ll have trouble containing.
Left Winger: Franck Ribery
Bayern Munich and France
57 Caps, 7 Goals
Diminutive, skilful and tough, Ribery is an old-style British winger in the body of a Frenchman. More of a goal provider than scorer – and with an engine that’ll run for 90 minutes and more – he’ll be the workhorse of our flanks.
Centre Midfielder: Xavi
Barcelona and Spain
108 Caps, 10 Goals
Xavi will be our puppet-master. He’ll be required to slow down the opposition, retain possession and ping the perfect pass on to our wingers. He’ll act as the conduit between defense and attack and if he’s anywhere near as good for this dream team as he is for club and country he’ll be instrumental in how the side plays.
Centre Midfielder Thomas Muller
Bayern Munich and Germany
26 Caps, 10 Goals
While Xavi will control the flow of the team from the middle, making and breaking attacks, Müller will be charged with providing a box-to-box presence. Young and athletic the German has all the drive, tenacity, creativity and leadership of Steven Gerrard – but comes with the added bonus of having a striker’s eye for goal.
Right Winger Christiano Ronaldo
Real Madrid and Portugal
88 Caps, 32 Goals
When it comes to being unplayable few would argue Lionel Messi is the world’s danger man. That said Portugal winger Christiano Ronaldo would come a close second. The Real Madrid winger has a better than a goal-a-game ratio for the Spanish side and will provide this team with pace and trickery.
Striker: Zlatan Ibrahimovic
A.C. Milan and Sweden
75 Caps, 29 Goals
Workshy one day, lethal the next; this languid lamppost of a striker is one of European footballs great entertainers and enigmas. Despite his occasional off days he is a no-brainer for our starting eleven pipping both van Persie and Rooney to the position because of his ability to create as many as he scores.
Striker: Klaas-Jan Huntelaar
Schalke 04 and Netherlands
50 Caps, 31 Goals
Huntelaar scored a brutally impressive twelve goals during his nation’s qualification run for Euro 2012. Over the same spell he’s scored almost a goal a game for a relatively workmanlike Schalke 04 team. Right now he’s almost certainly the most dangerous penalty box striker on the planet and in this fantasy team he’ll feed off the space created by his Swedish side-kick.
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