Euro 2008 finished last night with a final fitting of the entire excellent tournament. Spain beat Germany 1-0 in a thoroughly deserved victory and the best team in the competition, who scored more and conceded less than anyone else, won the whole thing. Germany were good, but just not good enough.
For this sixth and final article in the Euro 2008 whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s HOT and whoÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s NOT series I am going to look back at the whole tournament and hand out the overall awards.
It is obviously not possible to award this title to anyone other than Spain. They scored the most goals, conceded the fewest and played with a breathtaking brilliance at times. Their midfield play was as good as anything I have ever seen and they weren’t bad at the back or up front either!
Their victory was a victory for football because it showed that skillful, adventurous, attacking teams can still win major tournaments.
Not hot team
A few countries staked a claim for this award with Poland, Greece and Austria, amongst others, all making a good case. However, the tawdry performances of Italy, particularly the truly dreadful quarter-final display against Spain give them a well deserved second place.
The winners of this award, however, by some distance, have to be France. They performed poorly in each of their three games and could not have been more disappointing. In Abidal and Thuram, Makelele and Malouda and Henry and Anelka, they had some of the worst performers in the whole tournament. In Benzema and Ribery they had two of the biggest let downs.
All in all they were dreadful and are worthy winners of this title. (Yes, I know they beat England a few weeks ago!!)
Iker Casillas didn’t put a foot wrong in the whole tournament. At twenty-seven with possibly another ten years in the Spanish goal, he is already one of the world’s most experienced keepers. The sense of reassurance he gave to the players in front of him was worth an awful lot to the team.
Not hot keeper
Petr Cech has to win the award although I would love to give it to Jens Lehmann! The absolutely calamitous mistake made by Cech in the game against Turkey will live long in the memory and no other keeper can stake a justifiable claim to this title.
Italy were very poor in this tournament and their defence came under more pressure than they would have liked. There was a major blow for them prior to the start of the tournament when inspirational skipper Fabio Cannavaro was ruled out through injury.
There was a great deal of pressure on the young centre half Giorgio Chiellini. After a nervy start, he went on to perform admirably. In his final appearance against Spain he totally nullified the threat of the dual strikeforce of David Villa and Fernando Torres.
Not hot defender
Eric Abidal was very poor at left back in France’s first game. He was rightly dropped, but in their make or break match against Italy he was brought back into the starting line-up. He lined up at centre-half and looked like a fish out of water.
He failed to do anything well and then with Toni getting the wrong side of him after just twenty minutes or so, he made the decision to bring him down, give away a penalty and get sent off. Obviously, the whole incident led to France being eliminated.
He should have let Toni shoot. He wouldn’t have scored! (see not-hot striker)
How do you choose between Xavi, Fabregas, Iniesta, Senna and Silva? All five of the Spanish midfielders were superb.
I am going to select the least hyped of them all. Senna was was a constant, consistent and excellent presence in the side, allowing many of the other players to express themselves. Without Senna, many of the others wouldn’t have looked so good.
Not hot midfielder
Two French players are vying for this award. Claude Makelele and Florent Malouda were both so poor in this tournament it is difficult to know how to put it into words. Makelele looked off the pace and devoid of ideas. He argued every decision and committed two or three deliberate fouls that would have seen red cards in other competitions.
Malouda played the first two games and produced absolutely nothing. He didn’t even flatter to deceive. He looked as though he would be unable to do anything worthwhile and he didn’t.
Makelele has been a great player so it would be unfair to hand him this title. Malouda has performed abysmally all season at Chelsea and is definitely a worthy winner.
There were many great forward performances but probably the most stunning was that of twenty-seven year old Russian Andrei Arshavin. Although he didn’t turn up for the semi-final, his earlier performances were of such quality that he justifies taking this award.
Not hot striker
There are two major contenders for this title, both of whom were expected to be stars of the tournament. Luca Toni didn’t play too badly for Italy in terms of build up play and his general contribution, but in front of goal he was woeful. The number of chances he missed in this tournament was beyond belief. If Italy had played non-stop since they lost to Spain, Toni would still not have found the net.
For Germany, Mario Gomez arrived with a quickly growing reputation. I was expecting great things from him having never really seen him play. In the two games he played Gomez produced absolutely abject performances. He had no touch, no movement and no goal threat. In the game against Austria he missed the simplest chance you could imagine.
Gomez is a clear winner which when you look at how poor Toni was, shows you just how bad Gomez actually was.
Best of the tournament
There were two individual performances of such exceptional quality that it is almost impossible to choose between them. Andrei Arshavin against Holland and Ruud Van Nistelrooy against Italy, gave virtuoso performances in their particular roles that it would be difficult to better.
As I’ve already given Arshavin an award, I’m going to give this one to the phenomenal Dutch striker.
Stinker of the tournament
For reasons I have hopefully clearly outlined above, I can look no further than France when handing out this award. So many individual players from the side deserve special recognition. It is impossible to choose and I therefore declare that France win the stinker award. (How many times do I have to tell you, yes, I know they beat England!!!)
Do you agree with my nominations or do you think there are more deserving recipients for the HOT and NOT awards?