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Which European Championships Had The Best Team Of The Tournament?

Which European Championships Had The Best Team Of The Tournament?
By Gavin Cooney Updated

The fundamentally stupid concept of a major tournament coming to an end is dawning upon us, with Euro 2016 coming to a crescendo in Paris tomorrow night. Before the competition ends and we can finally revel in Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick being named in the team of the tournament, we decided to look back at the best teams of European Championships past and ask: which European Championships had the best team of the tournament?

The teams

First of all, we have to establish the teams. We've decided to restrict ourselves to the European Championships of the twenty-first century.

Euro 2000 

Euro 2004

Euro 2008

Euro 2012

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Goalkeeper

As his form has fallen off a cliff in the last few years, it is easy to forget how good Iker Casillas once was. A superb goalkeeper, who was also of great importance to uniting the Barcelona and Real Madrid divisions in the Spanish squad in the glory days under Luis Aragones and Vincente Del Bosque. Petr Cech signed for Chelsea prior to Euro 2004, and immediately proved Jose Mourinho right to sign him. Francesco Toldo was an outstanding goalkeeper also, and a reminder that Italy's nets were once minded by someone other than Gigi Buffon. The 2008 version of Saint Iker shades it, however.

Winner: Euro 2008

Full-backs

The weakest team in this department is Euro 2004. Traianos Dellas undoubtedly had a great tournament in Euro 2004 - and holds the record as being the only player to score a silver goal in an international match - but he doesn't match up with any of the other left-backs who have graced the tournament. Zambrotta, meanwhile, was a brilliant player, but Italy were knocked out at the group stage, so his inclusion is rather strange/indicative of the lack of quality elsewhere. The winner here is Euro 2000: Maldini and Thuram faced each other in the final, with Phillip Lahm the only player who has ever approached their quality.

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Winner: Euro 2000

Centre-backs

Spain did not concede a goal in the knockout stages of Euro 2008, partly a testament to the fact they didn't allow the opposition have the ball. This is not to dismiss the contribution of Carles Puyol and particularly Carlos Marchena whose influence has been largely forgotten since the emergence of Gerard Pique. Pepe, for all his shite, is a very fine defender, as is Sergio RamosRicardo Carvalho is still playing with Portugal at this tournament, while Seitaridis helped form the adamantine backbone of Greece's improbable triumph. As talented as these are, the Euro 2000 pairing of Cannavaro and Blanc trumps them all.

Winner: Euro 2000

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Midfield

These teams have shown an odd suspicion of wingers that is usually the preserve of Garth Crooks and defenders: only Luis Figo can be considered an out-and-out winger, so we've decided to put all the midfielders in together, in what may be the most difficult footballing decision of all time. Euro 2004 can be disregarded early: Pavel Nedved was frequently bewitching, but Maniche and Zagorakis offered more function than flair.

Like Carlos Marchena, the contribution of Marcos Senna to Spain in 2008 has been obscured by the rise of Sergi Busquets, while the 2008 version of Xavi was probably the best there has ever been. The greatest trick Messi, Suarez and Neymar ever pulled was convincing the world Andres Iniesta didn't exist, but before that the little genius was rightfully recognised at Euro 2012, alongside Andrea Pirlo, who was fighting the dying of the light with grace.

Euro 2000 was beguiled by the greatness of Zizou, but the Xavi/Iniesta axis dominated European football for eight years, so Euro 2012 takes it.

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Winner: Euro 2012

Forwards 

Retrospectively, the Euro 2008 line of forwards is extremely underwhelming, partly due to the fact Andrey Arshavin has not tried a leg since scoring four times at Anfield, and Hamit Altintop is a rather incongruous name among the rest. David Villa made the team despite his having missed the final. Cristiano Ronaldo was a better player in 2012 than he was in 2004, but the line-up of Euro 2004 forwards is much better than, er, Mario Balotelli.

Kluivert and Totti were undeniably great, but the form of Wayne Rooney in 2004 shades it for Euro '04. Despite the presence of Milan Baros.

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Winner: Euro 2004

 

Overall Winner Euro 2000

See Also: Marco Materazzi Opens Up About What He Said To Zidane Ten Years Ago

See Also: Yakubu Is Back In English Football, And Linking Up With A Long-Forgotten Irish Midfielder


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