The eight best teams in Europe have been chosen. The league stage of Euro 2012 is over. The hosts are out and one pre-tournament favourite has been sent packing. The tournament has been a goal-scoring fiesta and been a blast for the fans.
And while off-the-field events have been making news, it’s the brilliance on the turf that’s captivated audiences world over. Here are some of the memorable moments from the tournament so far:
Przemyslaw Tyto deserves the title of Super-sub of Euro 2012. Titan Tyto was cooling his heels on the Polish bench, but had to replace regular goalie Wojciech Szczesny against Greece. Tyto, who plies his trade at PSV Eindhoven, was the unlikely the hero after saving a penalty and holding ten-man Greece to a 1-1 draw. Greece captain Giorgos Karagounis took the spot-kick, but failed to convert it.
From being a name unknown to most football fanatics outside Poland and the Netherlands, he became an overnight celebrity.
Andrei Shevchenko, a demi-god in Ukraine, came to the Euro 2012 hoping the event would be his swan song. And though Ukraine failed to qualify to the quarter-finals, it was not because of a lack of effort from this 35-year-old. Shevchenko’s brace against Sweden was a glorious moment in Euro history. Two headers made sure Ukraine started the tournament on the right note. But a dubious decision against England meant the fairytale ended prematurely.
England started off slowly against France in Euro 2012, but their match against Sweden woke everyone up. Three goals against Sweden helped kick-start their campaign in earnest. While all three were superb efforts, the winner by Danny Welbeck was a showman’s goal. While epics are written every time a footballer finds the net through a bicycle kick, Welbeck’s back-heel should be added to the list.
The England vs Ukraine match was a crucial juncture. England were leading through a Wayne Rooney header, when in the 62nd minute Marko Devic looping shot flew over goalkeeper Joe Hart towards the goal line. John Terry launched himself into an acrobatic clearance to hook the ball away but despite furious Ukrainian appeals no goal was given.
Television replays showed the ball had crossed the line by several inches. Incredibly, the five-official rule was of no use as the additional assistant referee stationed behind the goal couldn’t spot the goal.
Striker Zlatan Ibrahimovic was the one star burning bright for Sweden in the Euros. Zlatan scored against Ukraine, but it was his show-stopping scissor kick against France that will be replayed on channels for umpteenth times. The forward’s volley magnificent volley in the last group game gave the Swedes the lead in the 54th-minute.
Mario Balotelli, the maverick, has not been at his best during this Euro. But he did show what he’s capable of against Ireland. The striker’s skillful volley showed off his footballing prowess and physical strength. The method in which Balotelli held off Irish defender John O’Shea while getting in position to strike the ball into the net had the fans delirious with joy.
But Balotelli wasn’t done. The devil in him was about to take over. His celebration for the goal seemed to include some choice words directed at the Irish fans. But thankfully for him, Leonardo Bonucci was at hand to censure him. Bonucci clamped his hand on Super Mario’s mouth to prevent the striker from getting his feet in his mouth.
Saint Iker. If China has the Great Wall of China, then Spain has Casillas. It was goalkeeper Iker Casillas who stood between defeat and a below-par Spain against Croatia.
Casillas came to the rescue of his team time and time again in the second half as the defending champions managed to safeguard the 1-0 lead. Casillas quick reflexes helped him stop Ivan Rakitic's point-blank header in the 59th minute and again deflect Ivan Perisic's volley in the 79th.