Xavi is not merely a great player, he appears to be a clairvoyant as well. "We’ll rise above ourselves," Spain’s diminutive midfield pivot exclusively told FIFA.com ahead of the quarter-finals at UEFA EURO 2008, which came to its glorious conclusion just over a week ago.
Spain’s richly-deserved 1-0 triumph over Germany in the final sparked frenetic celebrations and also provided yet another highlight for Alonso himself, as he was later named official Player of the Tournament. Luis Aragones’ free-scoring side clearly made a big impression on users of FIFA.com, who picked no fewer than six Spaniards in the all-star team compiled from responses to our latest Have Your Say forum discussion. And admiration was not confined to our Spanish-language edition either, as the results were replicated by English-, German- and French-speaking users too.
The definitive all-star team features no fewer than six players who starred for the new continental champions, namely: Barcelona duo Xavi and Carles Puyol, Real Madrid pair Iker Casillas and Sergio Ramos, Marcos Senna of Villarreal and Valencia hitman David Villa. The Spanish six all turned in magnificent displays at the continental showdown in Switzerland and Austria, underscored by the fact that each player received the most nominations in his position in all four FIFA.com language editions.
Only one other national team supplied more than a single player to our users’ all-star team, and that was beaten finalists Germany, praised for carrying the fight to the technically superior Spanish right to the end. Midfield general Michael Ballack of Chelsea and Bayern Munich left-back Philipp Lahm both attracted enough mentions to make the team.
Recognition for Sneijder and Arshavin
Bastian Schweinsteiger, Lahm’s team-mate at national and club level, finished just behind another skilled and inventive roving midfielder, Wesley Sneijder. The Real Madrid man initially appeared set to spearhead a glorious and memorable charge to the European summit, only for a dream to die in spectacular fashion in the quarter-finals. Yet despite his EURO ending in deep disappointment, Sneijder netted one of the best goals of the tournament and was duly elevated to our users’ all-star team.
The man largely responsible for the Netherlands’ sudden and surprising exit was Andrei Arshavin. Fresh from collecting UEFA Cup honours with Zenit St. Petersburg, Arshavin led Russia to the last four in a convincing show of evidence that one of world football’s sleeping giants is in the process of awakening. The Zenit goal-getter thus earned a place alongside Villa in our users’ all-star team. The line-up is completed by Portugal centre-half Pepe, who finished just ahead of Turkey and Galatasaray stopper Servet Cetin to hand Real Madrid the largest single-club contingent with four nominations.
Imagination running wild
Curiously, the nominations featured a sprinkling of big-name footballers who may not have counted on being among the suggestions for any line-up based on the recently-concluded tournament. Alessandro Nesta, Rio Ferdinand, Ashley Cole and Mahamadou Diarra all received glowing tributes from Morocco-based m3aizow, although the four men in question will at best have observed the goings-on in Austria and Switzerland on TV. A number of users named the entire Turkey or Russia teams, while Algerian contributor Abdou10 came up with the most original suggestion for a EURO 2008 all-star line-up: "Casillas and me, Abdou!"
The FIFA.com users’ all-star team:
Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas
Defenders: Sergio Ramos, Carles Puyol, Pepe, Philipp Lahm
Midfielders: Marcos Senna, Michael Ballack, Xavi Hernandez, Wesley Sneijder
Forwards: David Villa, Andrei Arshavin