Having assessed the tournaments' leading attacking threats in yesterday's Sharp Shooters blog, today we are looking at the best centre-backs at Euro 2012, based on WhoScored ratings. Here we will analyse our top 7 across a variety of defensive categories to ascertain just why their ratings were so impressive.
7. Gerard Pique (Spain) - 7.25
One half of a centre-back pairing that helped Spain keep 5 clean sheets in 6 games at the tournament, only conceding in their opener with Italy, Barcelona's Gerard Pique ranks seventh of centre-backs in our ratings. The 25-year old's most impressive defensive statistic was his tackling, winning 3.2 per game and coming away with the ball at his feet on 74% of those occasions.
This average is extremely high given the amount of time Spain spent in possession and is more than double that of his average of 1.5 with Barcelona last season. Elsewhere, his clearances per game figure of 5 was also twice that of his league average last term (2.4), acting as the deeper-lying of the two Spain centre-backs to average just 0.8 interceptions per match.
6. John Terry (England) - 7.26
Former England captain John Terry's mere presence at Euro 2012 was of real debate prior to the tournament, but whether he should have been there or not, he impressed on the field. The Chelsea skipper got through a great deal of work in a defensive England side, averaging an exceptional 3.5 interceptions and 1.8 blocks per game.
He was one of just 5 players at the tournament to make a clearance 'off the line', with controversy consistently surrounding the 31-year old, coming against co-hosts Ukraine. Said incident added to an average of 5.3 total clearances per game, and though he only competed in 4 aerial duels, with Lescott the more towering of the England duo, Terry won every one of his contests in the air.
5. Olof Mellberg (Sweden) - 7.27
Veteran Swedish centre-back Olof Mellberg, along with Iker Casillas, joined a list of players to appear in a record of 4 European championships this summer, and despite failing to progress past the group stages, arguably had his best yet. His standout performance undoubtedly came against England, scoring one and seeing another shot eventually hit the net via a failed Glen Johnson clearance.
The former Aston Villa defender averaged an impressive 2.7 interceptions per game, though arguably his best statistic here is the rate at which he came away with the ball after a successful tackle. The 34-year old averaged 2 tackles per game and gained possession of the ball on 5 occasions (83%), as well as averaging 1.7 blocks per match to prove that there is life in the old dog yet.
4. Sergio Ramos (Spain) - 7.30
The second of only three centre-backs named in UEFA's Team of the Tournament here, Sergio Ramos joins teammate Pique after a near faultless defensive record for the reigning champions. Ramos' defensive averages are actually down on the majority of candidates here; given the role of ball-playing centre-half over Pique and excelling to average 65.7 passes per game with an outstanding 92.1% accuracy.
Defensively, an average of 2.8 tackles per game is still very respectable given his role in the side, while he beats partner Pique for interceptions per game, with 1.5. If there were an area for improvement at this summer's tournament for the Madrid man, his aerial success rate of 45% is weak in comparison to his counterparts here, winning 5 of 11 duels, but his work on the ground was superb.
3. Daniel Agger (Denmark) - 7.34
Despite a valiant effort from the Danes to escape what was heralded as the group of death, progression to the quarter-finals was just beyond their reach. It wasn't for lack of trying though, and Liverpool's Daniel Agger certainly led by example from the back. Only Daniele De Rossi, who played 3 more games in comparison, managed to beat the defender's total of 21 interceptions at the tournament, with 7 per game the highest average by a huge distance.
Agger also shone in the tackle; with 2 per game seemingly fairly modest, he came away in possession of the ball 100% of the time. Add to this an average of 5 clearances per game and it is clear that the Dane would have been in contention to make the team of the tournament had his nation progressed further.
2. Mats Hummels (Germany) - 7.35
Allowing Antonio Cassano to cross for Mario Balotelli's opener was really the only blemish to an excellent tournament for Dortmund's Mats Hummels. The German got the nod over Per Mertesacker and excelled, perhaps representing the harshest omission from UEFA's tournament elite, with only 6 defenders chosen in their 23-strong squad.
Hummels' averages when it came to tackles (3.6) and interceptions (3.8) per game were outstanding given the nature in which Germany controlled the majority of their matches. With a 71% aerial success rate and 78% tackle win ratio, impressive statistics all-round contributed to see him rank as the second best centre-back at the tournament according to WhoScored ratings.
1. Pepe (Portugal) - 7.44
Real Madrid's Pepe is our centre-back of the tournament, marshalling a Portugal defence that faced the likes of the Netherlands, Germany and Spain prior to their exit at the semi-finals. The 29-year old was key to keeping a clean sheet against the eventual champions, making Portugal the only side to do so, and over 120 minutes no less.
However, Pepe's consistency throughout the summer was the key to him winning our top gong, with an average of 3.2 interceptions per game a standout statistic, along with a crucial 5.4 clearances per match. A goal in the decisive victory over Denmark certainly did him no harm here, but three ratings above 7.7 in his 5 matches prove that he is a worthy winner.