The two Euro 2012 semi-finals produced plenty of drama and many a talking point; with Spain edging past Portugal on penalties and Italy upsetting the odds with a deserved win over Germany. Spain and Germany were largely expected to control their respective matches, but WhoScored.com’s team of the semi-finals shows that things did not follow the script, with the Italians leading the ratings in midfield and attack. Here we look at the best players from the latest round at the Euros.
Between the posts, Gigi Buffon leads the way, only conceding by way of a late penalty, making 6 saves en route to picking up a rating of 7.3. There have undoubtedly been better goalkeeping performances at the Euros, but the importance of this match means Buffon’s work should not go unnoticed. As Germany pushed to try and get back into the game, the Juventus stopper stood strong and certainly played a big part in maintaining Italy’s lead.
Both Spanish full-backs make it into the semi-final XI, with Alvaro Arbeloa having a decent game up against Cristiano Ronaldo, and Jordi Alba impressing on the other flank. Arbeloa made 6 tackles and was not dribbled past once despite coming up against one of the world’s best players, though he did commit an outrageous 8 fouls, which was 6 more than any other Spain player. Alba, at left-back, made 3 tackles and 2 interceptions, whilst also contributing in an attacking sense, making a key pass and completing 3 successful dribbles, as he picked up a WhoScored rating of 7.2.
The fact that the final Spanish inclusion is centre-back Sergio Ramos says a great deal about the semis. Ramos made an impressive 7 clearances, as well as 3 tackles and 2 interceptions, while his late free-kick that flew narrowly over the crossbar nearly won the game. He also capped a fine performance with a nonchalant ‘panenka’ dink in the penalty shootout. Alongside him is Portugal defender and Real Madrid teammate Pepe who put in a committed performance, making 10 clearances and 7 interceptions, as his side shut Spain out for a full 120 minutes. His display won him a 7.7 match rating and the Man of the Match award.
Pass-master Andrea Pirlo again defied the years with a complete display from his position in front of the back four against Germany. He completed 92.3% of his passes, which is his best rate in a single game at Euro 2012 so far. 9 of his 65 overall passes were played long, and all 9 of those reached their target, while his rating was also boosted by a vital clearance off the line from an early Hummels shot.
Joao Moutinho put in an accomplished display against Spain, playing some extremely tidy football under the pressure of Spain’s intense pressing game. He played 2 key passes, though much of his work came when his side were chasing the play, breaking up Spain’s attacking with a vastly impressive 9 interceptions and 3 tackles. Alongside him in central midfield is Riccardo Montolivo, who played in an advanced midfield role for Italy, providing the assist for Mario Balotelli’s second goal with his only key pass of the game. After his side went 2 up, much of his work came defensively, as he made the joint most interceptions of any Italy player (5) and the second most tackles (3), despite only playing 64 minutes of the game.
Mesut Ozil was once again a constant threat for the Germans, and he lines up in behind the front two, as he did in WhoScored.com’s team of the quarter-final. This time around, Ozil had 91 touches and made 4 key passes, which were both more than any other player on the pitch. He also scored from the spot, giving Germany a late glimmer of hope that ultimately proved to be nothing more than that, though he held his nerve well at an important time in the game.
Up top, there can be little debate about ‘super’ Mario Balotelli’s inclusion, with the Manchester City frontman scoring 2 well-taken goals from just 3 attempts. Before this game, the controversial striker had scored just 1 goal from 20 shots at the Euros, and his conversion rate of 5% was the lowest of all goalscorers at the tournament. However, with his 2 strikes here, he upped his rate to over 13% and is now bookies’ favourite to win the golden boot, a remarkable turnaround, and his performance won him the best WhoScored rating of the semi-finals, with 7.8.
Joining him up front is his strike partner Antonio Cassano, who set up Balotelli’s first goal after a great bit of skill and a cross into the six-yard box that gave the striker little chance of missing. That was one of 2 key passes he made in his 58 minutes on the pitch, whilst he also competed 1 successful dribble and forced a save from Manuel Neuer with his only attempt at goal.