So, the first round of Euro 2012 group fixtures have come and gone in a flash, with a number of sides and individuals in decidedly higher spirits than others. Three players have already put their names in the running for the Golden Boot with opening game braces and the likes of Denmark and Russia impressed at opposing ends to ensure fantastic victories.
It is no surprise, then, to see the aforementioned pair influence our WhoScored team of the first round based on player ratings, so here's a run down from back to front.
Team of the Opening Round
Denmark keeper Stephan Andersen was somewhat of a surprise starter against the Netherlands, keeping United's Anders Lindegaard on the sidelines, but his heroics in goal helped earn a memorable win over van Marwijk's troops. The Evian stopper made 5 saves as the Danes faced an orange onslaught for much of the game and earned a WhoScored rating of 7.5, assisted by a further 3 high claims from crosses.
Lining up in front of Andersen in a 4-man defence are 3 familiar faces to the Denmark stopper, with left-back Poulsen, right-back Jacobsen and Liverpool centre-back Agger also making their way into our XI. The latter was particularly impressive in helping his side keep a clean sheet against the odds, producing 3 tackles and a superb 7 interceptions. Poulsen also made a trio of successful challenges as well as setting up 2 chances for teammates, while Jacobsen's 4 blocks from crosses is a tournament high.
Completing the defence, and in fact picking up the best rating of our back line, Germany's Mats Hummels was also key to a decisive clean sheet for Low's side. Most predicted that the Dortmund man would have to make do with a place on the bench, but Mertesacker will do well to break into the side after his supreme display against Portugal. The centre-back had 94 touches of the ball, which was 26 more than any other player on the pitch, and ended with an 89% pass accuracy. As well as being extremely assured in possession he won 2 out of 2 aerial duels and made 2 tackles, 6 interceptions and 7 successful clearances in a near exemplary all round performance.
Our midfield is flanked by Russia's creative hub of Dzagoev and Arshavin, who played either side of striker Kerzhakov in Russia's comprehensive 4-1 win over the Czezh Republic. While the former netted twice, Arsenal's Arshavin looked back to his best after a spell back in Russia with Zenit and was the key creator in the match, picking up 2 assists from an outstanding 7 key passes. Dzagoev also provided 3 key passes but none were converted, however, having scored with both of his shots on target; completing 2 dribbles alongside an excellent 4 tackles and 3 interceptions earned the CSKA Moscow youngster a tournament leading rating of 9.25.
The heart of our midfield is occupied by England's Steven Gerrard, whose captain's performance helped Roy Hodgson's side pick up a decent point against group favourites France. The Liverpool talisman made a superb 7 tackles in a combative display, which also included two successful clearances. However, it was his precise delivery to set-up Lescott's opener, allied with a further 2 key passes, which contributed to a rating of 8.2.
His partner in our midfield, Wesley Sneijder, had quite remarkable figures in a creative sense, with an amazing 10 key passes going unconverted. His 71 passes against Denmark was by far the most in the game and an 87% accuracy indicates just how effective his distirubtion was. If the same could be said for his teammates finishing, the Netherlands may have won comfortably.
Up front we line-up with Dzagoev's joint-top scorers at the tournament, with Mario Mandzukic's physical threat proving too much for Ireland and Andrey Shevchenko rolling back the years with a double over Sweden for co-hosts Ukraine. The Croatian's aerial prowess was clear to see, winning 3 aerial duels and netting both of is headed efforts, while Sheva proved that he still has the capability to make the dangerous runs he became renowned for, netting a couple of headers of his own to ensure a comeback win and the fact that he will always be the hero of a nation.
Stats Leaders – Round One of Fixtures
Robin van Persie’s 8 shots is a tournament high so far, with his failings in front of goal against Denmark well out of character. Perhaps the player who had the worst day in front of goal, however, was Russia’s Alexander Kerzhakov whose 7 efforts saw him rank joint second with Ireland’s Keith Andrews here. With all of his strikes missing the target, Kerzhakov skewed as many as 6 attempts from inside the box and missed 3 clear-cut chances. Luckily for a far from shot-shy Russia, Dzagoev and co. bailed him out.
As mentioned, Sneijder’s unbelievable 10 key passes rank him first for creativity in a record for a game at the Euros, with France’s Samir Nasri close behind on 8 and Arshavin, Plasil and Xavi all on 7 apiece. Portugal’s flying full-back Fabio Coentrao completed the most dribbles in the opening matches (6), with the ever impressive Iniesta and Ribery both beating a man on 5 separate occasions.
In terms of pass accuracy, France’s Alou Diarra picked up the perfect 100% score having completed all 37 of his passes against England. His safety first approach was all but matched by Poland’s Damien Perquis (55/56) and Nigel de Jong (47/48), while pass master Xavi unsurprisingly leads the way in the totals category, with 107 passes against Italy. The fact that he is joined in the top 3 by Busquets (101) and Alonso (98) is as clear an indication as you’ll need that Spain’s tiki-taka football will dominate every game, but their chance creation will need to improve.
In terms of tackles, Gerrard’s 7 is a joint-high with Eugen Polanski of Poland, with as many as five players tied with 5 each, including a further two Englishmen (Milner & Parker). Italy’s Giorgio Chiellini made an exceptional 8 interceptions to break up Spain’s play, with teammate and debutant Giaccherini level with Agger and Zhirkov on 7, while Granqvist (Sweden), Schildenfeld and Corluka (both Croatia) lead the way for aerial duels won, with 4.