The best and the worst of the Euro 2012 football tournament
Who gets the brickbats, who gets the plaudits among players, managers, commentators and fans?
THE LATE Jimmy Sirrel famously said that in football the best team always wins - the rest is only gossip. Few could disagree that the best team- Spain - won the tournament. But what about some other categories as we look back at a vintage three weeks of football?
Most improved team: Italy. The Azzurri were dreadful in the 2010 World Cup, but Cesare Prandelli's team were like a breath of fresh air this summer, jettiisoning traditional defensive tactics and playing open, attacking football. Had the final against Spain taken place a couple of days later - giving the Italians more time to recover from their exertions against England and Germany - we might have had a very different match.
Best Goal: Zlatan Ibrahimovic's acrobatic volley for Sweden against France was sensational, but the prize goes to Italy's Mario Balotelli for his top corner blaster against Germany. A great moment of sporting theatre.
Worst Miss: Cristiano Ronaldo could - and should - have knocked out Spain in the 90th minute of the semi-final, but the self-adoring Portuguese striker blazed his shot high over the bar.
Most over-hyped player: Wayne Rooney flopped in the 2006 World Cup, flopped in South Africa in 2010 and flopped again this summer. When will we ever learn that 'Wazza' just isn't up to this level?
Most baffling managerial decision: Germany's Jogi Low playing influential midfielder Bastian Schweinsteiger at right-back in the semi-final v Italy. Followed by Low's decision to give Thomas Muller, Germany's most effective player in the 2010 World Cup, just 19 minutes of action in the same match.
Worst decision by a match official: Ivan Vad, the assistant referee behind the goal, incorrectly ruling that Marko Devic's shot for Ukraine against England had not crossed the line. But let's not make too much of a song and dance about it, shall we?
Unluckiest Team: Croatia. The Croats were in the real 'Group of Death', Group C. Having dispatched Ireland 3-1 and played a great game to draw 1-1 with Italy, they went out to a late goal scored by Spain, which looked offside. If they'd have been in any other group, Slaven Bilic's technically gifted side would surely have reached the quarter-finals at the very least. Mention, too, for Sweden and Denmark who also were unlucky to exit at the group stage.
Biggest flops: The Netherlands. In 2010 they were the World Cup runners-up, in 2012 the Oranje were awful. Was the Robin van Persie who plays for Arsenal kidnapped by the Danish secret service and replaced by a useless double?
Best football row: Arsene Wenger vs Cesc Fabregas on whether Spain are boring. Wenger said of La Roja before last night's final: "Originally they wanted possession in order to attack and win the game; now it seems to be first and foremost a way not to lose... They have betrayed their philosophy and turned it into something more negative." Former Gunner Fabregas's response: "Those people who think we are playing boring, in my opinion they don't understand the game." Ouch!
Most exciting game: England 3 Sweden 2. A real roller-coaster of a ride as the lead changed hands three times and, to top it all, the match was decided by a sublime England goal (by Danny Welbeck) which, for once, did not come from a free kick or a cross into the box.
Most tedious game: Spain 0 Portugal 0. Still, at least La Roja made up for it in the final.
Worst penalty shootout tactic: England goal-keeper Joe Hart's decision to roar like a lion during the penalty shootout with Italy: what a pity that he failed to get a paw on any of the Italians' shots.
Best TV punditry: The permanently irascible Roy Keane refusing to court popularity and tipping Italy to beat England.
Worst TV punditry: Alan Hansen slagging off Andriy Shevchenko as too old at half-time in the Ukraine v Sweden match - before the veteran striker scored two great second half goals.
Most over-confident supporter: Oranje fan 'renatonewmedia' who posted a video on You Tube entitled : Five reasons why the Netherlands will the European Football Cup 2012: We have the best players, the best team, the best coach, the best supporters and the other teams are weak compared to our orange lions! Bow to the masters!!! Result: The Netherlands lost all three of their games and finished bottom of their group.
Best-dressed manager: Sweden's Erik Hamren looked immaculate in his double-breasted suits.
Most photogenic supporters: Hard to concentrate on the football with such beautiful people on view in the Ukraine v Sweden match. ·