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This was the tournament of 4-2-3-1, although ironically neither finalist used that formation. Spain's innovative play was characterised by some as 4-6-0 and by others as 2-8-0 (both of which sound like steam locomotives to me), although their manager, The Most Illustrious Marquis of Del Bosque (yes, that's his real title), claimed it was a 4-3-3. Italy meanwhile, who started the tournament with Daniele de Rossi playing something similar to good old-fashioned libero, finished with a 4-4-2 diamond, and had some success with it - notably against Germany in the semi-final.

Traditional 4-4-2 is an increasingly unusual formation at international level. Of the teams in this tournament, only England and the Republic of Ireland (with a team made up of mostly England-based players) played anything like Alf Ramsey's favourite formation, and in truth, England's was more 4-4-1-1, except for the game against Sweden where Carroll and Welbeck played together up front. England however have had a succession of managers in recent years who made their name at club level playing 4-4-2 or 4-4-1-1. Roy Hodgson has played 4-4-1-1 successfully for most of his career. With very little time to prepare for the tournament, it probably made sense to play what he knew - and to be fair, England overachieved in this tournament. Going out on penalties to the eventual losing finalists is no shame for a team that was only given a 50:50 chance of getting out of the group stage. (Although whatever FIFA's rankings may say, England is clearly not the fourth best team in international football.)



It will probably be of interest to Liverpool fans to note that the man who, more than anyone else, popularised the modern 4-2-3-1 is Rafa Benitez. This was the formation that his Valencia side used to win two Spanish titles. (It's hard to imagine now that teams other than Real or Barca can win La Liga, but it does happen sometimes.) 4-2-3-1 is particularly good if your most skilful playmaker is a small, clever attacking midfielder rather than a deep-lying midfielder like an Andrea Pirlo or a second striker like a Wayne Rooney. Euro 2012 saw Germany's Mesut Ozil, the Czech Republic's Tomas Rosicky and Croatia's Luka Modric all be very effective in this role. Less so Denmark's Christian Eriksen, the much-hyped Ajax playmaker, who was left too isolated by a largely defensive Denmak side.

Formations only tell you so much about tactics. If Spain's really was 4-3-3, that wasn't what set their play apart. What set their play apart from every other team, even Italy, Portugal and Germany was the incredible rapidity of their short passing and how comfortable they were on the ball. Conventional wisdom has it that the way to close down a short passing game is to apply constant pressure in central midfield. Italy's diamond in midfield tried to do this by essentially having four central midfielders, all of whom were given instructions to press Xavi, Iniesta, Alonso and the rest. It didn't work - and it didn't work because the Spanish midfielders never seemed to need more than one or at most two touches to control the ball and move it on to the next player. Eventually in the move, the ball reaches the spare man - often the brilliant attacking left back Jordi Alba - and the killer pass is played.

So anyway, here's my team of the tournament, playing with a 4-2-3-1 formation.

Goalkeeper: Iker Casillas. The Spanish captain. Arguably he didn't have much to do, but I can't remember him doing much wrong either.

Right fullback: Difficult one this. If you look carefully at many pundits' teams of the tournament, you won't find a rightback. Many have Philip Lahm of Germany or Spain's Sergio Ramos. It's true that these two had great tournaments and can play rightback, but they didn't play there in Euro 2012 (Lahm played leftback and Ramos played in the centre of defence). I think that's cheating, so I'm going to go with Joao Pereira of Portugal. An attacking threat throughout the tournament and about the only rightback to have come close to controlling Andres Iniesta.

Left fullback: While Philip Lahm had a good tournament, this one is really easy - Jordi Alba of Spain. I'd be surprised if there's another player in the entire tournament who put in more miles, and few defenders will have completed more passes. His goal in the final was one of the goals of the tournament.

Central defenders: Sergio Ramos and Mats Hummels. Ramos surprised me - he normally plays rightback for Spain (he moved inside because of the injury to Carles Puyol) and looks better going forward than defending I always think. But he was the best central defender of the tournament. It's hard not to pair him again with Gerard Pique, who had another fine tournament (it's amazing to think that he was part of a young Manchester United side almost made to look very foolish by Exeter City in the FA Cup a few seasons back). However, I think I'm going to go with Germany's Mats Hummels, who was immaculate except for the Italy game.

Defensive midfielder: Rather than two deep-lying playmakers, I'm going to go with one playmaker and one purely defensive midfeld anchorman since that better represents how most teams played. And my choice for the anchorman role goes to (I think) the most underrated player in the tournament and possibly in European football - Sergio Busquets of Spain. Ask people why Spain were so good in this tournament, and they'll tell you about the quick-fire passing - the 'tiki-taka' - and the attacking fullbacks. Ask people the same question about the Barcelona sides of the last few years and they will give the same answer. However, key to both these tactics is Sergio Busquets sitting back and protecting the central defenders. He's not even necessarily a great tackler. What he does have is great tactical awareness of where he needs to be to channel opposition attacks into safer areas of the pitch. You won't hear his name mentioned by commentators that often, but if you look carefully, you'll be amazed at just how much of Spain's possession starts with the opposition losing the ball because Busquets' positioning forced them to play the harder pass.

Deep-lying playmaker: Having only one of these means having to leave out Xabi Alonso, one of my favourite players and probably the third best player in the tournament. However, this role has to go to Andrea Pirlo. He was superb against England (who were very lucky to make it to penalties, and even then, he scored with a 'Pressure? What pressure?' chip over Joe Hart) and controlled the game against Germany in the semi-final. Spain changed their tactics somewhat in the final to deny him the space, with Xavi playing much further forward than he had previously so that he was closer to Pirlo, and this was the only tactic that anyone found to work.

Central attacking midfielder: I'm going with Germany's Mesut Ozil, although if this had been based only on the knockout stages, it would have been Xavi. Ozil had the better overall tournament and looked to be heading towards player of the tournament status before Pirlo and Balotelli put Italy through at Germany's expense in the semi-final. Ozil has had an excellent season at Real Madrid, and carried his form into Euro 2012.

Left attacking midfielder: No contest. Andres Iniesta. Best player of the competition. Not a winger, nor an Arjen Robben style inside forward always looking to cut inside, but rather an advanced playmaker who happens to play from a wide left position. So many of Spain's moves went through him. He doesn't get the attention that Messi or Ronaldo get, largely because he doesn't score 50 goals a season, but he deserves to be discussed with those two as one of the elite players in world football today.

Right attacking midfielder: Cristiano Ronaldo. Although he got some help from Nani, and had a solid midfield behind him, at times it seemed that Ronaldo was expected to win games for Portugal on his own. Never has a top quality international side seemed in such desperate need of a striker.

Striker: This wasn't a good tournament for proper centre-forwards. The winners, Spain, didn't even bother with one for half the time (and Portugal might as well have not bothered). Mario Gomez of Germany looked quite good in the group games, but when you're playing up front in a side playing as well as Germany were then, you have to be pretty bad not to score. The only real striker who looked like he was a threat to actually win games himself in Euro 2012 was Italy's Mario Balotelli. Up against a very good German defence in the semi-final, he was essentially unstoppable in the first half, and he makes this team basically on that performance alone. He's still young, he had a difficult upbringing and some people (including Jose Mourinho, one of his managers at Inter) gave up on him, but if he keeps his head straight, he can be football's next superstar.

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