Hello everybody, remember me, Borja Pantzov? What a momentous time we are living through at the moment, Spain is on top of the world in so many sports! Most of all though for us (my trusty friend Goran Arsic is still here with me of course!) is the football, and most especially the Euro 2008. Who would have thought, we finally did it! I was only a pinkle in my father's eye (shouldn't that be twinkle - Editor?) the last time we won it with Luis Suárez and the lot, I know because my dear old dad told me I was conceived just half an hour after Marcelino got the winning goal past Russia's Lev Yashin, and again half an hour after that! I just wonder how many little Fernandos and Ikers and Xavis will be running around in nine months' time? We Spanish are a passionate lot!
A brilliant tournament then, and one that we will remember for ever (except for Sunday night, which is a complete blank from three o'clock in the morning until we woke up in the clock tower of some big church in Vienna the next day). Our only disappointment was that the Swiss decided to change the names of their stadiums before the tournament began. When we were there before they had great place-names such as Wankdorf and Bumplitz. What happened to them? Next thing we know they will start changing the names of places in England for the Olympics, Hampton Wick cycling arena becoming the Rose Bud stadium or whatever, and God only knows what they'll do with Scunthorpe!
So let's get straight down to it, Soccer-Spain asked us who were the best eleven players from the sixteen teams in the tournament? Here we go:
Goalkeeper. Only two best in the world, Casillas and Buffon, especially after Cech ruled himself out and Van der Sar's a bit too old. So let's see, penalty shoot out to decide. Casillas 2, Buffon 1, so it has to be Casillas. Actually it's a good thing there was a penalty shoot out against Italy, cause he didn't have a lot to do otherwise!
Fullbacks. No question about Sergio Ramos being one of them. Started slowly but got better and better, and almost scored in the final. A big guy as well, which we need to defend the little guys against teams like Germany, who are all over two metres tall and full of muscles. Goran liked Croatia's Simunic for left back, but he is biased, and anyway the man played mainly in the centre of defence. So lets say Capdevila, who has already scored three for Spain before the start of the competition, which is not bad for a full back.
Central defenders. Depends if you like small, hairy defenders, or taller, clean shaved with a silly smile. Lots of people have picked their best eleven players, and as it was a bit too much to pick both from Spain, they went for one or the other. From what we see, it was about 50/50 between Puyol and Marchena, so we'll pick them both. Actually everybody knows about Puyol, who would sew his own head back on and carry on if ever he was decapitated in a match, but Marchena was a very pleasant surprise, as everybody said he was the weak spot, and anyway he plays midfield more often than not for Valencia. Portugal's Pepe? Well he did alright and he does play in Spain, but maybe fourth behind Raúl Albiol?
Defensive midfielder. Only one in the tournament from what we saw, Marcos Senna. He's Brazilian really. So maybe that doesn't count, but hey, we saw him first so he's ours now! What a player! With him in the side you can play with five up front, he does it all himself, and even scores from the halfway line for Villarreal. Maybe the best player in the competition? That said, we wouldn't rule out Xabi Alonso, who beat Greece single handed and who brought back some order in the final when Germany were threatening to come back.
Attacking midfielders. Well, we mean anyone who plays in the middle who isn't Marcos Senna we suppose? Again Goran likes Modric, but he missed a vital penalty didn't he? Sneijder didn't make it past the quarter finals, and Ballack helped Germany to the final but then got a bit injured and didn't do much with Senna on his back all the time. So that leaves Xavi, Iniesta and Cesc. Xavi is UEFA's man of the tournament, so who are we to go against that? Iniesta was the man of the match against Russia, so he's in as well. And Cesc (or should we now say Fábregas - buggerousness for the shirt sales that late change was - anyone want a stock of old names?)? One TV reporter liked his style - "Did you feel under pressure taking the last penalty against Italy?". Fábregas: "No, not at all. Actually, I've never taken a penalty since I was 15!". Define "cojones"!
Wide midfielders. Well, Iniesta, but he was playing out of position, and we included him already anyway. Cristian Ronaldo? Who he? So David Silva, who was having a great championship before he took it upon himself to play "The Incredible Hulk" against Podolski in the final. You don't do that against the Germans, they are twice your size and eat people like you for breakfast! Luckily Don Luis spotted that and took him off before he was turned into a Bratwurst. Probably cost him a place in UEFA's top line up, but he's in our side anyway. Little Cazorla must get a mention too though, wide eyed at the lederhosen clad dancing schoolchildren when the squad first arrived in Austria like he didn't have a telly at home. A great talent though, and Don Luis was spot on to bring him in to the squad at the last minute.
Forwards. So on to the strikers, and is there any question about this one? David Villa was the first Spanish player to finish top scorer in a European tournament (we say Pichichi in Spain), but we were deprived of his talents in the final after he overdid it taking a free kick in a rainy semi-final. And our other choice? Has to be the man who scored the only goal in the final, Fer-nan-do-torr-es, Liverpool's number nine... Man of the match against Germany, so a no-brainer. Only striker who took them close was Güiza, who got over early nerves to score a couple, and delight us with his archer celebration (copyright, Atlético Madrid's Kiko). He did make a silly promise though, swearing to marry his girlfriend if Spain won the cup. Get out of that one, buster!
Manager. So that only leaves the coach, and although Gorán is pushing hard for the man who wears his heart, liver, kidneys and other odd organs on his sleeve, Slaven Bilic, we have to opt for Aragonés. Don Luis was much maligned in the months leading up to the finals, especially after a poor start to the qualifiers, but he stuck to his guns, leaving out Raúl and making some big decisions, especially the substitutions in the final, and the result proves he got it right. Pity nobody asked him if he wanted to stay on, but after four years facing up to 40 million amateur football managers who all think they know better than him, who can blame him for packing it in and moving to Turkey?
So that's it then, our best eleven in the tournament is Casillas, Ramos, Puyol, Marchena, Capdevila, Senna, Iniesta, Xavi, Fábregas, Silva, Villa and Torres (that's twelve - Editor!). See you in two years time for the World Cup!