1. Carles Puyol (Spain). The strongest bit of evidence regarding Puyol’s case as the number one defender at Euro 2008 is the fact that Spain was not scored upon in the knockout rounds. The classy centre back organized what was perceived as the team’s weakest point throughout the entire tournament.
2. Yuri Zhirkov (Russia). Playing as a left back for the national team, Zhirkov made several dazzling runs that facilitated the Russian attack. He also proved capable in defense with his marking and tackling ability. The 24-year-old will be attracting attention form the biggest clubs in Europe soon enough.
3. Pepe (Portugal). The 25-year-old was a physical presence on a team that had little else muscle. He even chipped in with a marvelous goal in Portugal’s opening match versus Turkey. Playing for Real Madrid will only aid his development.
4. Hamit Altıntop (Turkey). With such a star-studded list of midfielders to choose from at Euro 2008, Altıntop will be slotted here since he started the tournament at right back. He was more dominant when he moved back to his preferred midfield position because of his skilled passing and work rate. Turkey’s coach Fatih Terim stated, “When you have footballers like this, you don’t lose.”
5. Martin Stranzl (Austria). More love for the Austrians, but Stranzl deserves the credit. In the first game against Croatia, Austria only started three at the back. This formation is rarely employed at major tournaments. Care to guess who was in the middle of the three defenders? The 28-year-old centre back now is being linked with a move to Turkey or Scotland away from current club Spartak Moscow.
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