In what can easily be described as one of the most entertaining sporting events in recent history, moments of magic and despair were not difficult to find. Here’s my countdown of the 10 moments I will carry with me:
Ten: Michael Ballack free kick
In a tournament that hardly produced any other brilliant free-kick moment, Ballack’s winner against Austria is a standout effort. Of course, the multiple super slo-mo replays have only helped making the moment an everlasting one, but it wasn’t just that it was a brilliant free kick. It was a moment of quality saved for when it really counted, a truly inspirational effort.
Nine: David Villa winner
Almost with the last touch of the game against Sweden, Villa scored a goal which came out of nothing. A deft touch, a feint to throw off defenders and a finish. The sight of a great striker in peak form and essential for Spain. That goal made it possible for them to continue their winning streak through to the final and must have been a major confidence booster.
Eight: Robben Goal
He hardly had much to do in the tournament, but moments after coming on against France, Robben first created a brilliant goal and then scored this screamer. Creativity, speed, finishing and arrogance only a supreme player can have were all at display together. A moment that proved to the world that Robben is up there with the best in terms of talent. If only he can stay fit in the long run...heck, if only he could have stayed fit for the quarter-final.
Seven: Sneijder Goal
A classic counter attack to hot the famed Italian defence which Sneijder finished after great work from van Bronkhorst and Kuyt. A beautiful goal and one that clearly showed the beauty that the Dutch would add to the tournament. Until their meek surrender to the Russians that is.
Six: Lahm Winner
The Turks had pulled off a remarkable fourth comeback in a row and many a lesser team would have lost confidence. But not the Germans. Just when it was ready to go into extra time, Lahm erased the memories of an ordinary defensive display and took charge to create the move and finish it with a spectacular shot that would have done any striker proud.
Five: Mutu miss
This can also be called ‘Buffon save’ but this was effectively the moment that kept Italy in and knocked Romania out. So often we have seen the star players of the team miss critical penalties in major tournaments and this was one of them. Heartbreaking for a player who had been very decent till that moment.
Four: Cech spill
Even though Petr Cech had not looked invincible since his comeback from injury, no one would have expected him to throw his country’s Euro hopes into the feet of an opponent. But in wet conditions, Cech made his worst mistake at the worst time there could possibly be. True, Nihat was to add more drama to that game, but without Cech’s blunder, there may never have been a Turkish story.
Three: Arshavin entry
We heard that Russia were missing some big players but the Spain opener aside, they had looked a decent side. The entry of Arshavin changed them from decent to extraordinary. True this is not a single moment, but the significance of Arshavin’s display was not lost. For all the entertainment and goal scoring, a true star was missing, and in Arshavin we found one.
Two: Casillas lifts the Trophy
How just to see a team with flair, skill and attacking intent be crowned champions, after many disappointing international and club tournaments. Also, at long last, the realization of a dream for a country which always had the eleven to do the job, but never the team.
One: Senturk equalizer
Everything else that happened, cannot take away Turkey’s contribution from this tournament. And while Senturk’s moment of magic was not the first or last for his country in these championships, it was the most unbelievable of them all. With hardly a moment left for a ball to be kicked, the Turks found the pass, the finish and most importantly the desire to score. A moment that defined the spirit of Turkey – my team of the tournament.