Goalkeeper: Gianluigi Buffon
, Italy. He's had a fantastic tournament. His clutch PK shootout save against England, his insane stop
also against England, his "paranormal" stop
are all the most obvious signs that Buffon is still one of the best keepers in the world. Some less obvious signs are the veteran leadership he has and the unique understanding of his position gained from years of experience.
Honorable mention: Iker Casillas, Spain. Never on the team: Shay Given, Ireland.
Left back: Jordi Alba
, Spain. I knew he was good, but I didn't know he was this good. He's had a breakout tournament, proving strong and calm in defense and a surprising threat in offense, recording that vital assist against France. He's confidant on the ball, completing over 90% of his passes. All this, and he's only 23. Definitely deserves to be here.
Honorable mentions: Philipp Lahm, Germany (really wanted to put Lahm); Ashley Cole, England. Never on the team: Jetro Willems, Netherlands.
Center back: Mats Hummels
, Germany. He's had an outstanding tournament. More successful tackles than any player in the tournament. Completed more passes per game than any other center back. He's completed 83% of his long balls, an incredible percentage for anyone, let alone a defender. He's an aerial threat at 6'3" with a sharp header. He, like Alba, is only 23, and it's just incredible that he plays so well at such a young age.
Center back: Pepe
, Portugal. This fearsome and strong defender has been keeping things in order for Portugal's defense while big names like Ronaldo get things done up front. He's tough, but only has one foul, so he's been physical but clean, which I love to see. His strength and physical presence in the back is complimented by his dominance in the air. He has one goal, from a header.
Honorable mention: Giorgio Chiellini, Italy. Never on the team: Richard Dunne, Ireland.
Right back: Theodor Selassie
, Czech Republic. I know, I know. Czech Republic's defense gave up four goals to Russia alone! It's true, Selassie struggled against the Russian attack, but he improved drastically against Greece, in which the Czechs won 2-0. He was a constant threat to run up the right side with tremendous pace, and if he was stopped he was lightning fast to get back on the ball. His speed was what allowed him to run down the field against Greece and record an assist on a cross.
Honorable mention: Mathieu Debuchy, France.
Left Mid: Andres Iniesta
, Spain. It's freaky how good Iniesta is. His stats this tournament don't show it--he only has one assist so far--but his form has been incredible. He's completed an average of 90% of his passes. He's good with both feet, and his ball control is without equal. He seems to be one of the few on the Spanish team who don't play boring football, as he can run up field with the ball and beat his man. In the group stage he attempted 17 dribbles. Most incredible is his vision. His defining characteristic is the way he reads the game so well.
Honorable mention: Alan Dzagoev, Russia.
Center mid: Andrea Pirlo
, Italy. Pirlo had one of the best individual performances of the tournament against England. He led his team throughout the game and capped it off with his cheeky penalty kick. That game alone would put him into consideration, but he's been playing like the best midfielder in the world all tournament long. He's had 2 assists and 1 goal, courtesy of a beautiful free kick that highlights his mastery of set pieces. His passing has been flawless and his control of the midfield has helped Italy get to the semifinals. It doesn't help that Pirlo is my favorite player in the tournament, either.
Honorable mention: Xabi Alonso, Spain.
Center mid: Steven Gerrard
, England. Yes, an Englishman! Gerrard took over at captain at Euro 2012, and it seemed to make him come alive. He dragged the team to the quarterfinals, and seemed like he would rather die than lose. He was tireless this tournament, providing the team with 3 assists and a constant strong presence in midfield. He converted his penalty against Italy. He was dedicated and disciplined and played like a warrior, and it payed off in one of his best international performances. It was his work rate that landed him this spot.
Honorable mention: Mesut Ozil, Germany; any of Portugal's midfielders.
Right mid: Sami Khedira
, Germany. If you had said that Sami Khedira could make a case for Germany's best player at the Euros before the tournament, you would have been called crazy. But he's played very, very well at Euro 2012 and deserves a spot here. He is energetic on defense, interrupting attackers with his well-placed tackles. He chases after opponents in the midfield with enthusiasm and skill. He's defensively solid but he plays well on offense, too, recording one goal and one assist.
Honorable mention: Luka Modric, Croatia. Never on the team: Arjen Robben, Netherlands.
Forward: Cristiano Ronaldo
, Portugal. It would be unfair to say he led Portugal to the semis, as he has had help from the midfield, Nani, and Pepe. But without a clinical finisher Portugal would not still be in the tournament. Luckily Ronaldo is such a finisher. His 3 goals are thoroughly deserved, and his skill and grace with and without the ball are unbelievable. He's the best in the world in the air, and has a header to prove it. He's leading the tournament in shots on target. He got off to a rough start, sure, but now he's on fire and making his case for best player in the world.
Honorable mention: Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden. Never on the team: Karim Benzema, France.
Forward: Mario Gomez
, Germany. Mario Gomez has been the best forward in the tournament. 3 goals and 1 assist. Phenomenal. How can he not be here?
Honorable mention: Mario Mandzukic, Croatia.Never on the team: Robbie Keane, Ireland.