Top 10 of Euro 2012
We look back on the most memorable moments of Euro 2012 after Spain defended their crown.
Last Updated: 28/09/12 10:33am
The dust has begun to settle on another European Championship and while Spain are celebrating the successful defence of their crown, other teams will be looking back wondering where it all went wrong.
Here we run down the most memorable moments from Euro 2012, from the fairytale endings to the flops.
After running the show for 120 minutes of Italy's quarter-final against England, midfield maestro Andrea Pirlo created a moment of magic in the penalty shoot-out to help send the Azzurri through to the semi-finals and crown a memorable individual display in style. With Riccardo Montolivo having missed his spot-kick, Italy were behind when Pirlo stepped up. Refusing to be cowed by Joe Hart's confident demeanour between the sticks, the 33-year-old proceeded to coolly chip an audacious effort over the Three Lions keeper, who dived in the opposite direction. The spot-kick served to swing the momentum back in the Azzurri's favour, rattling not only Hart but the rest of England's penalty-takers. As Pirlo explained afterwards, "Their goalkeeper looked fired-up. I thought: 'Now I give him 'the spoon'."
Ahead of the tournament, Holland were one of the favourites to lift the trophy after coming tantalisingly close at the 2010 World Cup. Unfortunately for the Oranje, things didn't go to plan in Poland and Ukraine. A lacklustre display against Denmark in their opening game hinted at things to come and Bert van Marwijk's men never really got going, despite the array of potential stars in their midst. Arsenal's prolific captain Robin van Persie appeared to have left his scoring boots back in North London, with the frontman just one of several big names who failed to deliver. Speculation was rife of problems behind the scenes, with the rivalry between Van Persie and fellow striker Klaas-Jan Huntelaar thought to have reached boiling point, while the underwhelming Arjen Robben claimed the amount of egos in the squad were at fault for their failure. Wherever the blame lay, Holland headed home with the worst result in their history - three defeats and no points.
After spending the last three years under the radar playing for Dynamo Kiev, you could have been forgiven for thinking Ukraine talisman Andriy Shevchenko had retired ahead of Euro 2012. But the veteran striker put himself firmly back in the spotlight with a wonderful resurgence against Sweden in the co-hosts' opening game. Ukraine were a goal down after Zlatan Ibrahimovic had broken the deadlock but a fairytale evening in Kiev saw Shevchenko roll back the years to inspire a comeback, netting two classy goals in a rip-roaring display. At the age of 35, Sheva was a hero again and on his own turf, with the yellow home faithful going wild as he enjoyed what could prove to be the frontman's last hurrah.
One thing Euro 2012 did offer up were some jaw-dropping goals, with Zlatan Ibrahimovic's acrobatic volley for Sweden against France and Polish midfielder Jakub Blaszczykowski's screamer that stunned the Russians springing to mind. But it was arguably Mario Balotelli's bullet strike against Germany that will most live in the memory. The temperamental Italian enjoyed his finest night of the tournament in Warsaw, playing a crucial role in the Azzurri's progression to the semi-finals. Not content with his 20th-minute header, Balotelli proceeded in driving a venomous shot past goalkeeper Manuel Neuer from 25 yards to leave even the German custodian applauding as he picked it out of the back of the net. The Manchester City youngster sealed his mark on the evening with a scowling, shirtless celebration which will probably be remembered as much as his wonder-goal.
England's young-guns shine
While the Three Lions' campaign ended in the all too familiar heartbreak of a penalty shoot-out defeat, they can look back fondly on their group victory against Sweden, which proved arguably the most entertaining clash of the tournament. It was the less experienced members of England's party that took centre stage, with Andy Carroll's stunning header and Danny Welbeck's improvisational flicked winner both hogging the headlines the next day. Theo Walcott seems to have been around for so long it's easy to forget he's only 23 years old and the winger was the youngster who had the biggest impact, with his game-changing substitution fuelling England's comeback against the Swedes.
Storm in Donetsk
The Group D encounter between co-hosts Ukraine and France was put on hold after five minutes of play due to a thunderstorm of biblical proportions in Donetsk. Torrential rain poured down while forked lightning illuminated the Donbass Arena, sending players and match officials speeding to the refuge of the dressing rooms while the storm blew over, with the action eventually resuming after a 55-minute delay.
Bench to hero
Poland opened the tournament in front of a home crowd but their dream could have turned into a nightmare when goalkeeper Wojciech Szczesny was handed his marching orders for a foul on Dimitris Salpingidis in the 69th minute of the curtain-raiser against Greece. The co-hosts were forced to call on back-up keeper Przemyslaw Tyton to take his place between the sticks - with his first task to go up against Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis from the penalty spot. The Pole became an instant hero on home turf as he denied the skipper with a crucial save and his side held on for a draw. Szczesny paid for his moment of madness - the Arsenal keeper lost his place to Tyton in the final group game.
Irish eyes keep smiling
Republic of Ireland floundered and were eventually sunk in Poland and Ukraine after a dismal campaign ended with three defeats. However, while the players struggled on the pitch the Irish support never faltered. In their second group game, Giovanni Trapattoni's men were 4-0 down against Spain and about to be dumped out of the first European Championship they had qualified for since 1988. But rather than wallowing in the inevitable disappointment, Ireland's fans spent the last 10 minutes of the Gdansk encounter singing "Fields of Athenry" with gusto.
All eyes on Ronaldo
After being tipped as a player who would potentially set the tournament alight, Cristiano Ronaldo's performances for Portugal in the first two group games were nothing to write home about. The Real Madrid ace was back to his usual self to help propel his side past a lacklustre Holland and into the quarter-finals, but it was against the Czech Republic that he really burst into life. The forward was everywhere at once as he planted the spotlight firmly back on himself and saw his rampant individual display rewarded in the 79th minute when he latched onto Joao Moutinho's cross and powered home a header that proved to be the match winner. Unfortunately for the Real star, it was not that dominant performance that he'll be remembered for at Euro 2012 but the fact he wasn't given a chance to take a penalty as Portugal crashed out in the semis.
Spain reign again
Vicente del Bosque's men responded to accusations their style had become boring emphatically in a comprehensive 4-0 demolition of Italy in the final. The La Furia Roja ran riot with a masterclass in precision passing to take apart the Azzurri, with the brilliance of midfield magicians Andres Iniesta and Xavi really coming to the fore. Spain's emphatic win saw them become the first team in history to win three back-to-back major tournaments.