I thought I was done having to recommend this guy after he left the Prem but he should be your first choice for Captain in the Quarters. (Photo by Ian Walton/Getty Images)
So, we're down to the Final 8 teams in Euro2012.
Wrapping up the group stages, here's what we saw (or at least what I saw):
- Group A was just not very good.
- Spain are still good but definitely vulnerable. I wouldn't want to play them but without an in-form goalscorer they don't frighten you like they did in Euro2008 and WC2010.
- Germany weren't as dominant as it felt like they should have been but they appear to be the class of the tournament.
- The rumors of Italy's death was greatly exaggerated. More solid than spectacular but people seemed to be very down on the "in-between generation" that doesn't feature big name defenders or forwards of years past.
- England aren't particularly entertaining to watch for neutrals but they are getting the job done behind a great collection of performances from Steven Gerrard. If he plays like that for Liverpool next season, Andy Carroll will be a lock for 20 goals and a return to the form that saw him transferred for so much money.
- That Zlatan Ibrahimovic guy has some crazy talent. For all the jokes about his bizarre personality, his Matrix-like goal was one of the most amazing that I've seen. That sort of grace, coordination, and technical ability from someone his size is just nuts. (and yes, that's probably the only context in which "grace" and "Ibrahimovic" could be appropriately used in the same sentence).
- If Ibra is the current "most fascinating player to watch" titleholder (because just about anything is possible from the stupid to the selfish to the breathtaking) then Crazy Mario Balotelli is his heir apparent. Mario's goal on Match Day 3 was almost the equal of Ibra's and he seems to be taking the "most fascinating player to watch" thing to an entirely new level. There is NOTHING I wouldn't believe from him if I read it as a headline the next day. "Scores a backheel goal from 25 yards"? Why not? "Shot a defender with a gun he'd concealed in his shorts (The Last Boy Scout-style) as he was dribbling into the attack"? Why not. "Abruptly quits soccer to become a yoga instructor"? Sure. The only thing that has me concerned is that, unlike Ibra, he plays for a country that is likely to have other striking options if he gets too crazy. The genius of Ibra is that Sweden really HAD to put up with him because they didn't have any alternatives if they wanted to be competitive. Italy doesn't have anyone else THAT talented but they certainly have the potential to be competitive without him and that leaves me worried that he might be left at home for some future big tournaments...even if he never does quit the game in his prime to become a yoga instructor.
With those random wrap-up thoughts out of the way, here are my thoughts on your fantasy picks for the Quarter Final round of Euro2012. A few technical notes before we get to the players though:
- You have unlimited transfers between the Group Stages and the Quarter Finals
- You are now allowed to have 4 players from the same team (as opposed to 2 in the Group Stages)
- You get 8 transfers between the Quarters and the Semis so you don't have to worry TOO MUCH about who might go out. That said, think about the permutations before you lock in too many players you think might go out. You need to replace them and possibly shuffle more expensive winning players based on match-ups and you can only turn over half your roster next time around.
- Cristiano Ronaldo - He really redeemed himself in that last group match, didn't he? If this were a format that counted SOTs, he'd have been exceptional all tournament but it isn't so he was only OK if you had him the entire group stage. Still, against the Czechs, he should be your first choice for captain.
- Mario Gomez - Another obvious choice but he's been consistently great and the opposition is relatively easy for the Germans. He'll likely end up being your captain but if you have both he and CRon, CRon gets first crack since he plays first and you can always change your mind (which I still find shockingly dumb).
- Antonio Cassano - There are a bunch of forwards at the next price level down but Cassano is the one I like the most. The match-up with England is pretty even in my mind but he's looked good and I like him more than Benzema or Rooney at this point (plus, he's a notch cheaper and given the guys I've recommended already, you need to economize).
- Anrdrea Pirlo - He's been very good and seems likely to continue being so.
- Sebastian Schweinsteiger - None of the German midfielders have been incredibly productive but he's been the best and, as a bonus, he's not the most expensive.
- Steven Gerrard - The thing about all of the first three midfielders on my list is that they've gotten their points as creators rather than scorers. The nice thing is that they've done so consistently throughout the group stages.
- Petr Jiracek - He look straight out of central casting for Mid-80s Eastern European goon but he's been scoring and he's cheap. Also, not hard to see the Czechs scoring against Portugal even if Portugal ends up winning.
- Vaclav Pilar - Pretty much the same reasoning as Jiracek but without the Mid-80s hair thing working for him. The Czechs got their goals from midfield and both guys recommended here are still cheap despite scoring two each in the group stages.
- Jordi Alba - I'm really not in love with the Spanish options in attack (too many questions about who will produce and too many expensive prices attached to that uncertainty). That said, Alba is a cheap way to fill in the back line with a potential clean sheet.
- Jerome Boateng - I'm assuming he's going to get his spot back after his suspension and he's the cheapest way into the German defense against goal shy Greece.
- Joleon Lescott - He was strong in the Group Stages with a goal and clean sheet and he's cheaper than Terry or Cole.
- Gebre Selassie - He was very good in the group stages and I'm feeling good about the Czechs chances against Portugal - at least enough to make him another one of my cheap defending choices.
- Iaonnis Maniatis - He produced some VERY cheap points in the group stages and I'm keeping him around as roster filler in case Greece rage against the economic machine and manage to hold the Germans (but mostly because he's cheap and a starter).
- Manuel Neuer is the obvious choice here in my opinion but I've already used up my four Germans with the above recommendations so I'm going to say Iker Casillas > Gianluigi Buffon > Joe Hart.