Balotelli, Milner & the worst XI to progress to the Euro 2012 knockout stages

With the group stages of this month's tournament in Poland & Ukraine reaching its conclusion, lines up an side of the lowest-ranked players to have made the last eight
By Andrew Kennedy

After 12 days of non-stop action in the opening stages of Euro 2012, sides such as Germany and Spain have emerged victorious from their groups with renewed hope of ultimate success in Poland and Ukraine.

However, the likes of Greece and even European giants Italy have progressed to the knockout phase with more than a slice of good fortune after faltering in their first games of the tournament.

Now, using's ratings index and looking at players who have featured in 40 per cent or more of their team's games in the group stages, we reveal the XI men who can count their lucky stars to be in the last eight.

Italy striker Mario Balotelli leads the line in our side, having averaged a rating of just 2.5 through the first three games of the tournament – a figure which was only improved by his goalscoring cameo from the bench in Monday’s 2-0 victory over Ireland.

Fellow Azzurri team-mate Christian Maggio also features in spite of his attacking impetus in the group stages, with a lack of quality in his final delivery against Spain and a poor defensive performance in the draw with Croatia condemning him to our worst XI.

James Milner is England’s only inclusion and the Manchester City man fills in on the right-hand side of midfield with an average rating of 2. Whilst the 26-year-old’s work-rate has been as exemplary as ever, he has often been found wanting in the final ball and missed a key chance in the Three Lions opening clash with France.

French duo Florent Malouda and Adil Rami both make the cut. The Chelsea wideman was unable to improve upon his club form with an anonymous performance in the 1-1 draw with England and his substitute appearance in the defeat to Sweden.

Centre-back Rami has also been found wanting in the group stages, and his average rating of just 2 reflects a series displays littered with lapses in concentration.

Surprise outfit Greece have no fewer than three players in our XI after their shock 1-0 victory over Russia in the final round of the group stages was enough to send them through despite poor displays against Poland and Czech Republic.

Goalkeeper Kostas Chalkias makes our side with the lowest rating of the entire tournament so far of all the players who are still in the championship. The 38-year-old was at fault for Robert Lewandowski’s opener in the 1-1 draw with the co-hosts, while he conceded two in six minutes before succumbing to injury in their second game defeat.

Captain Giorgos Karagounis’ poor displays in the first two games sees him included in midfield, with his winner in the vital victory over Russia not enough to improve upon an overall score of 2, while young defender Kyriakos Papadopoulos features after failing to impress so far.

Rounding off our XI are Czech trio Milan Baros, Daniel Kolar and David Limbersky. Baros, the top scorer in the 2004 tournament, has looked off the pace after suffering a groin problem in the build-up to the group stages.

Midfield man Kolar features with a rating of just 2 having failed to truly deputise for captain Tomas Rosicky in spite of victory over Russia, while Limbersky is included at left-back after also struggling to make an impact.

Goalkeeper Petr Cech is fortunate not to be dropped into our worst XI after his error initially put his side 1-0 behind against Greece, while France midfielder Yann M’Vila’s performances have not matched up to the hype currently surrounding the 21-year-old.