Iker Casillas (Spain)
Heralded as one of if not the best goalkeeper in the world by many and still only 27 years of age, San Iker added to his immense trophy haul on the international stage by captaining Spain to Euro 2008 glory. He is far from the stereotypical leader, but commanded great authority throughout the tournament and made exceptional saves whenever he was called upon, most notably denying Daniele De Rossi in the quarterfinal penalty shootout against world champions Italy with a sublime save.
Hamit Altintop (Turkey)
Deployed at right-back in this team as that is where he selflessly played much of the tournament for Turkey. When he moved back to his favoured role in midfield, his performances were that much better as would be expected, but seeing how Sabri performed in his place at the back - in a defensive capacity, at least - it is clear the Turks would have been better off and perhaps made the final if he had stayed out of position. A top quality player, thoroughly underrated and surprisingly versatile.
Carles Puyol (Spain)
Was Spain's outstanding defender after a poor season with Barcelona and was well worth the trophy as well as his place in the best eleven. Made a few errors, but never any that cost his side dearly, with his saving challenges and commanding presence at the back often meaning that Spain were rarely under any kind of sustained pressure.
Giorgio Chiellini (Italy)
One of a select few Italians to have come out of the Austria-Switzerland showpiece with an enhanced reputation, with the Azzurri conceding just one goal when he was playing, and even that was something of an anomaly out of his control. Quite a similar player to Puyol, came of age this summer and could be an untouchable in the squad by 2010.
Yuri Zhirkov (Russia)
The outstanding left-back of the tournament ahead of Italy's Fabio Grosso, primarily on the basis of having played more games. Was not always in position defensively, but his tremendous tenacity, enthusiasm and efficiency going forward made him a real asset to the Russians. May well be on his way from CSKA Moscow off the back of his performances.
Spain's nucleas. Not always outstanding and rarely expansive, but much of la Roja's intangible aura of superiority and control over all their opposition throughout the tournament can be sourced back to the Barcelona veteran. Proved irreplaceable as link-man in the Spanish midfield and was voted Player of the Tournament by UEFA, as well as us here at Goal.com.
Marcos Senna (Spain)
Another one of the primary reasons Spain dominated matches. The Brazilian-born midfielder provides exactly what Spain have traditionally lacked - strength and defensive discipline in midfield - and was often assigned man-marking duties of the opponents' danger-men. The likes of Andrei Arshavin and Michael Ballack rarely stood a chance.
Bastian Schweinsteiger (Germany)
Left out of the Germany starting line-up in favour of Clemens Fritz to add defensive balance. His introduction late on in the loss to Croatia proved forgetful as he was sent off for a frustrated shove. He missed the Austria game but was indispensable in the quarter and semi-final wins over Portugal and Turkey respectively, grabbing two goals and two assists across the games. Perhaps controversially beats his team-mate Michael Ballack into the team due to his exceptional contribution in these two vital games, and also for being one of their best players in the final. Is attracted to the prospect of a move to England this summer - watch this space...
Wesley Sneijder (Netherlands)
Quite possibly the outstanding all-round performer in this team. Sneijder tracked back relentlessly, was central to much of the Netherlands' quick passing movements up field, scored two delectable goals and set up another to level things up against Russia - an assist that gave the Dutch a chance they ultimately failed to take.
Lukas Podolski (Germany)
A second German inclusion, listed out of his regular position in this line-up, as that is where he was deployed to surprisingly good effect in this tournament. Naturally a striker, Poldi showed that instinct (or luck, depending on how one sees things) to be in the right place at the right time to hammer home three goals in the group stage: two against his native Poland and a consolation against Croatia. He showed he has more to his game than a clean strike providing Bastian Schweinsteiger with an assist in both the quarter and semi-final, regularly working the left-flank for his team. Another great tournament for the emerging youngster who, like Schweinsteiger, could be leaving Bayern Munich this summer.
David Villa (Spain)
Only one striker has proven to be well and truly outstanding at this tournament and it's Spain's David Villa. Team-mate Fernando Torres drew plaudits for his fine goal to win the tournament, but he was not as smart in front of goal as the Valencia ace. Ruud van Nistelrooy looked ominous as ever but the Dutch did not progress quite far enough for him to make his mark, while the likes of Luca Toni, Thierry Henry and even two-goal Miroslav Klose drastically underperformed. Villa scored a sensational hat-trick and another well-taken late winner in the first two games to ensure Spain got the start they needed. He was rested for Greece and not his best against Italy, before being injured in the semi-final and then missing the final. Tw outstanding games is more than any other striker could compete with, and Villa is yet another star who could be leaving his club this summer.
Hamit Puyol Chiellini Zhirkov
Schweinsteiger Sneijder Podolski
Hamit Puyol Chiellini Zhirkov
Schweinsteiger Sneijder Podolski
Gianluigi Buffon (Italy): If anyone can rightly contend to being a better goalkeeper than Iker Casillas, it's this man. He lost their head-to-head which eventually came down to penalties, but not many would question his pedigree as perhaps the superior goalkeeper, and he did enough to prove that at Euro 2008, making great saves and marshalling a makeshift defence to the best of his capability.
Edwin van der Sar (Netherlands): Edges Poland's Artur Boruc into the team as his efforts resulted in some form of team success, when the same cannot readily be said of the Poland and Celtic shot-stopper. Bowed out of international football with grace; was outstanding in the loss against Russia - his final ever game for the Oranje.
Khalid Boulahrouz (Netherlands): Was the Netherlands best defender - despite Giovanni van Bronckhorst's unbelievable performance in the opener against Italy - with Boula arguably coming close to topping that against France with a masterclass of dogged defending, even if he did not get the goal and assist of the former Barcelona and Arsenal star to show for it. Made the bench for his consistency and character, having come back and put in a strong shift against Russia in the quarterfinal loss despite the death of his prematurely born daughter, Anissa.
Pepe (Portugal): As a centre-back, he scored twice in the opening game. The first was a beautiful header rightly ruled out for offside and the second made the first being disallowed worth it: he danced out from defensive, played a give-and-go of sorts with Cristiano Ronaldo, then another with Nuno Gomes, whose delightful return ball was met by the Real Madrid man, running into the box and putting the ball past Volkan Demirel in the Turkey goal. The ball took a deflection, but looked goal-bound regardless. Goals aside, was a solid performer at the back both aerially and on the ground, with his exceptional athleticism making Portugal incredibly tough to break down.
Fabio Grosso (Italy): Another one that inexplicably did not start Italy's first game, but made all the difference once included. Was a roving offensive force down the left hand side and solid as well as assured in defence. The hero of the 2006 World Cup - scoring the crucial goal in extra time against Germany in the semi-final and the winning penalty in the final - carried on his major tournament heroics this summer.
Daniele De Rossi (Italy): Another of Italy's star performers and, guess what, he didn't start the first game. It's little wonder the Azzurri went out in the end, as they were playing catch-up from day one after Roberto Donadoni's selection nightmare on the opening night. De Rossi came into the side and imposed himself on every game, never losing an individual battle, fearless running forward from midfield and even grabbing a goal against France, as fortuitous as the deflection might have been. Missed a penalty against Spain, but can hardly be held responsible for what was a fine save. Edges team-mate Andrea Pirlo into the team, who displayed the class we know him to have, but never quite perfected his role as De Rossi did in his performances.
Luka Modric (Croatia): Croatia's lynchpin did well in his first major tournament, atracting a lot of attention which eventually got the better of him as he sent the Croats' first penalty wide in their fatal shootout against Turkey. That being said, his penalty that went in against Austria in Croatia's opening game was barely any better but just about crept in. Perhaps spot-kicks aren't the little man's specialty, but his reading of the game and playmaking efficiency was central to much of Croatia's success. Had a wonderful game in that quarterfinal against Turkey, which made his shootout miss all the more heartbreaking.
Michael Ballack (Germany): Germany's captain rose to the occasion twice in the group stage either side of a Croatia loss, but did not quite hit top gear in the knockout rounds, though his consistency and determination to play in the final despite an injury can inly be admired. Is of course central to most of Germany's play and is their only well and truly world class player. Tremendously unlucky to lose his second major final of the season and fourth in his career (two Champions Leagues, a European Championship and a World Cup).
Deco (Portugal): Portugal's star performer. Was somewhere near the peak of his powers at times, having re-found his enthusiasm and determination, obviously playing for a move away from Barcelona, which he has now sealed, having signed for Chelsea today. A world class player on his day, and one of the best passers of the ball in the tournament.
Cesc Fabregas (Spain): Just edges Andres Iniesta into the team, purely for exceeding expectations. Iniesta was a well and truly class act, playing despite a bout of food poisoning, and having a brilliant opening game, semi-final and final, but Fabregas produced in every game he played. Strangely, his two least effective games were the ones he started - the final and the dead-rubber group game against Greece - but his vibrance, composure and positive attitude benefited the team to no end.
Andrei Arshavin (Russia): From hero to zero within one tournament - such is the media. The elfen wizard missed the first two games due to suspension, but arrived on the scene to see Russia through their group, orchestrating the win over Sweden and going one better to produce one of the best performances of the tournament to lead Russia past the Netherlands, who were favourites to win the competition at the time. Those two games propelled him to unchartered realms of stardom, and despite being renowned as big game player and having won the UEFA Cup this season with his genius, praise from Zinedine Zidane and interest from half of Europe seemed too much as he was shut out against Spain. Much credit can go to the Euro winners, of course, but without doubt the 27-year-old Zenit St Petersburg star looked somewhat jaded and overwhelmed regardless. Nevertheless, an outstanding performer.
Roman Pavlyuchenko (Russia): A magnificent emerging talent for the Russians. His movement up front was some of the best seen all tournament, and despite missing a plethora of chances, he went home with a return of three, which is not to be frowned upon. An incredibly dynamic and potentially world class forward in the making, should he improve his finishing.
Honourable mentions: None, because despite the innumerous candidates, no list will do everybody justice and an end has to be met somewhere. Offer your feedback or selections in the comment box below...