The European Championship has been the breeding ground for champions over the years. The tournament has given brith to stars, while stars have turned into legends. With the 15th edition of the Euro upon us, we look to form the all-time Euro XI, of course with considerable help from you.
1. Dino Zoff (Italy; Appearances: 7; Clean sheets: 5: Euro titles: 1)
When you include the qualifying rounds as well, Dino Zoff holds the jaw-dropping record of going 784 minutes without conceding a goal—the highest by any goalkeeper in the history of Euro. Zoff broke into the international scene at the age of 26 in 1968, and went on to lift the Euro with Italy in that same year, when he conceded just one goal in the whole tournament. He once again starred in the tournament 12 years later, when Italy hosted the championship on their home soil and managed a fourth place finish.
2. Iker Casillas (Spain; Appearances: 14; Clean sheets: 9; Euro titles: 2)
While Zoff holds the record for most consecutive minutes without conceding a goal, Casillas jointly, along with Edwin van der Sar, holds the record of having the most number of consecutive clean sheets—9. In fact, if you consider only the main tournament, he also holds the record for most consecutive minutes without conceding a goal—509. Casillas has captained Spain to two European Championship titles, and like Zoff, he conceded just one goal in the whole of the 2012 campaign.
3. Gianluigi Buffon (Italy; Appearances: 13; Clean sheets: 5)
Italy have produced some of the best goalkeepers in the history of the game, and Gianluigi Buffon is arguably the best from that nation so far. The European Championship title might have alluded him in his career, but he has featured twice in the UEFA's team of the tournament in 2008 and 2012. Last time, he captained an un-fancied Italian side to the final of the competition.
4. Lev Yashin (Soviet Union; Appearances: 4; Clean sheets: 2; Euro titles: 1)
The “Black Spider” was the first goalkeeper to win the tournament back in 1960. The legendary goalkeeper featured in the first two European Championships, and in the second tournament he finished runner-up with his national team.
1. Philipp Lahm (Germany; Appearances: 14)
The German defender has featured mostly as a left-back for his national team in the Euro, but with Paolo Maldini being a sure shot pick in that role in this team, Lahm earns a place as a contender for the right-back role. The Bayern Munich defender has featured twice in the Euro team of the tournament, 2008 and 2012, the last of which came when Germany reached the final.
2. Lilian Thuram (France; Appearances: 16; Euro titles: 1)
Another extremely versatile player, who could play across the back four, Thuram lifted the 2000 European Championship with France after they defeated Italy in the final. He has played in four European Championships, the last of which came in 2008.
Vote for who will take up the right back role in this defence.
Franz Beckenbauer (Germany; Appearances: 4; Euro titles: 1)
'Der Kaiser' played at a time when the main stage of the tournament started from the last four stage, hence just four appearances in it. Arguably the most complete footballer in the history, Beckenbauer guided Germany to their first ever European Championship title in 1972 and then four years later he saw his team finish runners-up to Czechoslovakia in the final.
Who will partner Beckenbauer?
Laurent Blanc makes a very strong claim. The French defender has been a rock at the center of his team's defence for three European Championships, including the title winning campaign in 2000. He is also the only player to have been voted in the team of the tournament thrice in a row. But he has competition from the likes of Carles Puyol, Matthias Sammer and Jurgen Kohler.
Paolo Maldini (Italy; Appearances: 13)
Many regard him as the best defender in the history of the game, and although he did not win the European Championship with Italy in his long and illustrious career, Maldini has produced some scintillating performances at the back for his team. He was selected in the team of the tournament thrice, the last of which came when Italy lost in the final to France in 2000.
Xavi Hernandez (Spain; Appearances: 11; Goals: 1; Euro titles: 2)
He has played in two European Championships, and he won both of them. The Barcelona legend was in imperious form in the 2008 edition of the tournament, and won the player of the tournament award. In 2012, he produced another jaw-dropping performance against Italy in the final as his side cruised to a 4-0 win.
Who will partner Xavi?
One of the best midfielders of his era, Luis Suarez won the 1964 European Cup (known as the Champions League now), and then won the European Championship with Spain few weeks later. The Spaniard produced a world class performance in the final against Soviet Union, and the manner in his he could control matches from deep in the midfield was a sight to behold. Much like his rival for this position—Andrea Pirlo. The Italian legend's penalty against Joe Hart is still fresh in the memories, and it is fitting that two of the finest deep-lying playmakers of their generations are going up against each other in this poll.
Luis Figo (Portugal; Appearances: 14; Goals: 2)
Luis Figo has produced so many memorable moments in the three European Championships he has participated in, it is difficult to point out your favorite. The former Real Madrid star win the Ballon d'Or on the back of carrying Portugal into the semis of the Euro 2000, and then helped his team reach the final in 2004.
Who will play on the left wing?
We have three contenders for this role—Andres Iniesta, Valentin Ivanov and Dragan Dzajic. Neither of these three are natural wingers, but they have all played in that role. Ivanov and Dzajic have played as wide forwards for their respective teams, while Iniesta at times have played in a more central role for Spain. However, all three of them have produced some of the most delightful performances in this tournament's history. Ivanov was magical when Soviet Union won the inaugural Euro in 1960, while Dzajic—widely considered as the best Serbian footballer—was magical for Yugoslavia, when they reached the final in the 1968 Euro. Iniesta, on the other hand, won the player of the tournament award in 2012, the second of Spain's back to back Euro triumph.
Vote for the best Euro performer among these three.
Who will be the No.10?
Michel Platini produced perhaps the most dominating individual display we have witnessed during France's title winning campaign in1984. The midfielder scored 9 goals in 5 matches, and he still remains the highest goalscorer in the tournament's history. Similarly, Ruud Gullit was phenomenal during Netherlands' triumph in 1988, while Zinedine Zidane shined in 2000.
Who will orchestrate the attack for this team?
It is a six-way battle to earn the one remaining spot at the top. England's Alan Shearer is the top scorer among the strikers, and the second-highest scorer in the tournament with seven goals in nine appearances. The former Newcastle United forward guided England, who have historically struggled in this tournament, to a semifinal spot in 1996 scoring five goals in the process.
Shearer goes up against the likes of Thierry Henry (6 goals in 11 matches), Marco van Vasten (5 goals in 9 matches), Ruud van Nistelrooy (6 goals in 8 matches), Patrick Kluivert (6 goals in 9 matches) and the dynamic Serbian, Savo Milosevic (5 goals in 4 matches). Vote wisely.