La Roja skills beyond England’s players

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THIS has been a tournament for the passers rather than the predators; a celebration of players like Andrea Pirlo and Xavi rather than Mario Gomez and Wayne Rooney.

That has made it difficult selecting the best XI. Spoilt for choice in some areas of the pitch, there has been a slight dearth of quality in others.

Italy striker Mario Balotelli gets the nod up front for one truly outstanding two-goal performance against Germany. It could have been Gomez, but after a promising start he disappointed when it mattered most.

Identifying a right back was not easy. Darijo Srna impressed for Croatia, playing in midfield too, and Sergio Ramos would have gained selection had he not been deployed at centre half for Spain. Alvaro Arbeloa has done a fine job, however, in a superb Spanish defence that faced only one shot on target in their quarter and semi-finals.

Many will object to the selection of John Terry but he was at his courageous best against Italy and in the group games, too, his only issue a lack of pace that forces a back four to sit deeper.

Goalkeepers? How does one separate Iker Casillas and Gianluigi Buffon? Here are two of the finest keepers we have seen, but Casillas pips his contemporary for that brilliant defensive record, while Buffon has marks against him for a couple of early errors against the Germans.

The most difficult area to select is the midfield. Pirlo and Xavi have to gain inclusion for the sheer brilliance of their passing. Along with Andres Iniesta they are the outstanding players of the tournament. But no Xabi Alonso or Cesc Fabregas? That seems harsh indeed.

Iniesta could have been deployed on the left side, but that would have been at the expense of Daniele De Rossi. Cristiano Ronaldo, of course, has to start on the opposite flank. His performance against Holland was magnificent. In the end, Iniesta gets the job of supplying Balotelli with the ammunition.

Strangely, Spain have been accused of lacking their usual spark. Some have even dared brand them boring.

Call me boring but I even marvel at the way they pass out of defence when under pressure. It’s certainly a skill that is beyond England’s players, Terry included. – Daily Mail

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