The knock-out stages of the European Championships are well underway, and while attentions will be focusing on the remaining sides, we thought we'd take a quick look back at the group stage, and in particular eleven players who have stood out for us.
It probably comes as no surprise that Casillas has had a reasonably good tournament thus far. The Real Madrid 'keeper has been an ever-present in the Spanish national team for a lifetime, and while he hasn't had too much to do at Euro 2012, what he has done has been exceptional. This hasn't been a tournament of goalkeeping prowess so far, but we think Casillas warrents a mention after his fantastic save against Croatia with the game finely poised.
Prior to the start of the Euros the name Mathieu Debuchy hadn't been mentioned too much outside of France. Heading into the tournament he looked certain to be understudy to Bacary Sagna, however following an injury to the Arsenal man Debuchy stepped up to the mark, and hasn't he taken his opportunity well. His maurauding runs up the right flank have offered France an attacking threat from deep and his explosive displays have seen him linked with a move to Newcastle United.
The defensive lynchpin of Jurgen Klopp's double-winning Borussia Dortmund side, Hummels has developed into one of the finest defenders in Europe. While initial question marks hovered over his ability to shine on the international stage, he has since shown his critics wrong with classy displays in the heart of a German defence which hasn't been too troubled so far in the tournament.
Gordon Schildenfeld was one of Croatia's most notable performers as they came within a whisker of qualifcation from group C. Despite plying his trade in the Bundesliga 2 with Eintracht Frankfurt, the powerful centre-half has coped well against some of Europe's top forwards, and will feel a little aggrieved that he is not playing in quarter-finals.
Once again, it is probably no surprise that Ashley Cole is enjoying a impressive tournament. Following another stellar season with Chelsea which ended in Champions League glory, Cole has continued this form into the Euros, with his performance against France arguably his best of the tournament. With Italy up next, expect another solid display from Cole, who offers Young and Oxlade-Chamberlain sercurity on the left wing.
The heart-beat of the Real Madrid team, Xabi Alonso's dilligent performances for Spain tend to go unheralded. Surrounded by the likes of Xavi, Iniesta, David Silva and Cesc Fabregas, it's easy for Alonso's work to be overshadowed, but in a tournament where Spain have intriguingly opted to play without a striker, his contribution has been more important than ever. His work against Italy and Croatia in snuffing out attacks was imperitive to Vicente del Bosque's side, and as such has seen him named in our best XI so far.
Similar to Alonso, Schweinsteiger was the beating heart of Bayern Munich last season, and his absence from the disappointing friendly defeat to Switzerland showed just how important he is to Joachim Loew. Schweinsteiger's ability to read the game and effortlessly win the ball and start an attack is a thing of beauty. His defence-splitting passes for Mario Gomez have been a particular highlight in this tournament.
The Godfather of Cesare Prandelli's Italy squad, Pirlo has been one of the most consistent footballers over the past decade. His calmness on the ball and nonchalent attitude underline his artistry, and his free-kick against Croatia was sublime. It will be interesting to see how he fares against an England team which will hassel and harry him in possession.
Perhaps the surprise package of Euro 2012, Michael Krohn-Dehli's performances in the group stages merit him an inclusion in this list. A forgotten man at club level, Krohn-Dehli has shown Europe that he can still do a job on the highest level, with his pacey wing work baffling the Netherlands in Denmark's opening fixture, resulting in the 29 year-old grabbing the only goal of the game. His assist for Nicklas Bendtner's first goal in the 2-3 defeat to Portugal showed great desire and proved that this is a player finally enjoying his football.
In the Champions League final last month, Gomez couldn't buy a goal. Despite having an impressive season for Bayern Munich, he had a nightmare final, and there were some fearing that the hitman might be affected heading into Euro 2012. However, his wonderfully headed goal against Portugal in Germany's opening fixture put to bed any such doubt and his brilliantly taken brace against the Netherlands showed just how clinical he can be. With Greece up next, you wouldn't bet against him scoring.
Along with Krohn-Dehli, Mario Mandzukic has also been a suprise package of the group stages. His powerful presence on the ball troubled Ireland as he helped himself to a brace in the opening fixture, and his constant aerial threat gave the Italians no respite in the second group game. A well taken equaliser against Italy took his tally to three goals and he would have felt that he should have added to that against Spain. Mandzukic typifyed Slaven Bilic's battling Croatian side, and he will feel a little aggrieved that they missed out on the knock-out stages by a whisker.
Do you agree with our XI? Did we miss anyone out? Let us know in the comments section below.