Whilst I've been enjoying a break from Football since the close of the English season, I've still found time to enjoy the European Championships. England's absence has in many ways made it a much more enjoyable competition to watch. No anguish over our performances or unrealistic expectations about our chances of winning it, just a chance to sit back and watch some entertaining games and some players I wouldn't normally see. I've written this ahead of the semis so don't know who made the final but hope a couple of these players make it all the way.
1. Andrei Arshavin (Russia) - Russia have been one of the surprise packages of the tournament, playing neat passing football and showing great team spirit. Pavyluchenko caught my eye early on, with a vague thought he might be a potential McBride replacement at Fulham. Not very likely since they beat the wonderful Dutch. Yuri Zirkhov also impressed with his relentless runs up and down the wing. Arshavin, having missed the opening two games due to suspension, is the player that could make the difference for Russia. Playing a free role behind Pavyluchenko he's able to roam wherever he wants and is capable of creating chances out of nothing.
2. Deco (Portugal) - One of the few players I had seen quite a bit of before, Deco exudes class as he controls the attacking intent of the Portuguese side. I was also impressed by right back, Bosingwa and we will get to see him in the Prem next season. Pepe the tall ex-patriot Brazilian also looked very good.
3. Nihat (Turkey) - Turkey's progress has been remarkable but fully deserved. They've fought hard to stay in games when they appeared to be outclassed and have players capable of finding some magic to turn the game. The comeback from two goals down against the Czech's was one of the games of the tournament and Nihat's second goal one of the best.
4. Danijel Pranjić (Croatia) - Croatia were "my" team and I was hugely disappointed they didn't progress to the semi-finals. They've got lots of talented players but left winger Pranjić was the one to take my eye. Central defender Simunic looked solid and may be heading to Fulham and Tottenham bound Luka Modric looked a very exciting prospect as well, but Pranjić's constant running and keenness to get good balls in from the left won me over.
5. Marcos Senna (Spain) - Spain are full of talented players, Torres, Villa, Silva and Fabregas have all looked good but you still need someone in your team who can do the hard work. Marcos Senna has played this role excellently, prowling the depths of midfield to protect his defence and allowing the young guns to go off and have fun.
Holland have been the team of the tournament for me and yet I couldn't find one non-Prem player that had stood out for me. Ruud Van Nistleroy was excellent up front, Edwin Van Der Sar outstanding in goal and Giovanni Van Bronckhorst showing a remarkable turn of speed for a man in his thirties.
Germany may yet win it - I've got money on them to do so - but have been typically free of individuals. Ballack is their heart and soul, whilst both Lahm and Podolski have looked good. My favourite German player though is bearded centre back Christoph Metzelder.