GK: Iker Casillas (Spain)
An outstanding servant for Real Madrid and Spain, Casillas arguably enjoyed his finest hour at the 2008 finals. The goalkeeper, who made his international debut in 2000, inherited the captain's armband on the eve of the tournament. He led the eventual winners in fine style, keeping clean sheets in the quarter-finals – when he also saved two penalties in the shoot-out against Italy – semi-finals and the final itself. Casillas won his 100th cap in 2009 and was still a mainstay for the 2010 FIFA World Cup and UEFA EURO 2012 triumphs.
DF: Philipp Lahm (Germany)
One of the most effective attacking full-backs of his generation, Lahm made his Germany bow in 2004 and excelled for the national team, either at left or right-back, for a decade. The wonderfully-balanced defender scored the first goal of the 2006 FIFA World Cup and starred in the hosts' run to the last four. Germany fared even better two years later thanks in no small part to Lahm, whose 90th-minute winner against Turkey propelled Joachim Löw's tyros into the final. Then still only 26, the Bayern München man became his country's youngest captain in 2010 and, four years later, led his country to World Cup glory. Retired from international football a week later.
DF: Carles Puyol (Spain)
The Spain side that followed up victory at UEFA EURO 2008 by clinching the FIFA World Cup two years later was rightly acclaimed for its brilliant slick, passing football. Yet there was also a steely element to the team epitomised by the rugged Puyol. At UEFA EURO 2008 he featured in five of Spain's six matches, helping Luis Aragonés' men keep clean sheets in their last three games – against Italy, Russia and Germany. The shaggy-haired centre-back was the ultimate competitor, fighting for every challenge and inspiring those around him. Formerly Barcelona's talismanic captain, he held every title at club and international level.
DF: Carlos Marchena (Spain)
Part of the Spain side that won the 1999 FIFA U-20 World Cup alongside Casillas and Xavi Hernández, Marchena played a fundamental role in the triumphant UEFA EURO 2008 campaign. He dovetailed perfectly with Puyol in the centre of defence, often man-marking the opposition's main striker while his partner mopped up around him. The Sevilla youth-team graduate, who joined Villarreal after nine seasons at Valencia in 2010, set a world record for 50 international matches unbeaten before losing his spot to Gerard Piqué.
DF: Yuri Zhirkov (Russia)
Russia's run to the UEFA EURO 2008 semi-finals may have raised eyebrows but nobody back home was surprised by Zhirkov's dynamic performances at left-back. Operating as a winger, Zhirkov scored in CSKA Moskva's 2005 UEFA Cup final triumph, then found the net again ten days later in the Russian Cup final. Those strikes were overshadowed by his stunning individual effort in a UEFA Champions League match against Hamburg. He became Russia's most expensive player when he joined Chelsea for a reported €18m in 2009. Was back in Russia two years later.
MF: Luka Modrić (Croatia)
In light of his tremendous performances at UEFA EURO 2008, it seems utterly wrong for Modrić to be held responsible for Croatia's exit. Yet the diminutive playmaker missed his penalty in the shoot-out against Turkey, prompting a quarter-final defeat. Moments earlier Modrić looked like being the hero again when he set up a late extra-time goal for Ivan Klasnić – only for Turkey to level immediately. The former Dinamo Zagreb schemer, who had just sealed a €21m move to Tottenham Hotspur, illuminated the finals with his skilful runs and shrewd passes, scoring the tournament's opening goal against Austria. Now at Real Madrid.
MF: Marcos Senna (Spain)
The Brazilian-born former Corinthians midfielder made his international debut in March 2006 after four years on Villarreal's books. His superb performances in the Yellow Submarine's charge to the UEFA Champions League semi-finals earned him a place in Spain's 2006 FIFA World Cup squad. Although he started the first two matches, Senna would have to wait two more years to truly establish himself. Powerful, strong-running and tactically shrewd, the ball-winner provided an ideal platform on which the Roja's more attacking players could flourish.
MF: Xavi Hernández (Spain)
Xavi joined Barcelona aged 11, picked up his first league title in 1999 and debuted for Spain in 2000, yet it took a few years for his true talent to receive global recognition. His intelligent and invariably simple use of the ball means he does not always stand out, but there is no doubting the midfielder's immense contribution to the success enjoyed by Barcelona and Spain. Barça's record appearance maker became a Spain regular at the 2006 FIFA World Cup and was a key figure two years later. His metronomic passing made him a critical part of Spain's triumph – and ultimately Player of the Tournament. That was only the start.
MF: Hamit Altıntop (Turkey)
Fatih Terim's decision to switch Altıntop from right-back to a marauding midfield role two matches into UEFA EURO 2008 was arguably the turning point in Turkey's campaign. Needing to beat the Czech Republic in their third match, Turkey were 2-0 down when Altıntop set up three goals in the final quarter of an hour to inspire a stunning turnaround. Balanced, skilful and capable of unsettling a defence with a visionary pass or penetrating dribble, he dazzled again against Croatia and scored the winning penalty in the shoot-out. Altıntop could not repeat the trick against his country of his birth, Germany, in the semi-finals but had caught the eye enough.
FW: Andrey Arshavin (Russia)
Such was his importance that Guus Hiddink selected Arshavin despite the diminutive forward being banned for the first two matches. In his absence Russia lost 4-1 to Spain then edged past Greece: the explosive winger soon set about making up for lost time. Arshavin, who had inspired Zenit to UEFA Cup glory a month earlier, set up one and scored another in a victory against Sweden before a mesmerising display against the Netherlands in the quarter-finals, teeing up two and finding the net once more. His cameo captured the world's attention and six months later he was snapped up by Arsenal.
FW: David Villa (Spain)
Spain had a ready-made replacement in Fernando Torres but it was a shame that injury should rule the exceptional Villa out of the UEFA EURO 2008 final. The goal poacher supreme, who made his debut for the Roja in 2005, had set the tournament alight with a clinical hat-trick against Russia and finished as the tournament's top scorer with four goals. He hit five in the 2010 FIFA World Cup triumph and became Spain's all-time top scorer in March 2011, overtaking Raúl González's mark of 44. The Asturian commanded a fee of €40m when he swapped Valencia for Barcelona in May 2010.
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