Wherever the 16 competing teams at UEFA EURO 2012 have gone in the past month, UEFA.com's band of team reporters have followed. Now, as the tournament draws to a close, they reflect on their highlights of their time spent in Poland and Ukraine. From inspirational atmospheres to childish German players; from dramatic goals to emotional anthems; and from pancakes to Pirlo penalties, they were there to see it all.
Elvir Islamović, Croatia
The atmosphere in the Croatia camp in Warka was fantastic and the players, and coach Slaven Bilić, were in high spirits. My moments shared with those guys will stay with me forever. During exclusive interviews I had with the coach and the players we often spent time talking about other topics.
Bilić admitted he was not listening to his usual heavy metal and hard rock during the tournament, only Bruce Springsteen; Mario Mandžukić was surprised when I told him he was the captain of my UEFA EURO 2012 fantasy team; Luka Modrić, meanwhile, said he was enjoying signing autographs for the youngsters and fans around the Croatia camp. Darijo Srna was always making jokes and Eduardo promised to follow me on Twitter. Being a part of that was priceless.
Ondřej Zlámal, Czech Republic
For me, it must be the full-time whistle of the Group A decider that sealed top spot for the Czech Republic and ended the dreams of co-hosts Poland. I expected to see Poland fans angrily leaving the Municipal Stadium Wroclaw, but the stands remained full and the masses thanked the home side for their efforts before applauding the winners. Michal Bílek's men ran along the edge of the pitch to take the acclaim. It was a remarkable atmosphere and was the best moment of the tournament for me, and maybe the best football scene I have had the pleasure to witness.
Thomas Mark, Denmark
Left winger Michael Krohn-Dehli and goalkeeper Stephan Andersen were living proof that we can all raise our game for the big occasions. At 29 and 30 years of age respectively, and both playing in their first major tournament, they nevertheless provided some of the most significant moments for Denmark. They were the main architects of the surprise 1-0 opening win against the Netherlands, with Krohn-Dehli scoring the winner and Andersen keeping a clean sheet despite the Dutch trying their luck no less than 28 times.
Andy James, England
Given that this was my first tournament with England, I was hugely excited in the build-up but also uncertain of how things would pan out on the ground. Needless to say, it was a pleasure both professionally and personally to interview the likes of Wayne Rooney, Joe Hart and Scott Parker. I was also fortunate enough to sit down with the England manager, Roy Hodgson, on three occasions – a privilege most of the world's media could only dream of.
Matthew Spiro, France
I really enjoyed talking to the France players. We quizzed Laurent Blanc and big names like Franck Ribéry and Karim Benzema, yet my most enjoyable interview was with a lesser-known player. We met Laurent Koscielny three days before his competitive bow against Spain. The Arsenal FC defender was so excited you could not help but feel happy for him. He had no fear about taking on the world champions. After fighting his way up through the lower leagues, Koscielny simply wanted to savour the moment. After we had sat down together I had no doubt he would excel against Spain. Despite the defeat, he proved me right.
Steffen Potter, Germany
My favourite moment would have to be Germany's green screen shoot. We were given access to the team hotel for a pre-tournament film shoot, where the players pose in front of a screen for the images that appear on the giant screens inside the stadiums and the accompanying TV graphics. Lining up one after one, they tried to ruin each other's serious poses, horsing around with their mobile phones and trying to wind each other up. It was great fun for everyone and showed the tremendous atmosphere in the camp, with several players who were old enough to know better among the main instigators.
Vassiliki Papantonopoulou, Greece
There was a detail in our job description that I did not appreciate at first. On the 80th minute of the match, team reporters were required to leave the commentary position and go down to the flash area, the zone just outside the dressing rooms where the first post-match interviews take place. This meant I would miss the last ten minutes of each game!
However, in the match against Russia, with Greece defending their 1-0 victory, this proved a huge gift. Only seconds after the final whistle, I got to witness at first hand the members of the Greek backroom staff hugging each other, laughing uncontrollably and moving to the beat of the Greek song that the stadium DJ picked to celebrate their passage to the quarter-finals. Then the players came in, shouting, singing, shaking hands while all around stood applauding. Priceless!
Richard Aikman, Italy
From the many days spent in Casa Azzurri, the dream palace masquerading as a media centre, to my private audiences with the likes of Gianluigi Buffon, it was a privilege to report on Italy. But it was the football we came to see and we were not disappointed. There was the blocco Juve, the Balotelli rocket and indomitable Azzurri team spirit, but the highlight was the 'cucchiaio'. Anyone who has ever played even Sunday league football knows how nerve-racking taking a penalty can be, but to do what Andrea Pirlo did, when to miss could have meant going home, reinforced my reverence for the gifted 'regista'.
Berend Scholten, Netherlands
Although the results were obviously not highlights, watching the Dutch matches on a big screen in a place named "Het hol van de Leeuw" (The Lion's Den) in Krakow, together with my UEFA.com Netherlands crew, my English and Italian colleagues, and about 100 Dutch fans, all dressed in orange, will be what I remember most. Even "poffertjes" (small Dutch pancakes) were sold to provide a real taste of the atmosphere. If only the results could have been better.
Alex O'Henley, Poland
Jakub 'Kuba' Błaszczykowski's second-half equaliser against Russia in the group stage was the moment UEFA EURO 2012 really came alive for the co-hosts. Trailing to Alan Dzagoev's opener, the Borussia Dortmund midfielder picked up a pass from club-mate Łukasz Piszczek before stepping inside the penalty area on his weaker left foot and curling an unstoppable shot past Vyacheslav Malafeev.
For a brief moment, impartiality went out the window as Polish UEFA.com reporter Piotr Koźmiński and I did a jig of delight. Sadly, the draw against their neighbours did not prove to be the catalyst for a place in the quarter-finals, but for a few days Kuba's strike allowed a nation to dream.
Andy Brassell, Portugal
Some four hours before kick-off in Portugal's quarter-final against the Czech Republic, I was stood high in the stands of Warsaw's magnificent National Stadium, savouring the view, when the public address system rumbled into life. A practice airing of A Portuguesa, the national anthem, boomed around the towering stands. The anthems are always such a rousing part of the evening, reminding us what international football means to so many people, and having an almost private rendition in an empty stadium as the excitement built outside was a special moment.
Garry Doyle, Republic of Ireland
All weekend, the chorus was repeated. Fans, dressed in green, drunk on excitement and quite possibly something stronger, sang and sang and sang. "COME ON YOU BOYYYYYYYYS IN GREEN, come on you boys in green, come on you boys, come on you boys in green."
Poznan became a little corner of Ireland. And then, late in the evening, they moved from the city's square to its Municipal Stadium. Still, they sang, still they believed. Then when the players appeared on the park for the warm-up, the crescendo built. Ten years had passed since they were last on a stage like this. It was over 20 years since a tournament this big had taken place in Europe with the Irish in it. "You'll never beat the Irish," they told us. Off the pitch, they were just so right.
Richard van Poortvliet, Russia
In a tournament where little went right for Russia, Alan Dzagoev was a ray of light both on and off the pitch. He enhanced his growing reputation with some excellent performances, but also showed maturity beyond his years with his willingness to speak to the press. Despite having the world at his feet, the 21-year-old is one of the most modest footballers you could ever wish to meet and with such an attitude and talent, it will be very surprising if the midfielder does not establish himself as one of Europe's very best players over the next few years.
Graham Hunter, Spain
It is all about penalties. Despite the superb reaction from the people of Poland and Ukraine, the soaring football and the climax of the tournament between two admirable, attacking teams, I am going for penalties. Most nights in Gniewino, Spain's training finished with a winner-takes-all spot-kick competition between Iker Casillas and Pepe Reina.
They each scored some wonderful goals, pulled off full-length saves and when, usually, Reina won, there was some pretty firm banter. Then, in beating England, Andrea Pirlo continued the theme. To chip a keeper, in that situation, was something I thought would not be beaten in my UEFA EURO 2012 almanac.
Then came Sergio Ramos. He missed a penalty for Real Madrid CF in their UEFA Champions League semi-final shoot-out a couple of months ago, but rivalled Pirlo for nerve and execution and turned the tide of the Spain-Portugal shoot-out. I like him, he loves to talk football and he has been an ally to me this tournament. Viva España. Viva Sergio Ramos. My highlight of the tournament.
Sujay Dutt, Sweden
Before the tournament, Erik Hamrén had promised there would be a training session open to the fans on 13 June. After falling to Ukraine two days earlier and with a crucial encounter with England two days later, circumstances were not ideal for an open session. But Hamrén stuck to his word, and was rewarded by the presence of 6,000 enthusiastic yellow-clad fans. Many had made their way by foot from the camp site on Trukhanov Island, and they showered their team with love and song. An emotional Hamrén ended the session, microphone in hand, thanking each and every one of them for their support.
Boris Popov, Ukraine
This was Ukraine's first appearance at a UEFA European Championship as an independent nation. Could it have gone better? Of course, but it brought what is surely a fitting farewell from the country's best player of the past two decades, Andriy Shevchenko. His headed double in the opening comeback victory against Sweden will live long in my memory and that of the sell-out Olympic Stadium crowd in Kyiv – and Sheva himself, judging by the look of jubilation on his face after both goals.
©UEFA.com 1998-2017. All rights reserved.