There was much to admire over a glorious month at UEFA EURO 2008: from Arshavin to Zidane via kidney transplants, sensational Turkish comebacks and naked walks in the park.
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There was much to admire over a glorious month of football at UEFA EURO 2008 in Austria and Switzerland: from Arshavin to Zidane via kidney transplants, great Turkish comebacks and naked walks in the park.
Arshavin – Without him Russia were struggling; with him they became world-beaters. Suspended for the first two games the man known as 'Shava' burst into their third game like a terrier let off its leash. Unknown even to the likes of Xavi Hernández before the tournament, everybody knows him now.
Bob Marley – Not an obvious reggae aficionado, Leo Beenhakker summed up the mood in the Poland camp when he said: "When I worked with Trinidad and Tobago during the last World Cup I woke up every morning to the sound of Bob Marley but now I wake up every day suffering from a headache!"
Co-hosts – Austria and Switzerland may have bowed out after the group stage, but neither that nor the inclement weather could dampen the mood at the eight venues and beyond. Indeed, by the end of the tournament, some four million people had visited the UEFA EURO 2008 Fan Zones.
Drama – Turkey were a watchword for late excitement throughout as they mounted comeback after comeback before Philipp Lahm's goal finally ended their challenge. But Fatih Terim's side did not have a monopoly on being fashionably late and of the 77 goals scored during the finals, 18 came in the final five minutes.
Efficiency – Germany had three shots on goal in their 3-2 semi-final win against Turkey and scored with all of them. Had their opponents done likewise, Terim's men would have run out 11-3 victors.
Feel the Rush – Enrique Iglesias's Can You Hear Me? may have been the official tournament song, but the mascots' music, Feel the Rush by Shaggy, perhaps induced the most fervent foot-tapping. Just.
Golden Generation – Bulgaria, Croatia, France, Romania. Most teams have had one period when an exceptionally gifted group of players came to the fore – but two? In the mid-1990s Portugal were bristling with talent and while the UEFA EURO 2000 semi-finals was the best they could manage, a new generation spearheaded by Cristiano Ronaldo has raised Lusophiles' expectations once more.
Hat-trick – David Villa's treble against Russia in Spain's opening game made him only the seventh player in finals history to score three in a game. Villa was following in the footsteps of Patrick Kluivert, Sérgio Conceição, Marco van Basten, Michel Platini (twice), Klaus Allofs and Dieter Müller.
Injuries – Save for injuries to Franck Ribéry, Alexander Frei and half of the Turkey squad, there were thankfully few serious problems at the EURO. Before the finals was different. Daniel Pudil was ruled out when he broke his hand as he celebrated SK Slavia Praha's league triumph, while Romania's Ovidiu Petre was forced to withdraw after colliding with a cameraman while playing volleyball.
Juan Carlos – Having witnessed Spain's quarter-final victory against Italy, the king was asked if he felt his side were favourites for the semi-final. "Yes," he replied, "50-50."
Klasnić – Not many people are up and running within 15 months of undergoing two kidney transplants. Still less are playing football. None, before Ivan Klasnić have capped their recovery with a goal at a UEFA European Championship.
Lifeguard – Those who believed the only thing Semih Şentürk had in common with David Hasselhoff was his red shorts were forced to think again in Austria and Switzerland. Not content with the goal that revived Turkey's hopes in the group stage, Semih reprised his 'lifeguard' role with the 122nd-minute equaliser against Croatia. He almost did it again in the semi-finals only for Philipp Lahm to drown out Turkish celebrations.
Mascots – Four years ago a mascot called Kinas caught the eye with his halfway-line acrobatics. This time around there were two of them, they had bigger hair and their dance routines were rehearsed. Trix and Flix have laid down a sizeable gauntlet for the 2012 mascots.
Nihat Kahveci – With three minutes of their decisive group game against the Czech Republic left, Turkey were heading out. Then Nihat capitalised on Petr Čech's fumble to apparently set up extra time. Yet the No8 had other ideas and hit an unstoppable winner with a minute to go.
Oranje – The Netherlands won a place in Bernese hearts during the tournament, but then they did not really have a choice. Over 100,000 Oranje fans descended on the Swiss federal capital to watch the Netherlands-France game and help double Berne's population.
Portuguese arrival – When Luiz Felipe Scolari's squad arrived on 1 June they received a memorable welcome. A motorcade of 600 Portuguese living in Switzerland followed the team bus to their training base, while others lined the streets waving flags. Another 10,000 fans were waiting to greet the players in Neuchatel.
Quarter-finals – Spain's first competitive win against Italy in 88 years; Germany prevailing in a five-goal thriller; Arshavin helping Russia stun the Netherlands; and that Croatia-Turkey game. Astonishing.
Reina Snr – Pepe's dad Manuel certainly won the award for the finals' best automotive metaphor as he ran the rule over Luis Aragonés. "The human condition requires you to be greedy – always hungry to better yourself and achieve more," he said. "That's what Luis is and it's the perfect petrol for the engine of a football coach. He'll never say, 'This success is enough' or 'I've lost my drive'."
Schweinsteiginho – Germany's Bastian Schweinsteiger scored, made an assist and picked up yellow and red cards at UEFA EURO 2008. The only other player to have achieved this feat at a EURO is Denmark's Klaus Berggreen in 1984. Schweinsteiger ended the tournament strongly, however. Why? Because Angela Merkel told him to. "If the chancellor asks you to do something, you have to obey," he explained.
Thunder – June was the wettest month many could remember in Austria and Switzerland, forcing organisers to relay the St. Jakob-Park pitch in Basel ahead of the quarter-finals. It was arguably worse in Vienna, however, and the game between Spain and Russia was played to a background more akin to Mary Shelley's Frankenstein than a football match.
Underachievers – At UEFA EURO 2004 a hotly-tipped France side meekly bowed out with a 1-0 quarter-final defeat by Greece. This year an ageing squad failed to get out of the group stage, registering a solitary point as they finished at the foot of their section.
Vastic – At 38 years and 257 days, Ivica Vastic became the oldest player to score in a UEFA European Championship when he converted a late penalty against Poland. The 35-year-old pair of Jan Koller and Christian Panucci also struck to go second and third on the list.
Walk in the park – Beenhakker again, this time on the eve of Poland's opener against Germany, saying: "We won't be doing different things just because we are at the EUROs now. It's not like we will walk around the park naked or something. We have our normal programme – and then we will go [singing] tra-la-la to the stadium. We will play 'tra-la-la' but I don't know if we will be still 'tra-la-la' after the game."
X-factor – That something, lamented Croatia coach Slaven Bilić, which Turkey possessed in spades.
Yellow or mustard? – The great debate about the colour of Spain's away jersey was decided, once and for all, by Aragonés. "I don't like this new colour, personally," he said. "But so long as I don't have to wear it, the players can. Anyway, it's not yellow, it's mustard."
Zidane – UEFA EURO 2008 was the first major tournament since 1994 without modern-day legend Zinédine Zidane. Yet there were individual performances which lit up the finals in his absence – Arshavin for starters...