Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Moment Is Now for Stars and Hopefuls ; Gifted Players to Watch Include Untested Youth and Some Familiar Faces

Newspaper article International Herald Tribune

The Moment Is Now for Stars and Hopefuls ; Gifted Players to Watch Include Untested Youth and Some Familiar Faces

Article excerpt

A look at a few of the gifted players who will take the stage beginning Friday in soccer's Euro 2012.

Any sporting event worth its salt will finally be remembered for the players rather than for the politics, the economics, or even the setting.

Here is a look at a few of the gifted stars among the players who will take the stage beginning Friday in Euro 2012:

Andres Iniesta Country: Spain; club: Barcelona; age 28; height 1.7 meters, or 5 feet, 7 inches.

If Iniesta never laced on soccer shoes again, he would forever remain a Spanish hero for the goal that he scored in extra time to win the World Cup final against the Netherlands in Johannesburg two years ago.

It was a precious goal, a poacher's goal from a bantamweight performer who could be compared to a ballet dancer. He has that nimbleness of foot, that balance and alertness, and a selfless attitude to serve others. No more need be said except that Spain adores him and he seems almost too humble to notice.

Cristiano Ronaldo Portugal and Real Madrid; 27; 1.87 meters.

Bigger than most players in so many ways -- in body, in ego, in the desire and courage to be the main man. Ronaldo now has a platform to entertain, with the instinct of a peacock displaying his fine feathers, without his Spanish Liga rival, Lionel Messi of Argentina, in sight.

Ronaldo can do it all, and does so almost every time he wears the white shirt of Real Madrid. But even with a coach like Paulo Bento, who appreciates Ronaldo and gives him license to be himself, his national team performance is as yet his unfulfilled side. After the star's 90 appearances and 32 goals for the Seleccao, Portugal has yet to love or trust its leading man the way fans at Madrid and, before that, Manchester United grew to do.

A missed penalty by Ronaldo last weekend during Portugal's loss to Turkey in a warm-up match did not endear him to Portugal's followers. But, undaunted, Ronaldo promises that the team will run until they drop against Germany in Lviv, Ukraine, on Saturday. "This team," he says, "has the potential to win something important."

Mesut Ozil Germany and Real Madrid; 23; 1.83 meters.

Born in Gelsenkirchen, Germany, of Turkish immigrant parents, Ozil is a symbol of Germany's multiethnic blending. Ahead of schedule, he shone during the 2010 World Cup -- down the left wing or drifting into the playmaking No.10 role, his deceptively slender frame could take the strain. His fast feet and even faster, intuitive soccer brain could beat a man or set up a striker with a threaded pass.

His critics might say Ozil does not score as often as he creates, but when Germany needed a goal to crack Ghana at the World Cup, he delivered. He required one touch to control the moving ball, one look to assess the angle and the position of the goalkeeper, and one left-foot shot of scintillating swiftness and precision to win the game. …

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