ProSoccerTalk staff memories of Euro 2012:

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Yes, there were a few brush marks of ugly racism, but not nearly enough to truly stain a lovely European Championship tournament that just came and went.

The ProSoccerTalk staff quickly reflects on what they will best or most fondly remember when they think back on Euro 2012 from Poland and Ukraine:

Richard Farley

Andriy Shevchenko’s Ukraine swan song will always stick out. Though he went on to play two more times for his country, Shevchenko’s last hurrah will always be remembered as his second half double against Sweden – two goals that earned Ukraine their only victory at the championship they co-hosted.

The outburst came after a half where Shevchenko had looked his age, with commentators questioning whether the 35-year-old’s start was more ceremonial than deserved. Then, after Sweden had gone up one, Shevchenko summoned all the vigor of his Milan glory, heading home the twice to push Ukraine to the top of their group.

It was part of a stand-out tournament for some of Europe’s elder statesmen. Andrea Pirlo (33) was the tournament’s best player. Giorgos Karagounis (35) reminded us of 2004. Steve Gerrard (32) helped return hope to England. Xavi Hernández (32) hit top gear in the final.

None of those stories were the fairy tale. Shevchenko’s was. One week later, he announced his retirement from international soccer, his double against Sweden his final tallies for the national team. They were a part of a night few great players get to experience: Starring in a major tournament in front of your home nation.

Noah Davis

It didn’t end well for Italy, but to even make the final was an impressive feat. For me, the moment of the tournament came against Germany. Mario Balotelli beat the offsides, waited for the pass, took a touch, reached the 18-yard box, and ripped a shot. (The pace!) Manuel Neuer would have had a better chance stopping it if he was watching on television. Off went Balotelli’s shirt, down went my lower jaw. It was everything the young Italian represents: audacity, obnoxiousness, brilliance, and so much more. I’ll remember the Spanish domination in the final, but my favorite single image has to be shirtless Ballotelli flexing. It’s fine to let your actions scream “look at me” when you’ve just done something no one else can do.

Jenna Pel

It may not have impacted the course of the tournament, or heck, even determined who survived the group stage, but for the measure of unadulterated joy it elicited, I’m going with Jakob Błaszczykowski’s equalizer against Russia. The match was tinged with political tension that only upped the intensity.

Fate would ultimately see it differently, but at the time Russia and Poland were tipped as favorites to advance from Group A. Russia had arguably played the most convincing soccer of the tournament at that point while hosts Poland were eager to bring pride to its compatriots.

Facing a one-goal deficit and imminent elimination, Polish captain Jakob ‘Kuba’ Błaszczykowski came through with the most glorious of equalizers. The long-range screamer would end up being the final goal of Poland’s Euro 2012 campaign, and what an effort it was.

Steve Davis

I guess I’m a sucker for true fan passion, and probably for a lost cause, too. But when I think back on this tournament, about regal Spain and a more pleasing tactical way for Italy, about a German side that looked so capable before it fell to pieces in one stinker, about Shevchenko’s heart and Balotelli’s emotional eruption, about Zlatan Ibrahimović’s athletic feat of wonder … while I’m thinking about it all, I’ll be hearing the Irish fans reminding everyone what being a true fan is all about. I absolutely adored the 10 minutes the proud fans of the Republic of Ireland belted out “The Fields of Athenry” (an Irish folk ballad about stoicism in the face of suffering) as their team tumbled from the tournament in a loss to Spain.

That moment reminded us that supporters may suffer, but their love for their land and their team prevails.

Three key battles for Champions League Final

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Saturday brings Real Madrid’s journey toward a third-straight UEFA Champions League title to a close, with just Liverpool standing in the way.

[ MORE: Napoli hires Ancelotti ]

The Reds attack promises danger and entertainment, while Zinedine Zidane’s personnel choice may be just as important as his tactical decisions in Kiev.

Van Dijk, Lovren against… Ronaldo and whoever Zidane decides

It’s difficult to highlight the match-up problems for Liverpool’s center backs because Zinedine Zidane has used three different set-ups atop his line-up.

At times, it’s been Cristiano Ronaldo and Karim Benzema. Sometimes, Gareth Bale takes Benzema’s spot, and occasionally Ronaldo has been played up top as a center forward.

Believe it or not, that may be the best case scenario for Liverpool, though Ronaldo will undoubtedly roam across the top of the formation. While many think of Ronaldo and visualize his laser shots from distance, he’s quite dangerous in 1v1 aerial battles as well as tight spaces inside the box.

Quite frankly, matches like this highlight why the Reds signed Virgil Van Dijk. And, opinion alert, human bowling ball Benzema and his Juggernaut-esque approach to attacking may be a unique challenge Liverpool has not seen outside of Romelu Lukaku.

Marcelo vs. Mohamed Salah

Marcelo is an unbelievably silky, savvy left back who uses an elite attacking skill set to keep the opposition’s entire right side off kilter.

In some ways he can be partially neutralized by the danger presented by Reds right wing Mo Salah, but Zidane isn’t going to tell Marcelo to camp out in his own end when left center back Sergio Ramos is the next man up to defend, one of the finest players of his generation.

So it’s on Salah to assert himself on the game, something that shouldn’t be a problem after a couple weeks away from match action.

Can Real defend Liverpool on the counter?

We’ve seen Liverpool expose a number of teams on the counter attack, and Real certainly has a handle on how to do the same.

But building on our second key, there’s danger for both sides when Marcelo or Dani Carvajal get up the pitch. When Liverpool regains the ball and attacks at pace, there are big choices to be made.

Say Marcelo is up the pitch. Now Ramos may have to take Salah and leave Roberto Firmino to Raphael Varane. Now Carvajal may be alone with Sadio Mane. It’s not that Carvajal or Marcelo cannot defend, but these are not situations anyone wants in a one-off.

And that’s the key for Liverpool, really. This is a one-off. Over two legs, it’s hard to imagine the Reds as constructed pulling off another heavily-outchanced two-leg win like it did against Manchester City. The answer to this counter question may be what tells the story in Kiev.

Ancelotti hired to end Napoli’s scudetto drought

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Is Carlo Ancelotti the right man to end Juventus’ seemingly ages-old hold on the scudetto?

Napoli hopes so, and has inked the former Real Madrid, Chelsea, and Bayern Munich boss to a three-year deal.

Ancelotti’s resume speaks for itself, and the hiring promises more Serie A drama after the Neapolitan club nearly got the job done this season under Maurizio Sarri.

[ MORE: Top takeaways from Emery’s Arsenal unveiling ] 

Ancelotti won scudetti as a player with Roma (1) and AC Milan (2), once more as a manager for the latter. He also led Milan to two Champions League crowns, winning the tournament with Real Madrid as well, while bringing league titles to Chelsea, Paris Saint-Germain, and Bayern Munich.

Napoli has finished Top 3 in six of eight seasons, finishing four points behind Juve this season. Juventus has won the last seven scudetti, and Napoli’s only title came in 1987.

The club announced the move after owner Aurelio De Laurentiis let go of Sarri, thanking the previous manager for three seasons of work which included a Serie A Coach of the Year Award and wins in 97 of 147 matches.

“I’d like to thank Maurizio Sarri for his valuable contribution to the Napoli cause. He brought joy and prestige to Naples and Napoli fans all over the world with an entertaining brand of football that drew praise from all quarters. Well done, Maurizio.”

Transfer Rumors: Seri to Arsenal; Vagnoman to Chelsea

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Nice’s Jean Seri is reportedly Unai Emery’s first target as Arsenal boss.

A report from the Daily Mail states that Seri, 26, is available for $46 million and although both Chelsea and Borussia Dortmund are interested, the Ivorian midfielder is a long-time target of the new Arsenal boss.

[ MORE: Top takeaways from Emery’s unveiling

Seri almost signed for Barcelona in the past and Emery tried to sign him in January while he was in charge of PSG.

The defensive midfielder is in the N'Golo Kante mould, but slightly more attack-minded than Kante. He has an incredible engine, exceptional reading of the game and is able to protect the ball while also starting attacks with surging runs on the ball. Yep, that’s the type of player who would thrive at Arsenal.

Seri’s arrival would also be much-needed following Santi Cazorla leaving after a two-year injury nightmare, plus Jack Wilshere out of contract on July 1 and likely to leave the Gunners. With Granit Xhaka‘s big-money arrival never quite working out, especially defensively, Seri could be a key part of the jigsaw in Emery’s rebuild as he can keep the ball and also spark the new high-pressing style the Spaniard wants to say.


Teenage defender Josha Vagnoman is being linked with a move to Chelsea, Arsenal and Everton, according to multiple outlets.

A report from ESPN states that the 17-year-old Hamburg full back (the second youngest player in Bundesliga history) will move on this summer and clubs across Europe are lining up to sign the German youth international as his contract with recently relegated Hamburg ends in July.

Vagnoman is interesting Borussia Dortmund, Bayern Munich and RB Leipzig but the report claims Arsenal have the edge due to their new head of recruitment, Sven Mislintat, keeping a close eye on his countryman over the years. Vagnoman is able to play left or right back.

Joining the likes of Arsenal, Bayern and Chelsea would likely mean a few years in the reserve squad for Vagnoman, while he could well play soon for either Dortmund or Leipzig given their penchant for giving youth a chance in their first team.

Argentina goalkeeper Romero out of World Cup with injury

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BUENOS AIRES, Argentina (AP) Argentina goalkeeper Sergio Romero will miss the World Cup because of a right knee injury.

The Argentine soccer federation says the Manchester United reserve may need surgery.

Romero was one of the three goalkeepers chosen by Argentina coach Jorge Sampaoli for the 23-player squad he will take to the World Cup in Russia. Franco Armani and Wilfredo Caballero were also named in the squad.

Romero was a starter for Argentina at the 2010 and 2014 World Cups.

The federation says Sampaoli will announce a substitute for Romero in the coming days.