Top five: Euro 2012 playmakers

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Quality in the final third can be the difference between success and failure, and international matches are often decided by the odd goal.

Most teams have goalscorers, capable of finding the net when given the opportunity, but not all are blessed with a playmaker talented enough to create such opportunities. These creative talents unlock the door, giving their team's poachers the chance to shine.

Such midfield maestros are difficult to find, and teams rightly place a premium on securing their services. Chelsea recently splashed out £32million to nab Eden Hazard, while Manchester United acquired the services of Borussia Dortmund's Shinji Kagawa.

But international teams have to rely on the randomness of birthplace, and fortunately for Europe's top nations, the continent is home to some of the world's best playmakers.

This summer, they will battle for the continent's top crown, and all the favourites to take home the trophy all have one thing in common; a world-class playmaker. GMF takes a look at the five best on show in Ukraine and Poland.


Germany - Mesut Ozil

Germany are blessed with a young, gifted and attacking team, spearheaded by their creator-in-chief, Mesut Ozil. The Real Madrid star is liable to torment opponents with soft slide-rule passes and slippery dribbles through compact penalty boxes, and the German international's form will be crucial to Joachim Low's side.

Low's goalkeeper, Manuel Neuer, described Ozil as his team's Cristiano Ronaldo, and more often than not - like the Portuguese star - Ozil is involved in any goal-scoring opportunities. Since moving to Madrid, Ozil has carried the weighty burden which comes with the tag of Zidane's successor, but the 23-year-old himself confessed he is coming off his best season yet.

Germany may find themselves in the Group of Death, but with Ozil in their ranks they remain capable of scoring in the blink of an eye. A lightning break, a breathtaking pass or a moment of magic is all it takes, and it is likely to be provided by the boots of Germany's number 10.

Spain - Andres Iniesta

Spain are blessed with the eternal gifts offered up to the national side by the La Masia academy at Barcelona. While fellow graduate Xavi tires opponents with his relentless keep-ball, Spain and Barca turn to Iniesta to strike the killer blow.

The 28-year-old is the ultimate match-winning performer. Spain's chief locksmith picked apart teams during Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010, making the Team of the Tournament on both occasions, and receiving the man of the match award for his World Cup-winning goal against Holland.

Spain's coach Vicente del Bosque described him as 'the complete footballer', possessing incredible balance, agility and ball control, and allowing the Nou Camp star to weave his way past statuesque defenders. For club and country he has earned the adulation of teammates and fans, and the nicknames 'The Illusionist' and 'The Brain'.

Like all great playmakers, Iniesta is completely unpredictable on the pitch, and defenders find it impossible to deal his unique combination of work rate and technical ability.

Holland - Wesley Sneijder

Holland have been criticised for deviating away from Total Football in recent years, but Sneijder embodies everything fans have come to love in a Dutch number 10.

Sharp, two-footed and strong as an ox, Sneijder is the fulcrum of a supremely talented Dutch side. The 27-year-old Inter star leads his team around the pitch like a guide, pointing his side's attackers into the right areas with immaculate passes and an unmatched vision.

At Euro 2008 and World Cup 2010, Sneijder was man of the match in more than half of Holland's games. This summer, expect him to be just as influential again.

France - Franck Ribery

France have a history of producing world-class attacking midfielders, and this team continues in that tradition. Hatem Ben Arfa, Samir Nasri and Mathieu Valbuena all excel in advanced positions, but Ribery is his country's most gifted performer.

The Bayern Munich man was described as the 'jewel in the French crown' by Zinedine Zidane, and the 27-year-old is a creative machine. Last year Ribery recorded the most assists in the Bundesliga, and has provided at least 10 assists each season since 2006.

If France are going to unpick a stingy looking England defence, it's a good bet that Ribery will be responsible. Principally based on the left flank, he often cuts inside to devastating effect. In Ukraine and Poland expect him to be central to the majority of France's attacking thrusts.

Croatia - Luka Modric

Luka Modric's considerable talents are well-known to Premier League fans, but this summer the Croatian gets an opportunity to showcase his ability on an international stage.

Since making his debut against Argentina in 2006, Modric has gone to become Croatia's most influential player. At Euro 2008 he flourished as Croatia reached the quarter-finals, but Slaven Bilic's side failed to reach World Cup 2010.

This summer, Croatia find themselves in a difficult group alongside Spain, Italy and Ireland, but the Spurs star has the quality to grace any of these teams, including the reigning European and World champions. Group C's European heavyweights will be expecting to qualify into the knock-out rounds, but Italian and Spanish fans might be surprised to see their possession-hogging teams without the ball for long periods against Croatia. And Modric will be the reason.

Who do you think is set to shine this summer. Ozil's younger teammates Mario Gotze and Marco Reus, or maybe Denmark's Cristian Eriksen or England's Ashley Young? Join the debate and leave your suggestion below...

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Hatem Ben Arfa
Ashley Young
Luka Modric
Samir Nasri

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