Those who have followed Euro 2008 on television may be surprised by some of the choices in our list of the top 30 players of the group stages.
Some players on the list have hardly been mentioned by commentators focused on the ball. We prefer to look at a player's overall body of work.
The best thing about having the privilege to be at the tournament is the opportunity to witness the thought processes and movement away from the ball that makes Europe's top players special.
For example, Dutch defensive midfielder Nigel De Jong is not a household name, especially when compared to the rest of the star-studded Netherlands squad. He hasn't scored any screaming goals and he won't make too many highlight reels. However, De Jong's play has been near-perfect, and the way he controlled the midfield against Italy and France allowed Holland to grab those two teams by the neck and never let go.
It should be no shock that the Dutch are heavily represented following their unbeaten run in the Group of Death. The list is topped by Wesley Sneijder, who made life miserable for both the World Cup champions and finalists with his vision and trickery.
THE EURO 2008 TOP 30
1. Wesley Sneijder, Netherlands. The Real Madrid star has been the heartbeat of the brilliant Dutch attacking machine.
2. Deco, Portugal. Chelsea's latest target ran the show against Turkey and the Czech Republic.
3. Luka Modric, Croatia. The young playmaker is emerging as an international star and was key in the win over Germany.
4. David Villa, Spain. His sensational hat trick showed why Europe's top clubs want him.
5. Fernando Torres, Spain. He was unhappy to be subbed in the first game but bounced back with a classy goal Saturday.
6. Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal. Ronaldo is not quite at his best but is still deadly and influential.
7. Nigel De Jong, Netherlands. Efficient and organized, De Jong has not placed a wrong foot from defensive midfield.
8. Ruud van Nistelrooy, Netherlands. No longer content to loiter upfield, van Nistelrooy is working harder than ever and showing an extra side to his game.
9. Arjen Robben, Netherlands. So tricky, so skillful – and such an attacking threat for the Dutch to take into the last eight.
10. Pepe, Portugal. He is a defensive rock, with the flair to make dangerous surges forward.
11. Lukas Podolski, Germany. The only German to show any real confidence or style. Much rests on Podolski's shoulders.
12. Andrei Arshavin, Russia. Imagine what the little Zenit St. Petersburg livewire could have done if he wasn't suspended for the first two games.
13. Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden. A world-class strike against Greece and the equalizer against Spain were his highlights of the tournament.
14. Dirk Kuyt, Netherlands. Kuyt is happy to play the role of work horse to the delight of a grateful Marco van Basten.
15. Franck Ribery, France. The Bayern Munich trickster was one of the few shining lights in a miserable French campaign.
16. Orlando Engelaar, Netherlands. He is relatively unknown internationally, but he forms a great partnership with De Jong.
17. Nihat Kahveci, Turkey. By holding his nerve when it counted, Nihat dramatically clinched a quarterfinal place for the never-say-die Turks.
18. Andre Ooijer, Netherlands. Ooijer has been solid as a rock at the back for the rampant Dutch.
19. Andres Iniesta, Spain. Imaginative and skilful, Iniesta could be key for Spain later in the tournament.
20. Giovanni Van Bronckhorst, Netherlands. He was magnificent against Italy but ran out of gas slightly in the France game.
21. David Silva, Spain. He gives the Spanish extra attacking options and links well with Villa and Torres.
22. Khalid Bouhlarouz, Netherlands. Yet another Dutch inclusion in the top 25, Bouhlarouz has been Euro 2008's best right back.
23. Gianluigi Buffon, Italy. Magnificent penalty save from Adrian Mutu kept Italy alive.
24. Artur Boruc, Poland. If not for Boruc's inspired efforts in goal, Poland's tourney could have ended without a point.
25. Michael Ballack, Germany. A great free kick booked Germany's place in the last eight.
26. Bogdan Lobont, Romania. His four great saves against Italy gave the Romanians a fighting chance of reaching the quarters.
27. Hakan Yakin, Switzerland. The Swiss star stepped up with three goals for the co-hosts, but it wasn't enough.
28. Edwin van der Sar, Netherlands. His quality contributions should not be forgotten among the Dutch wave of euphoria.
29. Yuri Zhirkov, Russia. He goes about his business quietly, but Zhirkov is a huge threat down the left for Guus Hiddink.
30. Joao Moutinho, Portugal. He does nothing spectacular but keeps the Portuguese midfield ticking.
- Nigel De Jong
- Wesley Sneijder