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5 Best Goals at Euro 2012
Sunday - 7/1/2012, 9:42am EDT
AP Sports Columnist
KIEV, Ukraine (AP) - Heading into Sunday's European Championship final between Spain and Italy, 72 goals had been scored by the 16 teams that took part. Here's our pick of the top five (hoping, of course, that goals in the final might be even better):
DANNY WELBECK'S FLICK
The Manchester United forward scored only once for England at Euro 2012, but his goal was brilliant for its cunning and exquisite timing. With England and Sweden tied at 2 in the 78th minute of their June 15 group stage match, winger Theo Walcott sent in a cross. His back to the goal, Welbeck met the ball with his right leg and flicked it behind him with his heel, stunning Sweden goalkeeper Andreas Isaksson. A top-five selection because the 21-year-old Welbeck's execution was astounding and the goal secured the win for England.
ZLATAN IBRAHIMOVIC'S FAREWELL
Sweden was already eliminated when it played France on June 19 in Group D, but its towering frontman was determined to go out with a bang. With a roundhouse kick Bruce Lee would have been proud of, Ibrahimovic met Sebastian Larsson's cross and threw himself nearly sideways in the air to volley the ball with his right foot past Hugo Lloris.
SUBLIME DAVID SILVA
Controlling the ball 12 yards out, the nippy Spain midfielder faced a seemingly impenetrable wall of three Ireland defenders blocking his route to goal. So he improvised, dancing right then left before hitting the ball with pinpoint precision past one defender, through the legs of two others, and beyond goalkeeper Shay Given. It was Spain's second goal in a 4-0 Group C win on June 14. Laser-like.
SPAIN'S ONLY LAPSE
The same team Spain will face on Sunday, Italy, was also the only team that managed to score against the world and defending European champions at Euro 2012. Antonio Di Natale's chip past Iker Casillas in the 61st minute of their opening Group C match on June 10 wasn't the prettiest goal of Euro 2012, but it's a top five pick for its rarity.
Having the gall to softly chip a penalty over a diving goalkeeper, rather than firing to his left or right, is such the height of cool that this technique is named after its pioneer, Antonin Panenka. He used it to win the 1976 European Championship for Czechoslovakia against West Germany in a penalty shootout. At Euro 2012, Andrea Pirlo did it in Italy's quarterfinal shootout victory over England, and Sergio Ramos performed a "panenka" to help defending champion Spain beat Portugal in their semifinal penalty shootout. Brave.
(Copyright 2012 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)