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Euro 2012: The verdict from our Experts’ Network – Croatia to Holland | Marcus Christenson

July 2, 2012


Our experts deliver their verdicts on best and worst players, best and worst moments and rate the ir teams’ overall performance


Our best player The real star of this team was the manager, Slaven Bilic. He made the players better, prepared them in the best possible way – both physically and psychologically – and made a series of clever tactical calls to extract the maximum from a good, but not great team.

Most disappointing player Eduardo – but only because he didn’t get enough chances to play, which obviously wasn’t his fault. I thought he really could have made an impact at this tournament, which would have been thoroughly deserved considering he missed the last Euros, when he had been at the top of his game, because of a terrible injury.

Our best moment Luka Modric’s breakout run and fantastic outside-of-the-foot cross for Ivan Rakitic‘s chance against Spain. It was the moment when, as Arsène Wenger observed, Croatia made Spain look human again.

Worst moment A few minutes from time in the match against Spain, when we were not awarded a penalty despite a blatant foul on Vedran Corluka in the box.

Overall rating and a look ahead: 8/10. Croatia performed really well and left a good impression. Unfortunately, they were unable to get the result they wanted. The only below-par performance was in the first half against Italy, when the team looked really bad, but then Slaven Bilic unexpectedly changed the formation and turned the game around.

People mocked Bilic when he said he wanted to win the Euros. But after seeing Italy and Spain reach the final, that no longer seems to have been entirely crazy: Croatia handled both teams very well and could have won both of those games.

Croatia should build on the atmosphere within the team, which has been really good, for the 2014 World Cup qualifiers . All of the guys who played at this tournament should be available and that’s a great advantage, but the new manager, Igor Stimac, should also look to introduce a few youngsters – especially at the defensive end, where Croatia has very few options.

Stimac is a completely different character to Bilic. He has very little coaching experience and it is hard to say how he will fare at this level. But what really worries me is the overall situation in Croatian football: problems with corruption and heavily neglected at grassroots level for years. That is no environment for talent to come through so I really dread the long-term future of Croatian football.

Player of the tournament Andrea Pirlo

Words by Aleksandar Holiga,

Czech Republic

Our best player Petr Jiracek. Th e energetic midfielder showed that he has truly recovered after the first six difficult months at Wolfsburg with an early goal against Greece and did not look back after that. He adapted well to a new position on the right side of midfield and scored another crucial goal against Poland.

Most disappointing player Our 12th player: the fans. The comparison might be harsh but when the Irish fans were supporting their team despite the heavy defeat against Spain, the Czech players must have felt bitter. Their own fans turned against them right after the defeat against Russia and whistled at Michal Bilek and Milan Baros even before the second game against Greece. Their support improved after that but it was still a poor show.

Our best moment The afternoon before the last group game against co-hosts Poland. People in Wroclaw really warmed to the Czechs and I’ve never experienced such a friendly atmosphere before such a cruc ial game. The Wroclaw marketplace was full of Czech and Polish fans, singing together, hugging each other and wishing one another well. It was a footballing Woodstock.

Worst moment The moment in the first half of the game against Greece when someone kicked Tomas Rosicky’s achilles. He did not play in the tournament again – a huge blow to the team’s chances.

Overall performance and a look ahead: 6/10. Despite the heavy defeat in their first game against Russia, the Czechs got what they came for: a place in the quarter-finals. Their game lacked invention and was not very easy on the eye at times (partly because of Rosicky’s injury), but the team showed great determination and fighting spirit to overcome Greece and Poland to finish top of the group.

Several of the younger players made an impact – Jiracek, Vaclav Pilar, Theodor Gebre Selassie or David Limbersky – which gives the team hope goin g into the World Cup qualifying campaign. On the other hand, the quarter-final against Portugal showed that the Czechs still lack the experience and the skill to compete with the best. They will certainly gain the former, but the prevailing feeling is that the pool of players lack the quality to provide the latter.

The main task for Bilek, who has had his contract extended until 2014, is to unveil find a goalscorer, especially now that Milan Baros has retired from international football. The coach believed in the striker despite the fact that he was just a shadow of the attacking beast he was in 2004. Those who deputised for him at the Euros are not up to the task yet and with Tomas Necid’s knee problems, there is a shortage of strikers with international experience.

On the other side, Tomas Hubschman, a player whose international career was seemingly nearing its end, proved that he is still the best holding midfielder. When he was selected against Greece he gave the midfield a sense of security and was constantly showing that, at 30, his passing and overall game are still improving.

So the outlook must not be as bleak as the first paragraph of this section might have suggested. The team have made constant progress since last year and if the Czechs keep that up they might be the dark horses of a World Cup qualifying group that includes Italy and Denmark.

Player of the tournament Andrea Pirlo

Words by Michal Petrak, Denik Sport


Our best player Daniel Agger showed the experience you can expect from a regular in Liverpool’s line-up. A real warrior.

Most disappointing player Big clubs have been sniffing around Christian Eriksen for quite some time now but if they followed him at Euro 2012 he may end up somewhere like, er, Rangers.

Our best moment Michael Krohn-Dehli’s goal that virtually sent Holland home. They way Krohn-Dehli split the Dutch defence and coolly slotted the ball between Maarten Stekelenburg’s legs was truly exquisite.

Worst moment When Simon Busk Poulsen should have made himself big as an oak tree against Portugal he seemed to turn into a bamboo stick, letting Silvestre Varela score the deciding goal. If only …

Overall performance and a look ahead: 7/10. For a small country such as Denmark, finishing third in the group of death is perfectly acceptable. We even came close to pipping Portugal to second place, something no one would have expected before the tournament.

The future looks bright for the World Cup qualifiers. Most of the Danish players are young and more and more of them are playing at reasonably big clubs in Europe. If Eriksen begins to fulfil the expectations and Nicklas Bendtner continues his positive form it does not look all too bad. A group of Italy, The Czech Republic, Bulgaria, Malta and Armenia sounds hard but us Danes have done OK in hard groups before…

Player of the tournament Andrea Pirlo

Words by Thomas Lund Hansen, Jyllands-Posten


Our best player Steven Gerrard will never hit his Liverpool heights in an England shirt, but he was disciplined in every game, eschewing his natural Hollywood tendencies for the good of the team. And he was a genuine and decent captain. He didn’t start any mutinies against the manager, for a start.

Most disappointing player Wayne Rooney always takes a while to get back up to speed a fter returning to any team, and nothing changed here. Allowing him to bugger off to Vegas before the tournament may not have been Roy’s finest decision.

Our best moment Danny Welbeck’s adroit flick against Sweden pips Andy Carroll’s powerful header. A nod to Theo Walcott in the same match, too, if only because the developing pattern suggests he won’t be doing that again for another three years.

Worst moment Andrea Pirlo’s penalty, the most humiliating slap-down in the history of penalty shootouts.

Overall performance and a look ahead: 5/10 England, a couple of lax moments against Sweden apart, looked fairly solid at the back. On the whole. Still, it’s not much of a philosophy to take forward. England were outclassed and embarrassed against Italy, and Hodgson will need to inject some creative verve into the team – or the criticisms and expectations that saw him succumb at Liverpool will soon engulf hi m here too.

Player of the tournament Mario Balotelli

Words by Scott Murray


Our best player I guess that Yohan Cabaye and Hugo Lloris were the best players of the French national team at the Euros. They were the most consistent and maybe the only ones that played at their highest level during the whole tournament. Jérémy Ménez was good against Ukraine, Laurent Koscielny was good against Spain, but only Cabaye and Lloris were good in all their games.

Most disappointing player Maybe Samir Nasri. He played well against England but had a personal vendetta against the French journalists and that made him completely lose his focus. He was not able to deal with the pressure and there were a lot of people who were just waiting for him to make a mistake. Nasri can clearly be a difficult character but he does not deserve such a hate from the French people a nd media.

Our best moment The victory against Ukraine. I have no choice …

Worst moment The defeat against Swedeneven if I love Zlatan Ibrahimovic more than any of the players of the French national team …

Overall performance and a look ahead: 5/10. France got out of the group but were then beaten by Spain in a very tactical encounter. It was not as terrible as the 2010 World Cup but it was only marginally better. Laurent Blanc has stepped down and, despite there being a lot of expectation ahead of Euro 2012, we start from scratch again for the World Cup qualifiers. There are several young French players around, but the new manager will need to make them play as a team. And we’ve only got Spain in our World Cup qualifying group.

Player of the tournament Andrea Pirlo

Words by Franck Annese, So Foot


Our best player Sami Khedira was the fulcrum of this Germany side. While Bastian Schweinsteiger was searching for his best form, the babyfaced Khedira played powerfully and without compromises. He was hard to beat in defence and drove his team forward in attack. His goal against Greece was a symbol for his appearances at this tournament: strong, elegant and unpredictable.

Most disappointing player Thomas Müller. After the 2010 World Cup 201o everyone believed that he would become the future leader of the national team. After this Bundesliga-season and the Euros, however, everyone knows that there are several alternatives for his position: for example Marco Reus, André Schürrle, Mario Götze.

Our best moment The win against Greece, with Marco Reus and André Schürrle coming in to take the 2004 champions apart. The goals were superb as well.

Worst moment Unquestionably the defeat against Italy when so much hope had been built up.

Overall performance and a look ahead: 7/10. After the 2010 World Cup 2010 everyone knew how strong the German team was. We wanted the title but in the end Jogi Löw and the boys just made it through to the semifinal. They did, however, play some exciting football. I grew up in the 70s and 80s so it is still a luxurious position for me.

So please excuse me but I find it hard to criticise the team. There are enough good players in the squad and the coach has a big enough squad to rotate his first XI. Löw showed he had the courage to make changes: That was modern; it was surprising; and it was good to see.

But on the other hand we did not reach the final. That is disappointing, because our expectations were bigger than reaching just the semis. I’m looking forward to the World Cup qualifiers because we had the youngest team at the Euros and I am sure it still has a golden future.

Player of the tournament Mario Balotelli

Words by Tim Jürgens, 11Freunde


Our best player Kyriakos Papadopoulos, without a shadow of a doubt. He was only supposed to get a few minutes of play in the tournament but with Avraam Papadopoulos injured and Sokratis Papastathopoulos getting sent off, Papadopoulos came in and ensured that the foundations of the Greek defence remained solid. He is only 20 years old but he looks set to feature for years to come. A possible future captain.

Most disappointing player Kostas Chalkias. The 36-year-old goalkeeper was supposed to offer the calmness and stability because of his experience but instead became a liability for the Greek defence . Twenty-five minutes into the second game against the Czechs, with Greece 2-0 down, Chalkias asked to be a substituted because of a minor injury, at least having the clear mind to not burden his team further. He narrowly beat Jose Holebas to the biggest disappointment of the Greek team.

Best moment Russia are outplaying Greece but then Giorgos Karagounis picks up the ball outside the box, powers through their defence and applies a brutal finish to put Greece ahead and into the quarter-finals.

Worst moment Sami Khedira scoring for Germany six minutes after the George Samaras had equalised for Greece.

Overall performance and a look ahead In terms of football style: 5/10. In terms of success: 8/10. It is Greece’s second most successful campaign, after the win at Euro 2004. Overall, though, Euro 2012 was a success. The team is currently going through a tra nsition with the veterans of 2004 retiring and the younger players getting more and more responsibilities on and off the pitch.

What the team needs moving forward is to keep Fernando Santos as coach (already done – he signed his new contract a day before the Quarter-final) and giving key roles to younger players such as Vassilis Torosidis, Sotiris Ninis, Avraam Papadopoulos, Giannis Maniatis, Kyriakos Papadopoulos, Sokratis Papastathopoulos, Giorgos Tzavellas, Costas Mitroglou, Ioannis Fetfatzidis and Michalis Sifakis in order for them to mature and guide Greece to Brazil.

Player of the tournament Andrea Pirlo

Words by Stavros Drakoularakos,


Our best player Wesley Sneijder. He was the only “big name” who delivered, on the pitch and off the pitch. Talking to the media, he did not come up with any excuses for Holland’s failure, was tough in his criticism of the team and said sorry to all the Dutch fans.

Most disappointing player John Heitinga. Holland started the tournament with problems in defence – and it did not get better as the tournament went on. We lack a world-class central defender with the strength and pace like Jaap Stam in his best days, but Heitinga was Everton’s player of the year.

Our best moment The goal from Rafael van der Vaart against Portugal was a beautifully placed, curling shot into the top corner. An act that contrasted with everything else Holland did.

Worst moment Denmark, Germany and Portugal all scored their first goals against Holland in the second quarter of the game (between minutes 15 and 30) and in all three matches it was “game over” immediately.


Overall performance and a look ahead: 3/10 Bert van Marwijk and his players started Euro 2012 as World Cup finalists, but they never came close to making it to the final again. The problems were everywhere. It started before the tournament, with an awful game against Bulgaria, in which Robin van Persie played at right wing and did not link up well with Klaas-Jan Huntelaar, who played up front. That game drove the rivalry between the two strikers to the maximum. Later that week Van Marwijk told Huntelaar that Van Persie would be his first choice up front for the tournament, and after that decision Huntelaar did nothing in favour of the team anymore. Maybe it had been better if he had been sent home before the first game.

In all three games Holland started well but after the first goal of the opponents, the team broke into two parts. Up front creative players such as Wesley Sneijder, Van Persie and Arjen Robben wanted to press but in midfield and at the back players such as Mark van Bommel, Nigel de Jong and John Heitinga wanted to sit back and control the game. Where teams such as Spain attack and defend with only 35 meters distance between the deepest striker and the last defender, Holland played most of the time with 50 or 60 meters between attack and defence.

The result was a lot of frustrations between the players. In 2010 in South Africa, Holland were a “team” for six weeks in total. Now they were a collection of individuals. Van Marwijk should perhaps have done more to avoid this, but he trusted his big players, thinking that they would solve problems themselves, knowing that this was the last opportunity for a very skilful generation of world-class players to win a big tournament.

Ten days after Holland went home with their worst result in history (three defeats and no points), Van Marwijk decided to quit after four years. His successor should be someone who makes harsh decisions. For Example: Hunte laar or Van Persie in the team. Not both. And maybe decide to end the international careers of players such as Van der Vaart, who will be 31 by the time of the next World Cup. During the last two tournaments Van der Vaart (99 caps in total) has only been a substitute.

Holland have a friendly against Belgium on 15 August. The World Cup qualifiers start in September with Holland playing their three biggest rivals (Turkey, Romania and Hungary) in the first four matches.

Player of the tournament Sergio Ramos

Words by Maarten Wijffels, Algemeen Dagblad Read More


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