Luca Toni‘s topping the charts again… only this time, it isn’t very flattering. English tabloid The Sun just dished out another Top 10 list, regrouping the “Biggest flops” of this Summer’s Euro championship tournament. The Italy striker tops the list, despite receiving a pat on the back from Bayern Munich chairman Karl Heinz Rummenigge.
“It’s not [Toni's] fault if things didn’t go well, it’s Italy’s” said Rummenigge. “He was only served well in the game against France, he made mistakes but also won the penalty which changed the match. Against Spain he was very criticised, injustly: I did not see a single good pass played to him in that game to even have a chance of scoring. He was all alone, and he was missing Pirlo.” Still not enough for The Sun writers, and who can blame them? Going from 40 goals in his first season with Bayern to zero goals at Euro 2008 surely deserves some criticism…
Number 2 in the list is Chelsea and Czech Republic keeper Petr Cech, earning the spot thanks to his less-than-stellar performance vs. Turkey (Nihat Kahveci is still saying thank you). Completing the podium we find Barcelona and France defender Eric Abidal, who caused the penalty kick against Toni in the match vs. Italy, and the resulting red card that virtually cleared the road for the Azzurri’s victory.
In 4th spot, title holders Greece (knocked out in the first round), followed by Thierry Henry (“the man whose star continues to fade“) and Mario Gomez (“[Germany] were effectively playing with 10 men for their three group games“). At 7th spot are host countries Austria & Switzerland, for getting knocked out in the group stage “and barely raising a cheer from their own fans“.
Completing the “best of the worst” list, Fiorentina and Romania striker Adrian Mutu (who probably still hasn’t swallowed Buffon’s PK save), France’s Karim Benzema (a “wonderkid that failed to impress”) and the host TV broadcaster (for the power outage during the Germany-Turkey semi-final).
Here’s the full list with captions from The Sun article: .
Nº10: The Host Broadcaster
A massive electrical storm in Vienna saw Germany’s thrilling showdown with Turkey ruined for millions of armchair fans. At least 10 minutes of the rollercoaster semi-final was lost in the TV coverage, including Miroslav Klose’s goal.
Nº9: Karim Benzema
The France striker went into the tournament with a growing reputation as his country’s wonderkid. Fans were told he was the hottest property outside Italy, Spain and England. But Benzema failed to impress during his two dismal displays for the hopeless French.
Nº8: Adrian Mutu
The former Chelsea striker was tipped to pull up trees with underdogs Romania. And with a penalty against Italy, he was one kick away from sending his side into the quarter-finals. But Mutu fluffed his effort and Romania later tumbled out against Holland.
Nº7: The Co-Hosts
Austria and Switzerland were both among the first seeds for the tournament as the host nations but they barely raised a cheer for their own fans. Austria bowed out with a single draw, while Switzerland’s only points came against Portugal in a dead rubber following their own elimination.
Nº6: Mario Gomez
Germany’s route to the final was no mean feat — especially when you consider they were effectively playing with 10 men for their three group games. Gomez contributed next to nothing, with boss Joachim Low seeing sense in the quarter-finals to finally drop him.
Nº5: Thierry Henry
The man whose star continues to fade must take some of the stick for France’s disjointed campaign this month. Henry’s goal against Holland masked an ineffective showing, with his deflection against Italy condemning his side to an early exit from the group stages.
It seems a bit harsh for the surprise winners of Euro 2004 to be here but defeat in all three group games was truly woeful. And Greece’s arch-rivals Turkey rubbed the defending champions’ noses in it by reaching the semi-finals with a series of thrilling comebacks.
Nº3: Eric Abidal
Playing the world champions in a win-or-bust final group game is never easy, yet France did not help themselves. When defender Abidal chopped down Italy’s Luca Toni for a first-half penalty and straight red card, it was au revoir Les Bleus.
Nº2: Petr Cech
Leading 2-1 against Turkey with just two minutes left, Czech Republic had one foot in the quarter-finals— until Cech’s howler. The Chelsea keeper horribly fluffed a routine cross for the equaliser, before an injury-time winner sent his side packing.
Nº1: Luca Toni
The Italian hotshot came to the finals on the back of a golden season with Bayern Munich, notching 31 goals in the Bundesliga. But Toni endured a dreadful tournament, missing countless chances as well as looking like a man running through treacle.
. Agree with the list? Tell us what you think below.
Russia 0-3 Spain. Well Italy didn’t go out for nothing at least. Yet.
The ever-famous (or infamous, I guess it depends where you stand) tournament-chokers really made a statement on Thursday night. Getting three goals past your opponent in a Euro Semi-Finals cannot be ignored, even if that opponent was modest Russia (who in spite of being modest, was one of the most attractive and surprising teams of this tournament). In particular, what was even more remarkable is that Spain scored three goals without conceding any, a feat which against the likes of Andrei Arshavin and Roman Pavlyuchenko was far from being a bookie’s favorite.
So ¡enhorabuena! to La Furia Roja, this Euro 2008 final vs. Germany promises to be a tough and exciting battle. The only snag for Spain is that they may have to do it without David Villa (picking up a muscle strain today).
(From Gazzetta): VIENNA, 26 JUNE 2008 – A superb Spanish display sunk Russia on a very wet Thursday night, thanks to goals from Xavi, Güiza and Silva. Chants of “Viva España” rang around Vienna’s Ernst Happel stadium as Spanish fans witnessed their national side (who had gotten rid of Italy in the quarter-finals) first tame the Russians, and then finish them off in the second half with an incredible technical display. Hats off to “La Furia Roja” and their perfect team, epitomised by their slick movements and the individual genius of their stars. Cesc Fabregas was the key to the game as the young Arsenal genius came on in place of Villa in minute 35 and put all his class at the disposal of the team, namely in the shape of some sublime passing and two beautiful assists.
GAME OF CHESS – The wisdom of Luis Aragonés pitted against the enterprise of Guus Hiddink, or rather, Spain’s methodical school against Russia’s “mutant” one. Luis Aragones kept faith as always in his solid and fast 4-4-2 formation, which has earned the nickname of “windscreen wiper” in the Iberian peninsula (as it does away with anything in its path). Hiddink meanwhile may well be a mercenary, but when he puts his hands to the job he can certainly work miracles, and the Dutch tactician made only one unexpected change with regards to pre match predictions, preferring Ivan Saenko to Bilyaletdinov, who took his place up front beside Andrei Arshavin -Russia’s new prodigal son with a whole nation at his feet.
SKIRMISHES – Nerves got the better of Hiddink’s youngsters however, as the more experienced Spain attacked and pressed. On 6 minutes Fernando Torres turned well in the area and fired a shot at Igor Akinfeev, who let the ball slip out of his arms. Then again on 11 minutes David Villa fired a thunderbolt from outside the area, stinging the hands of Russia’s number one. The Russian alarm bells ringing. Hiddink was forced to raise his voice to reorganise his side and get them back into the game, and it seemed as Russia got the message when Roman Pavlyuchenko hit a well-struck free-kick from the edge of the area just over the bar (minute 16).
BALANCE – This was certainly not the same Russian side that annihilated Holland in the previous round, but Hiddink’s men did well to close their ranks and leave the opposition with limited space to exploit. Yuri Zhirkov’s tactical acumen provided Russia’s biggest threat as the fullback was given licence to push down the wing and instigate Russia’s attacks. Spain became less adventurous as the half progressed and also had a couple of close shaves. On 31 minutes, Pavlyuchenko had the Russian fans celebrating prematurely as Casillas just got a fingertip to the striker’s scorcher, only to send the ball agonisingly wide. On 34 minutes Villa picked up an injury and forced Aragonés to bring on Cesc Fabregas in replacement, and the Arsenal youngster immediately added quality to Spain’s play by positioning himself behind Torres.
Meanwhile, the rain was not showing any signs of relenting and made the players more heavy-legged, but this didn’t seem to affect the frequency of goalscoring opportunities. Indeed, on 35 minutes Pavlyuchenko controlled the ball with his chest just a couple of yards away from Casillas, but just as the Russian striker was preparing to shoot Carles Puyol managed to get a tackle in. Then it was Torres’s turn, as “El Niño” had Spanish fans on their feet through a clever dummy and shot in the area, only for Akinfeev to save the Liverpool striker’s effort.
DOWN WITH THE MASKS – After all the calculating and caution of the first half, the second half closed the door to such tactics: indeed, it only took 5 minutes past kick-off for Spain to open the score. Andrés Iniesta broke down the left and played in the perfect ball for Xavi, who drove an unsaveable shot past Akinfeev. 1-0 Spain.
Russia tried to reply by unleashing that high tempo of theirs, but in the process opened up space for the opposition to exploit and Torres came close to doubling his team’s lead, after some sublime passing between Silva and Fabregas. Conceding Xavi’s goal really had stunned the Russians. In the end in all came down to a question of experience, which Hiddink’s men were made to pay for their lack of. Diniyar Bilyaletdinov and Dmitriy Sychev came on for Semshov and Saenko, but not even fresh legs were enough for Russia as Spain now controlled the game and created chance after chance, taking full advantage of a weak and scared-looking Russia.
Spain also made a double substitution, with Dani Güiza and Xabi Alonso coming on for Torres and Xavi, thus giving fresh legs and power to the team. An explosive and lively Spain then proceeded to totally outclass the opposition, as Marcos Senna coordinated the midfield and the wingers revelled in the space afforded to them. Then came Guiza’s goal and Spain’s second, as Cesc Fabregas beautifully touched the ball on for the striker, who sent the Russians packing with a lob over the keeper. 2-0 Spain.
But Fabregas was not done yet. As if to say to Aragonés “You left me on the bench? Now I’ll show you!”, the Spanish youngster exploited a good Spanish counter-attack and played another perfect cross for David Silva, who completed the rout with a third. 3-0 Spain, and what a Spain, were thus in the Euro 2008 final.
“President Giancarlo Abete on Wednesday met with national coach Roberto Donadoni in the FIGC headquarters. In the course of the meeting, as already announced, they reviewed the work carried out in the last two years and how the European Championships had panned out.“
“While confirming to Donadoni sincere personal admiration and appreciation for the reliability and skilled professional work which marked his time at the helm of the national side, president Abete also communicated to the coach the FIGC’s decision not to renew the contract.”
“Marcello Lippi will return to guide the Italian football national team. FIGC president Giancarlo Abete has appointed Lippi as Roberto Donadoni’s successor for the Italian manager job. Lippi will be presented on Tuesday July 1, in a press conference held in Rome.”
Marcello is back. All hail Marcello.
With that said, some credit must go to Roberto Donadoni.
I (almost) always supported the Don’s choices during these last two years (or at least tried to justify them somehow, even when it was extremely hard) but all things considered, I have to admit that his coaching experience was probably insufficient to guide Italy to a major tournament. Ultimately, that’s what caused the Azzurri’s downfall at Euro 2008, and even though we did only lose in penalties, the type of play we exhibited throughout the tournament was far from being extraordinary. When you have the likes of Buffon, Pirlo, and Toni on the team, you’re expected to do much much more.
Now, the Don has stepped down and Marcello Lippi is back, which can only mean good things for Italy, but one thing is certain about Roberto Donadoni: he may not be a brilliant tactical mind, but he is one hell of a gentleman:
He is not getting a cent from being fired. When he and Abete discussed contract renewals before the tournament, he specifically refused any monetary compensation should his contract be terminated.
For someone who (for two years straight) always has had to live in Marcello Lippi’s shadow, Donadoni was always very graceful about it. Even when they asked to comment on his successor (before Lippi was announced) he said: “The press has been talking about Lippi for the past two years, I am not here to tell others how to behave. (…) I did not ask Abete whether he had met with Lippi, everyone is free to decide as they please. I’m not going to comment on others’ behaviours, I don’t want to be lacking in tact“.
Thank you Donadoni, no hard feelings and best of luck in your future coaching endeavors.
Germany 3-2 Turkey. Fatih Terim and his Turkish team are out of Europe: the comeback kings just ran out of miracles on Wednesday night, in a match during which, ironically and all things considered, they were the better team on the field.
In the days preceding the match, everyone thought Germany would have a very easy Semi-final against a Turkish side decimated by suspension and injury, but the tournament favorites (according to outright bookie odds) seemed lazy, unprepared, and a shadow of their former selves, aka the convincing & effective team which beat Portugal in the Quarter-finals. It wasn’t perhaps too surprising therefore, based on the initial 15 minutes, to see Turkey actually take the lead in this game (if only for a few minutes).
Yet, that must have brought them some bad luck because ever since their second group stage game, Turkey had built their team’s momentum on come-from-behind victories, and on Wednesday night, the tables were turned as Germany earned their ticket to the Euro 2008 final thanks to a 90th minute Philipp Lahm scorcher.
(From Gazzetta): BASEL (Switzerland), 25 June 2008 – Germany have booked their place in the final of Euro 2008 and are well in line to claim their fourth European crown of their illustrious history. The favourites to reach the final before the games even started have certainly lived up to expectations, but the manner with which they have achieved their feat has not exactly been straightforward. Indeed Terim’s Turkey, 3-2 losers on the night, dominated the first half and were only beaten by a 90th minute Lahm masterstroke. A taste of their own medicine perhaps for a Turkey side that on the way to the semi-finals of these championship beat a host of sides – namely Switzerland, Czech Republic and Croatia – thanks to last minute comebacks.
Germany, who knocked out the Turks by the same score line with which they had dispatched the Portuguese in the quarter-finals, now await the winner from the other semi-final – to be played between Russia and Spain – for the final meeting on Sunday. Germany cannot perhaps boast the most talented players in Europe in their squad, but they are certainly the ones that commit the least amount of errors. They also know how to withstand pressure without succumbing to it, and have a knack for winning thanks in no small part to their resolute character.
ON FIRE TURKEY – Turkey started the game extremely brightly in spite of their numerous absentees through suspension and injury. Terim really managed to instil the belief in his players that an upset was more than plausible, but were perhaps the only ones to believe so (the bookies especially, made Germany odds on favourite to claim the victory). However, what should have been an apparent formality for Joachim Löw’s men turned out instead to be a really difficult game, with the Germans themselves also contributing to their own downfall.
Indeed an error from Lahm gave Hamit Altintop (who plays his club football for Bayern) the first real chance to give Turkey the lead, which Jens Lehmann did well to save. Turkey continued to apply pressure, as Kazim Kazim (or Colin Kazim-Richards, whichever you prefer) also saw his close range effort hit the bar and Semih Sentürk put a low shot just wide of the front post.
Then on 22 minutes Turkey finally claimed their richly deserved opening goal, Ugur Boral scoring from short range after Kazim had just hit the bar for a second time. It was Boral’s first goal for his nation and what a moment to score it as, in conceding the goal, Lehmann showed all the uncertainty of his age. 1-0 Turkey.
UNYELDING GERMANS – Germany really looked to be struggling at this point, but they soaked up the Turkish pressure without succumbing to it and eventually re-emerged from the storm, as Bastian Schweinsteiger put Germany back on level terms with the Nationalmannschaft’s first shot on net. And a beautiful goal it was too, as Schweinsteiger stole in front of everyone to deftly touch home Lukas Podolski’s cross from the left with the outside of his right boot. 1-1.
The goal was a lifeline out of nowhere for Löw’s men and they immediately grabbed it with both hands, but Germany yet continued to struggle against an animated Turkish side, who was repeatedly breaching the German defence with the greatest of ease, and peppered Lehmann’s goal with shots from all sides. The Germans however were really dangerous on the counter and Podolski, so far impeccable in this European championship, someone managed to put the ball over the bar with only Rustu to beat.
The half thus ended with the scores even, both sides contributing to a pleasant and high tempo contest with many chances, even if these were more the result of errors than good build up play. Turkey for their part certainly deserved more.
A GOAL A PIECE – The second half began at a more measured pace with the game now a more balanced affair. A couple of dubious episodes followed as Lahm was first fouled close to the Turkish box - only for Swiss referee Massimo Busacca to wave away the German appeals – before Lahm himself appeared to hold back Kazim on the other side of the pitch. Then came the goals, as Germany took the lead for the first time when Miroslav Klose headed in Lahm’s cross from the left (Turkey talisman keeper Rüştü Reçber was the guilty party here, for failing to claim the ball after rushing off his line), before Semih Sentürk levelled the scoring for a second time as he slotted home Sabri’s cross from the right (Lehmann the obvious culprit this time, beaten on his front post). 2-1 Germany and 2-2 in quick succession.
DECISIVE LAHM – Just as extra time seemed inevitable, Germany scored a last gasp winner in the 90th minute to decide the contest. And it was all Philipp Lahm‘s doing as the Bayern Munich player first skipped past a man, exchanged a one-two with Hitzlsperger, before racing in the area and showing remarkable composure to fire the ball past Rustu in the near top corner. It was the goal to send Germany to the final of Euro 2008. 3-1 Germany the final score, bravo Deutschland!
Italian sports newspaper Gazzetta dello Sportrated the Azzurri players at the end of their European adventure. Along with Gigi Buffon, positive scores were obtained by Chiellini and Grosso. All the strikers flunked the test, while some midfielders could have done better. The overall form however, was never great.
VIENNA (Austria), 24 June 2008 – The best? Gigi Buffon. Our European campaign won’t leave any great memories, but once again everyone’s talking about the Azzurri keeper. On Sunday evening at the Ernst Happel stadium in Vienna, there was a heated debate in the press over whose skills were better: the Azzurri captain’s or Iker Casillas‘. A duel right down to the last save, but even though the Real Madrid keeper managed a miracle on Camoranesi’s close-range effort and saved two of the Azzurri shots from the spot, the Juventus nº1 still seems have the edge as World’s best. When accounts are settled, Buffon remains the guiding thread of the Italian national side, and a certain starting point for the next World Cup in 2010.
Riddled with shots by Holland, not even Superman himself could have held out with no protection in front of him. Then came the Mutu penalty save, other fabulous interventions, and the hope he gave Italy fans by saving Guiza’s spot-kick during the shootout. What more could he have done?
An understudy, as he knew he would be. Impeccable in training, he provided Donadoni’s cement to unite the group.
Morgan DE SANCTIS
Like Amelia he had no hopes of playing, but he kept his concentration up; a professional.
It wasn’t the Championship he was dreaming of. After an inadequate start against Holland on the left, the new AC Milan recruit became productive on the right side. Then there was that error against Romania which led to Mutu’s goal. Against Spain he couldn’t fully display his abilities.
Four games out of four; the message to Spalletti is loud and clear. He gave his best playing in the centre.
Exceptional against Spain, he played a true veteran’s game. At the end of the Championship the youngster can be certain of his starting place in the national team. At the heart of the defence, he was relentless. A Cannavaro nº2.
He had no chance to show off his qualities; important in training at Casa Azzurri.
Unlucky; a jinxed European Championship, like Cannavaro. Only one performance against Holland to his name, and one he will want to forget very soon.
Overwhelmed by the orange tide, he paid the price for a mediocre season with Inter, one which started too late.
As ever, he tracked along the wing for the Azzurri. With him the national side relived moments of World Cup glory, and against Spain he once again showed a cool head for penalties.
He was thrown into the mix against Spain too hastily. Out of his element, almost lost, he couldn’t achieve his potential.
Curse that stupid yellow card against France. A bad start against Holland, then continuous improvement. Without him, the team lost its direction and its decisive touch. Irreplaceable.
Out of form (and it showed) but he never held back. The absence of his weight in midfield was felt in Vienna.
Daniele DE ROSSI
Among the best players of the championship, though he had some problems against Spain. Unfortunate to miss his penalty, but the Roma player, who is always willing to take a spot kick, was suffering a muscle problem.
Once he came on, the match against Spain took a new turn; perhaps if he’d played from the start things would have been different. Improved throughout the tournament, with a great goalscoring chance and a perfect penalty.
Out of form, and against Spain it really showed. On the other hand there wasn’t much more he could do, lacking support from Toni and Cassano.
His usual combative self in midfield, providing the spirit and pressure of the team, and creating depth of play.
The mystery of the tournament. Heavy and ungainly, he never achieved acceptable form. Though he did win the penalty against France and Abidal’s resulting red card, not enough by LucaBomber standards.
With Toni so out of sorts, he might have provided the added edge that was needed; a real shame.
Antonio DI NATALE
Coming on against Spain, he revitalised play as only he knows how, making up for his poor start against the Dutch with several crosses and going close to goal. Shame about the penalty.
Only played a few minutes; he deserved more of a chance too.
At the end of the day, another disappointment after much promise. Only the good performance against France remains to his credit, but in Vienna a more practical and less flashy Cassano was needed.
Alessandro DEL PIERO
He had a great chance against Romania and messed it up. Absent.
Do you agree with Gazzetta’s ratings? Let us know in the comments.
I’ll get you started: I would give Camoranesi and Ambrosini 6.0 (not 6.5). Ambro did his job but made a few mistakes too many, and Camoranesi had a fairly okay game vs. Spain (and good penalty) but really not much else before that. In his defense, Donadoni was playing him as center attacking midfielder, not exactly his ideal position.
Finally, too generous on Di Natale (5.5 for me) since the Udinese striker was absent vs. Netherlands and seemed too psychologically affected by the boos vs. Spain. And too harsh on Cassano and Del Piero (an extra 0.5 for me), even though I will agree that a lot more was expected from them.