As we gear up for the quarter finals stage of the European Championships we are beginning to turn pencil to ink when it comes to formulating our team of the tournament selections.
However, with the last eight imminent it is a time for reflection. Enough of the tournament has been played that we can get a very good assessment of nearly every player we’ve watched – superstar or an diamond in the rough. Gareth Bale, Dimitri Payet and Jerome Boateng have all but cemeted their place as part of the best XI for the tournament.
But what of the others? The ones who promised so much but ultimately fell flat for one reason or another. Well it’s not an XI but I give to you the top ten players who disappointed at Euro 2016. Granted the tournament is not over yet but at this stage it would take quite a lot for these ten names to turn their tournament around.
- David Alaba, Austria
Austria were the cliché Dark Horse in the tournament and their superstar was one of Europe’s brightest in Bayern Munich left back Alaba. Unfortunately, much like the rest of the squad, the promising defender endured a miserable campaign. Often played in midfield he looked like a fish out of water and desperate to return to his more familiar full back role. Coming off after just over an hour against Portugal Alaba did not look fit. His campaign ended with the ultimate wretchedness of Iceland snatching a victory from Austria in the 94th minute to leave the Austrians rock bottom of Group F.
- Romelu Lukaku, Belgium
He has two goals to his name and ran a mock against the Republic of Ireland. However by enlarge the bruising Belgian has not had much to smile about these Euros. With the Everton forward angling for a move to one of Europe’s elite clubs this was seen as the perfect shop window for him to showcase his abilities against the best in the world.
Unfortunately for Lukaku he didn’t get off to a flying start against Italy: often making the wrong runs, inability to hold the ball up and wayward shots were the key ingredients which led to a cocktail of boos when he was eventually substituted for Divock Origi with 73 minutes played.
While Lukaku could still turn things around with Belgium still in the tournament his performances have fallen flat for a striker that often promises so much.
- Arda Turan, Turkey
The Barcelona man has endured a mixed year. Having to wait until January for his Barca debut due to their transfer ban and then finding the net only twice in 18 appearances. The former Atletico Madrid midfielder would have been hoping for a successful European Championships to kick start his 2016/17 season but as the old saying goes: “Hope into one hand and spit into the other and see which one fills up first.” Turan – along with the rest of his Turkey teammates is has to be said – had a hard time in Group D.
The Turkish trequatista struggled to impact his nation’s attacking play. While it was always going to be a tough ask against opponents with such pedigree as Spain and Croatia we all expected more from a player who has played well consistently.
- Will Grigg, Northern Ireland
He didn’t play a single minute. Forget stats, the eye test analysis and all the rest. Tha man that had his own song, had Eric Cantona sing that song and became a social media sensation did not play a single second of Euro 2016. Northern Ireland are one of the great stories of the Euros and a justification to the format change. But we needed a Will Grigg sighting. Let us hope he does not fall into the Emmanuel Frimpong (remember him) bracket of being better known for their viral attention that football ability.
- Cristiano Ronaldo, Portugal
I toyed with putting Ronaldo further up and further down. He started at six, went up to nine, down to four then back to six. When you are one of the two or three best players on the planet these are the tournaments where the magnifying glass can begin to burn you if you stand under the intense heat rays too long.
Ronaldo has two goals and could be credited with an assist after his shot forced a good save from Danijel Subasic for Ricardo Quaresma to head in the rebound. Overall though the Real Madrid superstar has cut a picture of frustration. Trying far too hard like a teenager asking out a girl for the first time Ronaldo looked stiff, irritated and the more he tried the more he failed.
His brace against Hungary was a glimpse of the CR7 we know and loath but it was back to square on in the Round of 16 when “MISSING” posters could have been taped to lampposts all over France.
Like Lukaku, Ronaldo still has time to become a hero at Euro 2016 but it’s fair to say he’s been disappointing by the often lofty standards set by himself and the spectators.
- Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Sweden
This one feels a touch harsh as Ibrahimovic was hardly helped by his supporting cast. If ever there was a one man team at the Euros it was Sweden. Lead by their charismatic captain many felt so long as the rest of the Swedish side could supply the bullets Ibrahimovic would fire them to their necessary targets.
In the final group game against Belgium the decorated striker had eight touches in Thibaut Courtois’ box but failed to test the strength of the net like he has done on so many occasions.
Many suspected it would be Ibrahimovic’s last major tournament and he announced that would be the case in the middle of the group stages. To see such a great character of the game end his international career with a whimper may be the biggest diappointment of them all.
- Thomas Muller, Germany
Much like Ronaldo the Bayern Munich attacker has built a rod for his own back in many ways. Five goals in 2014 helped propel Germany to World Cup victory in Brazil. Muller also endured a quiet 2012 tournament too after being joint top goal scorer in the 2010 World Cup with another five goals. The man turns up to play for big international tournaments.
However he has been held goalless so far yet again. The Germans have been their usual efficient selves doing just enough to get through each round. Their attacking play has not been at its fluid best and it has had an effect on Muller.
Often isolated in the wide areas and smothered when coming central it has been left to players such as Mario Gotze, Mario Gomez, Julian Draxler and Mesut Ozil to pick up the slack.
- Robert Lewendowski, Poland
It has been a real shame to watch the Poland predator struggle in front of goal like he has done. Lewendowski has worked tirelessly for his team but there is no doubt that he is best when he is facing goalkeepers and making the art of finishing look as easy as one, two, three. The chances have been there for the Munich striker but like many forwards at this years’ European Championship he has struggled for consistency and to find the net.
Portugal will still fear the forward as he is truly world class – perhaps the best out and out striker on the planet. But failing to register a single shot on target in four games (His cooly dispatched penalty in the shoot-out victory over Switzerland does not count) – bringing his total drought with Poland to over ten hours – is more than disappointing, it is a disaster.
- Paul Pogba, France
Speaking of disasters, poor Paul Pogba. The pressure on him heading into this tournament was gargantuan. He is the poster boy for this tournament and has found himself outshone by an inspired Dimitri Payet in the group stages and a rescuing act from Antoine Griezmann against the Republic of Ireland. It could be argued that his biggest affect on France’s Euro 2016 campaign was digging the hole they had to claw their way out of in the Round of 16 after clumsily conceding a penalty.
The Juventus playmaker has shown little touches here and there of what has made him the most sought after player in Europe but it has not been enough. He looks to be a player weighed down by the expectation instead of thriving in the face of it. This tournament is a true acid test of Pogba’s superstardom and if he can be classes as exactly that. Again, there is still time but now over the half was stage of the tournament it has to be said that he has been pretty woeful.
- The entire England team
We all knew this was going to be number one. What can be said that has not already been uttered about this 23 man wrecking crew. Wrecking our hopes and dreams that is.
Harry Kane looked like he was playing in boots made out of cement. Wayne Rooney – not even the best midfielder in a Manchester United – was deemed England’s most creative midfielder and had a nightmare in the second half against Iceland, Roy Hodgson made some of the most head scratching decisions of any England manager and Joe Hart – oh dear. The man who endorses shampoo certainly lived up to the second syllable in that word.
Nobody expected England to win the tournament but many deemed this to be the best team since we last made a semi final at Euro ’96.
However, much like in Euro 2012 – a fast opening half an hour was ultimaetly met with disappointment. Against Italy in 2012 England started with wave after wave of attack but were ultimately beaten 2-1 by an Azzuri orchestra conducted by the brilliant Andrea Pirlo. “If we play like that we’ll do well.” Said many, sound familiar? It should do because it was the same sentiment after a 1-1 draw against Russia in Marseille.
Many expected Hodgson’s men to kick on and a last gasp Daniel Sturridge winner papered over the cracked that England were simply not ruthless enough and had no tactical plan.
Lacklustre against Slovakia and abject verses Iceland this tournament will go down as one of the greatest disappointments in England’s long and heartbreaking history.