Euro 2012 – The Findings

1 Jul

First and Foremost – Spain = All Big Game Players. That’s right, www.averageopposition.com for cutting edge analysis.

In particular, a few words about Cesc Fabregas. He must surely be considered a Big Game Player. I put forward the evidence:

  • Euro 2008 Quarter Final – Winning Penalty against Italy
  • Euro 2008 Semi Final – Two assists against Russia
  • World Cup 2010 Final – Assist for the only goal against Holland
  • Euro 2012 Semi Final – Winning penalty against Portugal
  • Euro 2012 Final – Assist for the opening goal against Italy

He may not have scored in open play in these games, but he’s had a major influence on each game, as Spain went on to win an unprecedented three successive tournaments. And the difference between winning tournaments and not is down to having players like Fabregas that can make a difference in the highest pressure atmosphere. Almost all of the above were coming on as a substitute as well. He also scored the equaliser in the opening game against eventual finalists Italy.

Looking at his club form this season, there was a hint at his big game tendencies. Although his output dropped significantly in the second half of the season (9 league goals by game 17, none after), he scored against Real Madrid, Valencia (in the league and cup), City Rivals Espanyol, and then there’s the small matter of goals in the World Club Cup final against Santos, and the European Super Cup Final against Porto. Chuck in a few more goals against Top 6 teams Atletico Madrid and Levante, and it all points to a Big Game player.

Xavi Hernandez, Fernando Torres and Sergio Ramos are also particularly worthy of an extra mention. Xavi grabbed two assists in the 2012 Final as well as one in the 2008 Final. Torres of course became the first player to score in two European Championships Final, and Sergio Ramos is the only defender who played in the final of all three Tournaments – and along with Casillas, conceded no goals in the last 10 knock out games.

And just to provide further evidence (if it was needed) why Spain are the best team in the World – here’s an eleven made up of players not in the squad, whether that be injury, international retirement of just not capped yet:

Spanish players not in the Euro 2012 squad

Apart from Spain

There were of course some other teams playing, and this being a site that concetrates on the Big Game Player, here’s a quick look at some of the names that entered the tournament with big expectations (as originally previewed here).

Mario Gomez – Okay, he got the joint Golden Boot with three goals, but as predicted on this very site, he did nothing in the knock out stages. Sure, I predicted him to go missing against Holland, but that was on the basis that Holland were gonna be good. His lack of impact on the knock out stages was in fitting with his performances in both the Champions League Final, the German Cup Final, and in general, against any Top 6 team in the Bundesliga.

Cristiano Ronaldo – Massive expectations were on his shoulders, and it showed in the first two group games, where he was shown up by the likes of Niklas Bendtner. However, his double against Holland for me was more impressive than Gomez’s as the game was effectively a knock out game – a Holland win saw them through and Portugal out. He delivered arguably the performance of the Tournament. He then went on to score the winner in the Quarter Finals against the Czech’s and was a constant threat against Spain in the Semi-Final. He didn’t get to take a penalty in the shoot out due to his want to be the 5th and possibly final taker.

Robin van Persie – He scored in his biggest game and against the best opponents, with a very well taken goal against Germany. However, after the season he had in the Premier League, his European Championships, like the 2010 World Cup, must go down as a failure. He was better than Klaas Jan Huntelaar though. He is another who had a Flat Track Bully season in the league for Schalke.

Mario Balotelli – He went into the tournament unsure of a starting place and with just one international goal to his name. It’s fair to say that he came out with an enhanced reputation. A goal against Ireland in a must win game, followed by an impressive albeit goal less, performance against England. Then in the the Big Game environment of a Semi Final against Germany, he scored two quality goals. He didn’t have a lot to shout about in the Final, but aged only 21, and on the back of a season where he scored two at Old Trafford and a last minute winner over Spurs, he has already showed signs of being a Big Game Player. We shouldn’t forget his penalty against England either. Team mate Di Natale had his best moment in the opening group game against Spain, but was often left out for Cassano, who notched against Ireland but no one else.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic – To an extent, he laid to rest his Big Game Bottler tag. Goals in the opening game against Ukraine and and the final game against France saw him meet most people’s expectations (maybe not his own of three hat tricks in the group stages). However, Ukraine were one of the weaker teams at the tournament, and when Sweden beat France 2-0, they were already out, so the pressure was off. The most important game was that against England. He didn’t score, so the jury is still out on his big game credentials. He probably doesn’t even know who won last night.

Wayne Rooney – Unfortunately continued his World Cup form. He did at least score one goal (from 1 yard), which unfortunately fooled people (Roy included) that he should stay in the team. He did, at least score more than Karim Benzema who seemed to play wide or deep, but not really in the area.

All in all, there weren’t really many surprises from a Big Game Player perspective. None of the leading names really performed differently to their League seasons – with the exception of Wayne Rooney. In the league, he scored 8 goals against Top 6 opponents, and in 2011 he scored in the Champions League Final. Everyone else reverted to form.

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