For the most part, Euro 2012 has been a great tournament. As well as featuring a steady stream of goals, the tournament has produced some genuine surprises, from Russia and the Netherlands being knocked out at the group stage, to Greece’s surprise progress to the quarter finals. It’s also been a predictable tournament in some ways, though, most notably in terms of Spain’s ongoing dominance as they’ve powered their way to the final, closely followed at present by Germany. England have also, while arguably over-achieving in winning their group, repeated their usual penalty failures to get knocked out. In terms of picking the biggest loser of Euro 2012, it’s a toss-up between under-performing and infighting teams, particular players, technology, and arguably UEFA itself.
1 – Teams
Netherlands and Russia top this list, with the former being abysmal in losing all three of their group matches. Ireland were worse, but at least have the excuse of not being fancied beforehand. The Netherlands came into the tournament from a World Cup Final in 2010, and a strong qualifying campaign. However, after narrowly losing to Denmark, the Dutch never found their feet against Germany or Portugal. Infighting within the squad, and a tendency to fall off the pace after going behind killed their tournament. Russia come a close second, though.
Having cruised to a 4-1 victory in their opening game, the fancied Russians came unstuck against Poland and Greece, and rarely looked like contenders after the first night of the tournament. England could be on this list, given their average at best displays, and dominance by Italy. But, with limited resources, they at least managed to take Italy to penalties in the quarter finals. More frustrating, however, was the decision by sides like the Czech Republic and Greece to shut up shop against Germany and Portugal in the quarter finals, rather than have a go at their technically superior opponents.
2 – Players
Again, it’s hard not to look beyond the Netherlands, and Arjen Robben in particular, who looked worn out, and frequently clueless on the ball. England’s Wayne Rooney also failed to really live up to his long-awaited return, particularly against Italy. There were also some players that managed to cause off the field problems, with Antonio Cassano’s homophobic outburst, and Samir Nasri’s profanity laden attack on French journalists neither of the player’s finest moments.
3 – UEFA
Yes, on the one hand the European governing body can say that they pulled off a tournament of thrilling football, and produced huge worldwide audiences for games. On the other hand, the decision to award the tournament to Poland and Ukraine has been notable for just about not being as bad as it promised to be. Repeated problems with racism, fan violence, and half empty stadiums have demonstrated that UEFA’s cash grab has left fans facing steep ticket prices and cutthroat hotels, and teams having to travel thousands of miles for games.
At the same time, UEFA’s decision to fine Nicklas Bendtner more money for flashing his sponsored pants after scoring than countries whose fans were guilty of racism represents deplorable behaviour. UEFA have similarly failed to strongly come out against racist incidents in both countries. On the technology side, a much vaunted fourth official was not able to prevent Ukraine from having a legitimate goal ruled out against England, meaning that the debate over goal-line technology continues.