The group stages of the European Championships are now at the halfway point, meaning that the media and fans alike are starting to get an accurate gauge who is failing to stage in UEFA’s biggest competition.
Cristiano Ronaldo is perhaps the most ominous non-performer in the European Championships thus far, but he is not the only highly-rated player to perform poorly for his country.
This slideshow will put forward the seven most disappointing players of the tournament so far. It has taken into account players with big reputations, rather than those of lesser abilities. As such the Irish back four will not be mentioned in this, nor will the Greek national team.
Wojciech Szczesny committed the three cardinal sins of goalkeeping in Poland’s Euro 2012 opener against Greece.
The Arsenal goalkeeper conceded a weak goal before giving away a penalty and getting red carded.
Poland went into halftime leading the Greeks 1-0 thanks to a bullet header by Robert Lewandowski after 17 minutes and went by much of the first half untroubled.
Szczesny spent much of the game as a spectator with the best seat in the house, but a poor cross from Greece’s right flank was fumbled by the 22-year-old, leaving Dimitris Salpingidis with a routine tap in on the 51st minute.
Seventeen minutes later the Arsenal shot-stopper was called into action once again, this time in a one-on-one against Salpingidis. Szczesny found himself routinely out of position and casually tripped the Greek goal scorer.
Thankfully for Szczesny, Greek captain Giorgos Karagounis missed from the spot.
All the same, Poland's No. 1 gifted Greece with the easiest point they would have earned in their footballing history.
Players dream of setting records in the European Championships, but not the one Russian striker Aleksandr Kerzhakov set in his opening game.
The Zenit St. Petersburg had seven shots in Russia’s Group A opener against the Czech Republic, and failed to get a single effort of target. This was not down to misfortune—not one of them looked like going in.
His performance upped against Poland, as you would expect in a clash between with countries with history like these two.
He provided the assist for Alan Dzagoev’s match opener but lacked finesse when he himself was in front of goal.
Off the ball Kerzhakov looks a lively player. His movement is sound and he does get into dangerous positions, but so far it has not worked out for him. His fortunes could change against a weak Greek team.
Shay Given has been a loyal servant to the Republic of Ireland, collecting a staggering 123 caps for the nation.
His performance against Croatia however was perhaps his worst—on international duty at least.
Much of Given’s preparations for the tournament were hindered with a calf injury, meaning he was not actually confirmed as Ireland’s starting goalkeeper until five days before his country’s Group C opener.
Given’s performance against the Croats was more unlucky than it was poor. He was unsighted for Mandzukic’s opening goal of the game and was not helped by Ireland’s poor defending. Despite this he did himself no favours by placing all of his weight on his right foot before diving to the left.
Mandzukic’s header did not have much power and had Given not wrong-footed himself, he might have saved it.
Croatia’s third goal embodied the afternoon that Given was having. A decent effort from outside the area by Mario Mandzukic ricochet off the post, onto Given’s head and subsequently into the back of the net.
The much hyped Ajax wonder-kid was anonymous against the Netherlands, and equally as disappointing in Denmark’s defeat against Portugal.
The 20-year-old attacking midfielder is the 2011 Dutch football talent of the year and contributed 19 goals and seven assists in Ajax’s championship winning season. He has so far failed to emulate such form.
Perhaps his form has been hindered by Morten Olsen’s decision to play him in a role that is slightly deeper to the position he is accustomed too.
Either way, Denmark will need a strong performance from the 20-year-old if they are to qualify from Group B.
“So far the two games have not been ideal for me,” admitted Cech. “There is no lack of focus at all. I’m very happy that the game finished the right way, even though I made the mistake.”
Cech endured a torrid tournament opener against Russia by conceding four goals, but it is his mistake against Greece which has earned him a place on this list.
On the 53rd minute Cech spilled a cross, gifting Greek striker Fanis Gekas with an opportunity to score the easiest goal of his career.
Fortunately for Cech, his nation went on to win the game 2-1.
Robin Van Persie was terrible in the Netherlands' opening game against Denmark. The prolific Arsenal striker squandered a bounty of goal-scoring chances that he would probably have buried if he was wearing an Arsenal shirt.
Perhaps the Arsenal striker feels the pressure of having Klaas-Jan Huntelaar waiting on the bench, or maybe, as some claim, his service has not been good enough. Perhaps contract negotiations with Arsenal are taking their toll on the 28-year-old.
Either way, the Dutch are going to need a substantial improvement from him if they are to have any hope of qualifying from the 'Group of Death.’
Goal difference is now paramount.
Cristiano Ronaldo’s lack of form has been noticed by his coach and players alike, but they are jumping in to defend two below-par performances from their star player at Euro 2012.
Yahoo Sports reports Paulo Bento saying:
"He is a player of enormous ability who was not efficient in a couple of situations he found himself in," Bento told reporters.
"He's not under pressure from us, he's here to help us resolve our problems."
The same source also documents Pepe defending the Portugal captain:
"Cristiano Ronaldo is the best player in the world but even the best make mistakes, so we're here to support him," he said.
The lowest point of Ronaldo’s tournament so far was a horrendous miss whilst one-on-one with Denmark goalkeeper Stephan Andersen.
With Portugal leading the Danes 2-1, and a little more than 10 minutes remaining on the clock, Ronaldo was seemingly clean through on goal, but put the ball comfortably wide.
Immediately after, Nicklas Bendtner equalised for Denmark, which could have jeopardised Portugal’s chances of qualification.