Euro 2012: 5 Biggest Group Stage Flops
Emerging stars are always an exciting part of international tournaments. Who can forget Thomas Müller's barn-storming performances at World Cup 2010 or Andrei Arshavin's sublime skills at Euro 2008?
But the flipside is that some stars tipped for greatness just never manage to make their mark. Here are five of the most notable flops from Euro 2012's group rounds.
1. Robin Van Persie
The Dutch team as a whole could be considered Euro 2012's biggest flops to date. Pre-tournament, the World Cup 2010 runners-up were third favorites after Spain and Germany to win it all. Instead, they were sent packing without a single win.
A major source of Holland's demise was their shocking lack of goals. For a team with such a wealth of attacking players to score just twice in three matches, ranking down at the bottom with Poland and Ireland, was stunning even in such a tough group.
Wesley Sneijder, Arjen Robben and Klaas-Jan Huntelaar all disappointed, but no one blew as many chances as star striker Robin Van Persie, a popular pre-tournament favorite to win the Golden Boot. Demonstrably off-form, the Arsenal forward failed again and again to show the touch that made him top scorer in the English Premier League last season.
2. Christian Eriksen
Denmark were quickly written off as the weakest link in the Group of Death, facing Germany, Portugal and the Netherlands, but several pundits still tipped the young Ajax playmaker Christian Eriksen to make a splash.
As it happened, the Danes acquitted themselves admirably, downing the Dutch and running both Portugal and Germany close before ultimately bowing out.
But Denmark's success had little to do with Eriksen, who remained anonymous for much of the tournament while his team-mates Nicklas Bendtner and Michael Krohn-Dehli won the plaudits and plundered the goals.
3. Wojciech Szczesny
Arsenal fans used to years of sketchy goal-keeping finally felt they were in safe hands with Wojciech Szczesny in the 2011/12 season, as the young Polish keeper seemed to mature and develop a reassuringly-steady consistency.
Unluckily for Poland, he did not bring that steadiness to Euro 2012.
Szczesny's performance in the hosts' opening match against Greece has to rank among the worst in recent memory at the European Championships. He was directly at fault for Greece's equalizer, then managed to concede a penalty and get himself sent off. He was not returned to the starting line-up after serving his ban.
4. Karim Benzema
Another pre-tournament favorite for the Euro 2012 Golden Boot, France's Karim Benzema still has the chance to make his mark, but will need to start firing on all cylinders to erase the memory of a toothless presence in the group stages.
Like Van Persie, Benzema's woes haven't stemmed from a lack of chances. The Real Madrid marksman has had the most shots without a goal in the tournament so far, failing to find the net in 17 attempts.
5. Robert Lewandowski
Anyone who saw any of Borussia Dortmund's thrilling 2011/12 season had a clear darkhorse choice for the Euro 2012 Golden Boot: the Bundesliga champions' dynamic Polish forward Robert Lewandowski.
But despite scoring the tournament's opening goal and creating chances, Lewandowski failed to illuminate Euro 2012 as Poland bowed out of the group stages without a win.
Plus, sentiment for host-nation players was hogged by the venerable Andriy Shevchenko after his winning goals for Ukraine over Sweden, allowing Lewandowski to lapse quietly into Euro 2012 oblivion.