Euro Cup 2012: The highs, the lows and the just plain funny!
Tears were shed, moments were celebrated, new heroes were worshipped and legends were manufactured.
The recent European championship provided plenty of entertainment and nerve-wracking excitement for football fans all around the globe. The Spaniards were crowned champions after demolishing Italy in the final, which truth be told, was pretty anti-climactic.
However, the rest of the tournament was deluged with controversy, tension, brilliance and quality football. The following is a list of the moments/highlights that stood out the most:
10. Nicklas Bendtner’s 'power-ful' celebration
Dane could hardly have imagined what the Union of European Football Associations (UEFA) had in store for him when he flashed his ‘Paddy Power’ (betting company) sponsored underwear. After heading past Rui Patricio for the second time the same night, Bendtner proceeded to unnervingly lower his shorts and display the advert.
Europe’s football governing body slapped a hefty €100,000 fine on the out-of-favour Arsenal player, coupled with a one-match suspension. It is surprising to note that Porto fans were fined for only €45,000 when they hurled racist abuses at Mario Balotelli in a Champions League match last season.
As per UEFA and Michel Platini’s moral compass, racism is less of an issue than Bendtner’s antics. We totally get it. By the way, Paddy Power reimbursed the fine Bendtner received. All is well for Bendtner.
9. Bad luck o’ the Irish
This is how Irish logic works: If your team is being humiliated with a 4-0, sing your heart out.
In an amazing show of brick-strong support, for the last few minutes of the game, Irish fans started chanting ‘The Fields of Athenry’ – a ballad typically noted for its subtext of desperation and love. They were then praised for their attitude in the global media; however that didn’t stop their team from crashing out.
8. Russia’s fall
When Alan Dzagoev masterfully struck the second of his two goals against the Czech Republic on match day one, people were scared. The Russians had put on an attacking tour de force, displaying deadly counter-attacking abilities.
In the following match, the Russians again took the lead (*cough* Dzagoev *cough*). But Poland responded well and ended up with a draw. Again, people weren’t too put off. The Polish hadn’t been bad themselves, and plus they were playing on home turf.
The Russians were still expected to top the group. Then came the Greeks, clad in Athenian armour and in a show of amazing grit and resilience, they ended up slaying Arshavin and co. People were now shocked. Really shocked. By having just one really bad game, the Russians went out. On the other hand, Greece only had one good game and went on to qualify.
Football is a funny, funny game.
7. A constipated Hart
Creating silly, awkward facial expressions to unnerve the opponent? Haven’t we all done something along those lines sometime in our lives?
Joe Hart just proved that all our efforts went to waste as the English goalkeeper tried his very best to put off the Italians by jetting out his tongue, twisting his lips, huffing and puffing his cheeks etc. but he failed to stop a single shot. This wasn’t the first time goalkeepers have tried doing this.
In 1984, Bruce Grobbelar wobbled his legs in the European Cup final penalty shoot-out, but the outcome was successful as Francesco Graziania missed the decisive kick. Jerzy Dudek repeated this tactic in 2005 and Andriy Shevchenko failed to convert, and again Liverpool won the European Cup. Too bad Joe, maybe next time you can try some other expressions and save the day.
6. No love for the Dutch
Dubbed as guaranteed semi-finalists, the Netherlands were full of confidence coming into this tournament. Their main man up front, Robin Van Persie, had just concluded the most prolific season in his personal career and was the bookies’ favourite to land the Golden Boot award.
Arjen Robben was fresh from his defeat in the Champions League final, so was expected to unleash his vengeance as well. Additionally, they had Sneijder, Huntelaar, Steklenberg, and Afellay. They retained the majority of the squad that did ever so well just two years ago in South Africa.
But football was to troll us again; the Dutch lost all three of their matches, with all of their star players (bar maybe Sneijder) misfiring and out of form. Robben’s reaction to being substituted in the Orange’s 2-1 loss to Germany summed up the side’s misfortunes.
5. Ramos and Pirlo’s Panenka
More commonly referred to as the ‘chipped penalty’, but romantically known as the ‘Panenka’ by the football fanatics; Sergio Ramos and Andrea Pirlo were both triumphant in this majestic pursuit. Antonin Panenka pioneered this form of penalty when the, now defunct, Czechoslovakia defeated West Germany in the 1976 European Championships.
Although Ramos’ penalty can’t be labelled as an archetypical Panenka, it did aid in humiliating the Portugese.
Pirlo’s was more significant. He stepped up to the plate when the Italians were trailing, and the sheer cheek of his penalty can be considered as an important factor in turning the tide in favour of the Azzuri. He used it as more of a weapon than a showpiece. For this, Andrea Pirlo, we salute you.
4. The coming of age of Sir Mario
With the passing away of Del Piero and Totti from the national team, it was time for someone in the Italian team to step up their mantle ─ but nobody believed young Mario Balotelli possessed the temperament and poise required to take that step. Cesare Prandelli, the Italian coach, said that Balotelli could become a ‘champion’ only if he purges out his immaturities.
Although as soon as the tournament started, the Ghanian-born attacker, refuted these claims, showing maturity and tenacity that had previously been unrivalled in his career. He scored the first of his goals against Ireland, a finish full of aplomb.
However, he saved his best for the semis, scoring the two goals instrumental in leading Italy to the final. His celebration after the second against Germany just caps it off really well.
3. Ronaldo’s cowardice or attempt at glory?
Cristiano Ronaldo was the name on everyone’s lips after Portugal’s unfortunate loss to Spain in the semis.
120 minutes were unable to discern as to who would win the coveted place in the final, and so penalties beckoned. After almost leading his side single-handedly to this crucial stage, Ronaldo baffled everyone by not taking a spot-kick. His supporters might say that he was due to take one, but one must really question that, as a captain, why would he shirk his responsibility?
Did he really want to take the winning penalty? If he did, then it was massively selfish of him.
2. The demise of the German machine
Pre-tournament, the Germans were everyone’s favourites. How could anyone not like them?
Their whole line-up reverberated of dynamism, of hunger and attacking prowess. They also had charmingly boy-band-ish good looks to attract the female populace. Even after being placed in the much hyped ‘Group of Death’, they went on to winning all three of their games and hence were the only team in the tournament to have not dropped any points.
They thoroughly dispatched Greece in the quarters, despite resting their attacking triumvirate. The story then took a turn in the semis. The machine that had won so many admirers seemed to have clogged up much to the disappointment of many.
Was it the pressure? Or some tactical shortcoming? A lack of experience perhaps?
Whatever it was, Germany lost 2-1 to Italy and were dumped out. Oliver Kahn (ex- German goalkeeper, and a living legend) attributed it to the lack of responsibility in the team.
If a player does not take responsibility, such as for the goals conceded, then it is difficult to win.
1. The final
As predictable as it may sound, this really deserved numero uno on this list.
Finals tend to be cagy and hotly contested, but not this one. The two teams were polar opposites during the course of the game. The Italians were powerless, heartless, impassionate, they lacked fire and showed disinterest. The Spaniards in contrast were potent, played with heart and passion, were fiery and thoroughly absorbed in battle.
Injuries to Chiellini and Motta didn’t aid Italy at all. Spain unprecedentedly and relentlessly attacked and carved out a winning chance after chance. Silva, then Alba, then Torres and then Mata. Never before has a final been settled with such terrifying absoluteness. Even the mighty Pirlo seemed subdued, and pre-match mumblings had signaled that the prized ‘player of the tournament’ would either be given to him or Iniesta depending on the match’s result. Iniesta eventually won that award.
Tears were wept, moments were celebrated, new heroes were worshipped and legends were manufactured.
This tournament represented the quintessence of football in all of its glory and woe. A throne was there to be claimed, but Spain destroyed that very throne and created their own unique identity in the archives of sport history. Twelve years ago, a Frenchman presented this astonishing piece of clairvoyance to the world:
'The day Spain begin winning, they won't stop".
Just some guy called Zinedine Zidane.
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