An athlete’s time rises and falls like the sun. The players who are at their peak now will slowly move away with the passage of time, making way for a new generation, who in turn will give way to the next. Like this, the cycle will continue till the end of time. It’s hard to see the players who were once superstars in their prime slowly lose their glow and fade into the background, but that’s how life intended it to be. The Euros this time played a host to superstars, who somehow failed to replicate their form which c atapulted them into super-stardom in the first place.
Niggling injuries, exhaustion from playing all year round for their respective clubs and age in general, seems to have caught up with them after years of putting their body on the line for our entertainment. With so many fixtures to play every year, it’s but natural for them to lose their shine but football is cruel as well as beautiful. The players are only judged based on their last performance and Euro hasn’t been kind to some of the bonafide superstars in the game.
The first name to come to mind is the immensely talented Zlatan Ibrahimovic. Despite having unparalleled success in the club level, he has never quite shone in the international arena for Sweden. His audacious shots may have grabbed headlines at times but his overall performance in the yellow jersey of Sweden may be termed as just average. He deserves plaudits for single-handedly dragging Sweden all the way to the Euros when they were at the brink of elimination, but it was clear that a team so much reliant on one single player can’t go far in the tournament. Football is after all not a one man game. As predicted, in the main tournament Sweden stumbled, losing matches to Belgium and Italy and just managing a draw with minnows Northern Ireland, thereby getting eliminated from the tournament. And through the whole tournament Zlatan was nowhere to be found in the pitch. A poor end to a fantastic season in PSG colours for the man.
The second high profile name is Cristiano Ronaldo. While it may be argued that Portugal are playing in the semi-finals of the tournament, you cannot overlook the fact that the Cristiano Ronaldo, who dons the sparkly white jersey of Real Madrid, is not the same goal scoring machine when he puts on his national colours. Throughout the course of the tournament, he just burst into fire on just one occasion. The man, who won the Champions League just this year, scored goals in just one match. Try to wrap your heads around that one. Being one of the best players in the world certainly has its perks but it saddles you with a lot of responsibility towards the team you are playing for. Compared to his club career, Ronaldo’s international career has been dismal to say the very least. And the trend is continuing with this year’s Euro. Portugal started the first match of the tournament rather brightly but faded as soon as Iceland equalised and could not get out a win against the weakest team of the tournament. Ronaldo then went on an incessant rant about how Portugal was the better team and questioned Iceland’s defensive mentality. Perhaps, the memory of losing to an ultra-defensive Greece in the Finals of Euro 2004 had come back to haunt him, which made him react the way he did. In the next match, Portugal couldn’t even muster a goal against Austria and drew the match. This time too, Ronaldo was tightly marked which gave him no room to work his magic. The last game of the group stage saw Ronaldo regain some of his fire when he slotted home 2 goals but still, Portugal failed to win the match and it ended 3-3. Portugal went to the knockout stages without a win in their bags and played Croatia in one of the most boring games of the tournament where they won 1-0 in extra time with Ronaldo turning in another inconspicuous performance. Portugal moved on to the quarter-finals and faced Poland and still could not win the game in 90 minutes. The match went to penalties which Portugal somehow managing to win. Now, they face Wales in the semi-finals who have been this tournament’s revelation. It’s left to see if Ronaldo can inspire a sub-par team, which hasn’t won an entire match in 90 minutes of the game, to the elusive Euro glory.
The other major flop in the tournament is the combined England team. In each passing major international tournament, England makes it to the list of flops and this time isn’t any different. Termed as a team with the infusion of new blood, this England team was supposed to change the notion of England as tournament flops. England started well against Russia playing free flowing football but tied the first game 1-1 due to their age old habit of conceding a late goal due to defensive lapse. They scraped a win past Wales but again drew with Slovakia 0-0. This resulted in a second place finish in the group stages for the Three Lions who were upstaged by their neighbours Wales. In the Round of 16, they faced a weak but resilient Iceland. And the English curse came back to haunt them when they lost to the minnows 2-1, thereby getting dumped out of the tournament. Illustrious players like Wayne Rooney, Harry Kane, Daniel Sturridge and the overrated Raheem Sterling all probably left their scoring boots back in the Premier League. Shambolic is the only word that comes to mind when describing England’s display in the tournament with manager Roy Hodgson completely out of sorts with the team. It’s a new tournament but the same old ending for the English lads.