Euro 2012: Group Stage Worst XI

Chris Wright

21st, June 2012


By Chris Wright

Taking into account both pre-tournament expectations and performances therein, here’s our XI of the biggest flops, bumberclarts and turgid let-downs from the group stages of Euro 2012…

Shay Given (Rep. of Ireland): Poor Shay. We all know he’s a damn fine ‘keeper, but a combination of injury and having one of the most thankless tasks at Euro 2012 saw him filing a shocker at the last major international tournament he’s likely to play in. Made a smattering of decent saves, but botched the basics.

Narrowly pipping: Wojciech Szczesny (Poland), Kostas Chalkias (Greece) Andriy Pyatov (Ukraine).

* * * * *


Mikael Lustig (Sweden): Hardly gets a game for the Celtic reserves all season. Miraculously starts as first-choice right-back for country at European Championship. Given relatively simple task of standing next to large, white, immovable object. Fails to stand next to a large, white, immovable object. Doesn’t play again.

Richard Dunne (Rep. of Ireland): There are certain things that Richard Dunne is adequately equipped to do; going head-to-head with Kevin Davies in the air above Villa Park, chopping down a rampaging Marc-Antoine Fortune, etc, etc. There are also certain things that Richard Dunne is not adequately equipped to do. Sadly, these are the kind of things that tend to crop up at top-tier international tournaments.

Jetro Willems (Holland): So much for our wild card pick. Only in the squad because of injury elsewhere, Willems looked woefully out of his depth and overly-eager to impress in possession – chucking out superfluous step-overs willy nilly like a worldwide ban had just been lifted on superfluous stepovers. His positioning was dire and looked incredibly skittish, both with and without the ball.

Narrowly pipping: Gregory van der Wiel (Holland), Philippe Mexes (France) Johnny Heitinga (Holland) Stephen Ward (Rep. of Ireland).

* * * * *


Mark van Bommel (Holland): There was absolutely no need for Holland to take to the field with two regressive midfielders at this tournament, which quickly became apparent against Denmark. Alongside the more mobile Nigel de Jong, Van Bommel looked tired and unable to provide the same kind of barely legal harassment (ahem) that served his country so well in South Africa two years ago. As soon as the Dutch were jettisoned, Van Bommel did the decent thing and announced his retirement from international football to spend more time with the coach’s family.

Andrey Arshavin (Russia): His sparkling contributions against the Czech Republic on the opening day saw Arshavin make our ‘Team of Round One’ but in the subsequent matches against Poland and Greece he was the square root of bobbins. Looked like he couldn’t be arsed in the slightest.

James Milner (England): We’re loathe to hop aboard the ‘Milner is garbage’ scapegoating bandwagon as he’s patently a perfectly serviceable player. He’s just a bit dull is all. Our gripe is this: How many other international sides select their wingers based on how much earnest graft they’ll get through? ‘None’ is the answer. Sorry Jimbo, but as far as England are concerned, you’d definitely be better off in the middle… of the sub’s bench.

Arjen Robben (Holland): Whenever the issue of Dutch in-fighting comes to the fore, one instantly assumes that the most precious little ballerina in the whole, wide world is at the crux of the problem. Provided little of note despite playing for 263 of the full 270 minutes and, to top it all off, could be heard audibly telling coach Bert van Marwijk to ‘shut up’ during Holland’s clunky defeat against Portugal. What a star.

Narrowly pipping: Ibrahim Afellay (Holland), Kostas Katsouranis (Greece), Glenn Whelan (Rep. of Ireland).

* * * * *


Klaas-Jan Huntelaar (Holland): The problem with Huntelaar is that he’s almost completely stationary and only thrives when plied with a continuous source of close-range chances. In a Dutch side struggling to chisel out anything at all, he was an absolute waste of space – failing to hold on to anything played into him and never even coming close to looking like scoring.

Georgios Samaras (Greece): Sorry, but we just don’t get it. 57 caps. Fifty. Seven. Samaras became the punchline at Man City for his awkward, goal-shy ambling and, four years on down the line, he’s no better yet is somehow still a fixture in the Greek national side. He’s scored four international goals in the last three years.  What is it that he’s supposed to be any good at?

Aleksander Kerzhakov (Russia): Didn’t manage to get a single one of his 14 shots (or 15, depending on your choice of statistician) on target. Dick Advocaat’s baffling loyalty to the misfiring Zenit man has been cited by many as one of the key reasons that Russia flunked – especially with Roman Pavlyuchenko managing to score and assist during his 15 minute run-out in their first game against the Czechs.

Narrowly pipping: Ashley Young (England), Robin van Persie (Holland), Simon Cox (Rep. of Ireland), Kevin Doyle (Rep. of Ireland) Robbie Keane (Rep. of Ireland).

* * * * *

Right, that’s us done and dusted. We want to see your Group Stage Worst XIs now. You know the drill…

Posted in Euro 2012, Featured, Opinion, Photos, Top 10s & lists

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  1. Alex says:

    am i counting wrong or are there 12 men here? pick eleven and just give the holland squad an honorary mention!

  2. Adam says:

    Who’s the manager?

    • Chris says:

      @Adam: It’s got to be Van Marwijk (far too many defensive brutes for first two games, far too many attacking lollygaggers in the last) hasn’t it?

  3. Chris says:

    Well to simplify the above article, My Worst XI is The Starting Line up for Republic Of Ireland with Milner Right Mid.

  4. Ibi says:

    It is Afellay not Affelay!

    • Chris says:

      @Ibi: I bloody convinced myself I’d got it right this time and talked myself out of going with ‘Afellay’. I’m the worst. Officially. The worst.

  5. Nick B says:

    Samaras is a little unfair, he actually had a stormer against the Russians, and was most people’s man of the match in a game that effectively sealed Greece’s qualification. He’s not a goalscorer, but he doesn’t deserve this list any more than say Milan Baros who’s done nothing but run like a laser guided missile into the corner flags for the last decade.

    • Chris says:

      @ Nick B: The difference being that Baros was hopelessly isolated. What was he supposed to do after having it lumped up to him with no other Czech player in the opposition’s half? Samaras is just garbage – clumsy, terrible, shoddy, slow, graceless, ridiculously limited garbage.

      @js94: Not harsh at all in my book. He came in off the back of a 20+ goal season and showed himself up badly – as he did at Real and Milan – because his all-round game is lapse. He’s a ‘point and shoot’ striker with very little else to fall back on.

  6. js94 says:

    I think putting Huntelaar on the list is really harsh, He wasn’t exactly given much of a chance with Holland.

  7. Anonymous says:

    You’re forgetting Milan Baros. 217 minutes before registering his first attempt on target. Absolutely woeful striker.

  8. Joe says:

    Agree completely with js94, Huntelaar deserved to be given the gig from the start and with it the ability to grow into the tournament. Now, he was an afterthought thrown in when the pressure was already way too high due to the blundering of Van Persie. 12 goals in qualifying tells you all you need to know, can’t judge him on 100-ish minutes here. Plus, as much as I agree that Milner doesn’t contribute much, I’d strangely still pick him over any other right mid in the squad-at least for a starting place.

  9. Luke says:

    I mostly agree but would leave young Willems out and put Stephen Ward in, I don’t care how many Ireland players would be on here. Plus Keith Andrews for wasting everything and getting a red card.
    For a fourth choice, I don’t think Andriy Pyatov has had a bad tournament though.

  10. Mr. Chopper says:

    For a minute then I thought I saw Ashley Young in the hono- Huh. So both Milner and Young have been shit, have they?

    I like to see Milner for England as a more hard-working, less goal-scoring version of Kuyt. Just cos he’s shit at going forward (shit’s a strong word, mind you) doesn’t necessarily mean he shouldn’t be playing for England’s new position-is-everything approach. I know Walcott’s much more attacking, but could you see him fulfilling his specific role in the banks of four..?

  11. JLBK says:

    What about Steven Gerrard? Aside from one quality corner I saw him put in he has been one of the worst players at the tournament let alone midfielders. He shouldn’t even be in the team.

  12. Mr. Chopper says:

    Gerrard..? You’ll be pulling up Johnson for “being good going forward, but being a liability defensively” next.

  13. Shrimper says:

    @JLBK Eh?

  14. llks_18 says:

    @JLBK, are u a Manc ? Or are you on some new kind of dope? Pathetic comment..

  15. @JLBK says:

    I am a very level-headed football fan and I watch objectively. I honestly thought Gerrard was poor in all three matches. He lost the ball constantly when in posession and his passing was not what we’ve come to expect from him. I think the guy is a legend and is up there with the best of the best over the length of his career but if you think he has been good in THIS particular tournament then you are either blinded by your fondness of him or were not paying attention to his play on the pitch.

  16. Nuno says:

    Chris, if you’re saying this is based on pre-tournament expectations, then you must’ve already been aware Huntelaar is a more stationary striker. He “points-and-shoots” if he has a chance, but he had no service at all. Robben didn’t pass the ball (one of the worst players of the tournament by far), VdV was clearly off-form and didn’t provide any support, Afellay was almost worse than Robben and Sneijder couldn’t do it all by himself. The ball simply didn’t get upfront and that’s partly why Van Persie also didn’t do much.
    Do you have stats on how many crosses Holland did? I’m guessing it’s under 10 in the whole 3 games…

  17. Joe says:

    @JLBK: Everyone’s entitled to their opinion, but no. Just no. The man set up three of England’s five goals, and that move to bamboozle the Ukraine defender before the Rooney goal was absolute class. Even his Hollywood Passes have seemed to find a team mate pretty much everytime I’ve seen him try one. I think you may have him confused with Scott Parker, who seems to get in the way of his teammates as much as his opponents.

    @Chris: Still harsh on Huntelaar. The Hunter didn’t fail at Madrid-he scored 8 in half a season before getting shipped out for being Not Ronaldo. Not spectacular, but no Torres/Carroll-type start either. He never got a proper chance at Milan (or indeed for Holland at a major tournament), so maybe the 20 mins you’ve seen of him haven’t been great, but I assure you he’s a lot better than you make him out to be.

  18. AGM says:

    Still find the comments on Samaras surprising. He managed to keep possession of the ball therefore taking the pressure of the Greek defense. He showed some technique when taking on defenders and had no support whatsoever. On top of he helped the defense by dropping back when needed. I think Samaras did what was required of him in the last couple of matches and deserves some credit for it. I don’t see other Big Name strikers putting in the same effort.

  19. Luke says:

    Yeah you can question his ability, but you can’t question Samaras’ commitment. Isn’t easy for him to be randomly bungled to the left wing and have to track back but he does it just fine.

  20. Al says:

    @ JLBK – you my friend are an idiot, Gerrard was Englands best player in all 3 games, he was the reason they got past Ukraine. Even the pundits on Irish TV were singing his praises and they say everyone is shit, go back to the drawing board on how you watch a game “objectionably” as the stats show that he only gave the ball away 1 single time against the Ukraine

  21. Silkz says:

    Very harsh on the 18 year old dutch left back Willems. There was no leaders in the dutch back line to show him the way, also a tough group for a young un-experienced defender to get ‘chucked’ into. No support from the left winger either leaving him exposed

  22. Sjakie Meulemans says:

    Can I just say I am loving this discussion? Well argumented and formulated comments galore. No, I don’t care how gay that sounds, I just want it said because most of the time 50% of the comments is utter crap.

  23. JLBK says:

    @Al “Objectionably” l.o.l.

  24. ShaunMotte says:

    Totally agree with you AGM, biggup Samaras for a lion hearts display against the Russians. Sliding in, holding off defenders and creating the odd chance here and there. Was well impressed! Take him off, thats what I say!!

  25. zamboni says:

    You are a bit unfair with Samaras. He’s definitely not a striker, you don’t expect him to score or create goals and his finishing is absolutely pathetic. But, believe me in that there is no Greek player who can control the ball like he does. He’s useful for keeping the ball clear, while the whole team is in the box, trying to defend the precious one goal lead. And that’s what Greece’s been doing the last 10 years. So against Russia, Samaras just made sure that his teammates would take a few extra breaths before diving again to block an opponent’s shot…

  26. futballsznob says:

    @zamboni – just what i wanted to say, Samaras is vital for Greece.

    Who says Gerrard should be on the list?? He has 3 assists in 3 games, played every minute and England won the group. What are you talkig about?

  27. I don’t think it’s fair to put Huntelaar in this team. Van Persie was way worse, and don’t forget the most recent World Cup. Van Persie was bad in the national squad, and it seems like he’ll always play bad. Huntelaar wasn’t given a true chance. He played from te beginning against Portugal, and he got his first shot in the 86th minute. That wasn’t his fault, but Van Persie, Robben and Sneijders fault.

  28. MACKSTER says:

    Gerrard has been one of the stand out players of the tournament. End of.

  29. Macks says:

    Gerrard has been one of the stand out players of the tournament. End of.

  30. DJ says:

    Samaras has a hard job finding the net for Celtic in the SPL so he should just be included on that basis let alone his International record.

  31. chris says:

    Samaras is crap. always has been. so overrated, by those that rate him.

  32. Twigg says:

    “Dick Advocaat’s baffling loyalty to the misfiring Zenit man”

    Kerzhakov scored 24 goals last season for Zenit…3 poor games doesnt make him a bad player. He was clearly picked on his league form, not “baffling loyalty” ! can’t stand a player being judged by someone who doesnt even watch the league…

    • Chris says:

      @Twigg: Well aware of Kerzhakov’s record last season but wasn’t talking about domestic football. Was talking about Advocaat’s loyalty throughout Euro 2012 – a tournament where instant return is paramount. You can’t play the long game if you’ve only got three games to get your act together.

  33. adhikapp says:

    As well as I think Samaras’ and Kerzhakov’s finishing skills to be worse than a blindfolded Emile Heskey, they offer something other than goals. Samaras’ hold up skills has been mentioned already in the comments above so I wont mention it again.

    But Kerzhakov has great ability of making space for himself and others. If only he had Pogs/Pavs accuracy he couldve been a hero for Russia. If you saw the last game against Greece when Kerzhakov got subbed and Russia played Pav & Pog they couldnt find space for themselves. Kerzhakov looked really dangerous with his movements but his shooting was just straight bad.

  34. Sam says:

    Ashley Young gets a ‘dishonourable mention’? Really? Have you actually watched the games he’s played in? Ok, he may not be the goal-storming/slightly divy machine we’re expecting, but he’s done exceptionally well in his roaming attacking midfield role. Seriously a contender for England’s best player in the tourney so far.

  35. wtf is happening in arshavin’s photo?!?

  36. Guillaume says:

    Guys, not even one french player?? Adil Rami deserves to be in that Worst XI!!

  37. MGJ says:

    Robben was a disgrace. Primary school don’t pass the ball to anyone else football.

  38. Karl says:

    A bit rough on the whole Dutch squad there, guessing the English scraping through crap football was better then? EVEN more surprised Van Persie wasn’t the TOP culprit either he was more of a flop than any forward through the whole bloody Group Stages!

  39. mike says:

    how the hell did Samaras make this list, was one of Greece’s best players at the tournament.

  40. Michael says:

    People just love to pick on Samaras. It’s actually kinda weird… He had a good tournament. My personal opinion is that people who give him a hard time don’t understand footy all that well.. Whenever they do interviews with opposing players in CL/Europa League before and after matches, he’s typically singled out as Celtic’s primary threat. I’ll take their word, thanks.

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