GK – Shay Given (Ireland)
The former Newcastle and Manchester City stopper may have made the most saves in the tournament so far (17), but that is no indication of his form between the sticks. From just the third minute of the opening match he did not look alert, as the 36-year old somehow allowed Mario Mandzukic’s long-range header to escape his grasp. Against Spain, he was beaten at his near post by Torres’ strike, before gifting Silva in front of goal early in the second half with his poorly directed palm away. And against Italy, his flapping led to Italy’s opening goal after a promising Irish start.
RB – Gregory Van der Wiel (Holland)
Despite being one of Europe’s top-rated young full-backs, Van der Wiel appeared nervous from the beginning. Indeed, his performance against Denmark became so bad that he was replaced by Dirk Kuyt in a straight swap late on in the game. Contrary to rumours based on training reports, he kept his place in the side before being torn apart by Cristiano Ronaldo. In that match, he completed only 70% of his passes: a poor rate for any full-back in a possession-based side like Holland. At 24 years of age, he needs to develop quickly if he hopes to move to a bigger club.
CB – Jonny Heitinga (Holland)
Everton’s player of the year was meant to be the bedrock of a suspect Dutch defence; instead, his sluggish error for Krohn-Delhi’s winner against Denmark largely set the tone for their tournament. In truth, he was probably no worse than the cumbersome Ron Vlaar or fatigued Joris Mathijsen, but the fact he was dropped for the crucial game against Portugal is an illustration of his underachievement. David Moyes will be hoping he returns with his Everton form.
CB – Stephen Ward (Ireland)
Before you all scream “He’s not a centre back,” I know. I’m cheating at my own game. In all honesty, I found this position difficult to fill, whereas there have been plenty of appalling left back displays at this tournament, and thus it would be a shame to limit this side to only one. Besides, let’s face it, Ward was playing so narrowly that at times he appeared to be treading on Sean St Ledger’s toes. His comical sliced clearance – reminiscent of Steve Hodge’s for the “Hand of God” in 1986 - gifted Nikica Jelavic a crucial goal on the stroke of half-time: a position that Ireland never looked like recovering from. Moreover, his worrying tendency to drop a yard deeper than his defensive team-mates was evident on numerous occasions, such as when Torres raced through for his second. The Championship looks like being a more suitable level next season.
LB – Jose Holebas (Greece)
Somewhat of a surprise inclusion in Greece’s starting eleven after only becoming eligible last year, Holebas was perhaps the first player to catch the eye this summer – but for all the wrong reasons, as he was given the run-around by Piszczek and Blaszczykowski in a torrid first half. It was much of the same against Czech Republic, with both of their goals coming from his side within the first six minutes. Truly two of the worst individual halves of the tournament, his 94th minute booking against Russia after coming on as a sub means he will miss the Quarter Final clash against his nation of birth. A shame for him, but not for Greece.
RM – Sotirious Ninis (Greece)
The 22-year old attacking midfielder had been linked with Manchester United before sealing a move to Parma prior to the Euro’s, but he is yet to show any real quality. Subbed at half-time in the opener against Poland after completing just 33% of his passes, his replacement Salpigidis scored the equaliser and won a penalty, meaning Ninis is rightly yet to start since. However, with his side surprisingly still in the competition, time remains for him to show the sort of form he will need to deliver in Serie A. It will most likely have to come from the bench – but a Karagounis-less Greece may just need him yet.
CM – Keith Andrews (Ireland)
Many Irish fans pointed to Andrews and Glenn Whelan as being the weakness of their side and, while few of their players had remotely respectable tournaments, they were largely proved correct as they failed to stamp their limited authority. However, it was Andrews that proved particularly wasteful, taking 12 shots – 9 more than any of his team-mates – with only three hitting the target. Moreover, his tenth foul of the tournament brought him a red card in the closing stages against Italy that essentially epitomised his and Ireland’s campaign. No wonder West Brom released him…
CM – Rasmus Elm (Sweden)
Like Ninis, Elm is a young midfielder that has been linked with an English giant, Liverpool, in recent months. Yet he is another young talent that simply failed to live up to the hype; looking anonymous in the defeats against Ukraine and England, before being dropped for Sweden’s win against France. Used in the middle and in a narrow left-midfield role, he may need to find his “niche” before a step up at club level arrives.
LM – Yuri Zhirkov (Russia)
Another left-back that I have moved out of position for this team, his mistake against Greece allowed Karagounis in to seal Greek qualification at the expense of the initially impressive Russians. He and Anyukov’s surging runs were one of the key features of Euro 2008; sadly, we saw relatively little of that this time around, with Russia’s failure to keep a clean sheet ultimately costing them a place in the knock-out stage. Undoubtedly question marks over his natural defensive ability, the former Chelsea man will not look back on this tournament fondly.
CF – Christian Eriksen (Denmark)
As a young man myself, I feel harsh to have included so many young players. However, with talent and hype comes expectation, and this is the second major tournament in a row that Eriksen has failed to make his mark in. Had he done so this time, his disciplined side may have stood an even better chance of finishing second in the Group of Death. Teams found it too easy to deny him the time and space to flourish, with the creative burden falling at the feet of the seasoned Krohn-Delhi. Indeed, Eriksen’s only ever competitive goal for Denmark came last year against Iceland, suggesting he is yet to find his feet at international level. At just 20 years of age, however, Eriksen has plenty of time to make amends – and I wouldn’t bet against him doing so if his side can continue to qualify for major tournaments.
ST – Robin van Persie (Holland)
With 37 goals for Arsenal last season, RVP entered Poland and Ukraine as one of the most feared attackers around. Yet he left it with only one goal from 13 shots – the third most by an individual at the tournament – and his side bottom of the group with no points, a feat only matched by Ireland at this tournament. Ultimately, his countless misses against Denmark proved more costly than perhaps any in the tournament so far, as it left his side with an uphill task to qualify in the strongest group seen for many years. Against Portugal, he looked ineffective as a number ten behind Huntelaar; a role he may have to adapt to amid the arrivals of Lukas Podolski and Olivier Giroud at Arsenal, should he choose to stay.
Coach: Bert van Marwijk (Holland)
This was an easy decision: Holland may well be the most talented team in major tournament history to leave with no points. In truth, van Marwijk’s gameplan against Denmark appeared mostly correct, and he was let down by bad finishing. But his lack of reaction to that defeat in the Germany match was telling. Moreover, he failed to address the problem of Schweinsteiger, Khedira and Ozil outnumbering De Jong and van Bommel; leading to Gomez’s opening goal. Against Portugal, in which Holland somehow still had a chance of going through, his reaction was too big; with van der Vaart’s superb goal failing to hide his positional ill-discipline, and RVP and Huntelaar once more failing to click. He will most likely resign or be sacked in a few weeks.
Wojciech Szczesnyy (Poland) – One match: 1 error leading to a goal, 1 penalty conceded, and 1 red card. A disappointing end to a promising season.
Ron Vlaar (Holland) – Had the turning circle of a broken clock. It is defenders like Vlaar that Holland must do away with if they wish to improve in the future.
Mark van Bommel (Holland) – At 35 years of age, this looks to have been the last major tournament for both himself and his coach/father-in-law. Not too many Dutch fans will lose any sleep, with the exciting Kevin Strootman ready to take his place.
Dennis Rommedahl (Denmark) – Like MVB, this was most likely Rommedahl’s last major tournament. His lack of tracking back against Portugal was criminal, as was his reaction to being subbed against Holland. His talent does not warrant the free role given to him.
Robert Lewandowski (Poland) – Many people’s tip to be top scorer after an excellent season at Dortmund, the poacher never really built on his early goal against Greece. Looked particularly subdued when his country needed him most against the Czechs; any potential move to Manchester United will most likely have to wait.