The physical condition of England, Portugal, Italy and Spain in their last Euro matches was rather worrying.
Football has become something impossible to halt. Everyday, more and more fans demand more and more tickets, which leads to more and more games. We've come to a point, in which considering if players -as humans- are designed to perform at such a high level so often. Granted, the majority of players don't have to worry about representing their country and play three or four simultaneous tournaments with their club. But there is a considerable number of them that do have to give their all at a very high frequency rate, and usually it's the best ones around.
If you taker a closer look at what this last season (2011/2012) has meant in terms of matches for players of the semifinalists of the UEFA Champions League, you do realise how overdemanded these players are. Real Madrid players, Cristiano Ronaldo and Iker Casillas, played a total of 66 and 67 games respectively. Chelsea's captain and goalkeeper, Petr Cech, was present in 65 different matches. Barcelona's brains, Xavi and Iniesta, played 62 and 58 games. Even Bayern München's players, Thomas Müller and Philipp Lahm, who play in a league with 18 instead of 20 teams, were on the pitch 62 and 57 occasions.
Even if seasons were played on all 52 weeks of the year, which they are not, the world's finest are pulling in over a game per week. Taking into account the two-month break in summer, we're closer to the mark of one and a half games per week. And then, there's all the extras: benefit games, friendlies, pre-season tournaments, training, the constant travelling. It is really admirable that these footballers manage to do all this and give us all a good show every now and then.
Of course, it shouldn't really be a shock to see the English team simply physically shattered after 70 minutes of play in the quarter finals; or Spain and Portugal losing their focus halfway through the game; or Italy thinking about beating the English on penalty kicks, rather than the extra 30 minutes. They simply can't keep on handling this insane rhythm they're put under. No matter how much money they make, it's absurd to assume that they can just manage to play some extra games every year.
And what signs should we consider in order to notice how strenuous a modern footballer's life is? Well, the fact that the quality of summer tournaments (World Cups, European Championships, Copa Americas, etc.) has been in decline for the past decade or two, shows how little time players have to rest up and prepare for the aforementioned tournaments. Also important to consider, the number of injuries and recurrent injuries we read of, on a daily basis; or the number of severe illnesses that affect footballers: all the way from exhaustion to heat strokes and heart attacks, inspite of the fact that medicine and nutriotional science have been improving at an astonishingly fast pace.
It is understandable that football is an important part of modern European life. It is also understandable that its popularity has led to an increase in the demand for more of it. What becomes unreasonable is to expose players to an unhealthy amount of pressure and strain. And no, the solution isn't simply building bigger squads; that's like suffering from skin cancer, and merely removing all suspicious-looking moles. It wouldn't address the problem, it would simply create an ilusion that the problem is fixed, when it's really about to get worse.