Toni, the natural choice to lead Euro 2008 flop XI

June 27, 2008

Luca ToniAlmost 350 players will leave Euro 2008 disappointed but only 11 will carry the ultimate shame of making it into the Reuters Flops of the Tournament XI.

Starting at the back there is nothing like a commanding goalkeeper and we have three contenders who have been nothing like a commanding goalkeeper.

Petr Cech made a bid by dropping a straightforward catch that enabled Turkey to come from the dead and knock the Czech Republic out while Rustu Recber’s 100 percent ratio of blunders to games in his two appearances also earned notice.

However, the number one shirt goes to 38-year-old Jens Lehmann for his creaky, leaky display in Germany’s semi-final win over Turkey.

There was stiff competition at centre back too, though Marco Materazzi was an almost unanimous choice after finally rediscovering his long-lost Everton form — disappointing, shall we say — in Italy’s 3-0 defeat by the Netherlands.

Lilian Thuram, who was involved in all four goals conceded by France against the Dutch, was in there fighting but Russia’s Roman Shirokov, never to be seen again after Spain thumped four goals through, round and over him, gets the shirt.

France are well represented though as Willy Sagnol and Eric Abidal slot in at fullback.

There were a wide range of contenders for the four midfield slots but another Frenchman, Florent Malouda, was a clear favourite as he reproduced the form he has been showing all season for Chelsea — none.

Daniele De Rossi was supposed to be the purring engine at the heart of the Italian midfield but instead operated like a Vespa on the wrong fuel and walks in.

Four years ago Angelos Basinas helped Greece to their unlikely title but this time he was anonymous. There might have been other Greeks who were as bad or even worse but, as captain, he gets in with something of a representative role.

Freddie Ljungberg, Gennaro Gattuso and Tranquillo Barnetta all attracted votes but the final midfield spot goes to a man who was personally and publicly blamed by his coach for his team’s failure, Poland’s toothless Ebi Smolarek.

Up front there were any number of candidates. Nicolas Anelka had more scowls than shots, Henrik Larsson should have called it a day after two retirements while Martin Harnik was handed the chance to become an Austrian hero but flopped.

However, Mario Gomez has to play given that he arrived with such a fanfare but was then so ineffective that Germany redesigned their formation rather than keep him in.

Alongside him is the player who attracted more votes than anyone, someone for whom the term “lump” could have been invented.

Slow, immobile, clumsy and, when finally presented with some chances to show his ability in the air — poor in the air. Step forward, slowly, Luca Toni.

Such are the motivational qualities of Guus Hiddink that he would probably mould this bunch of misfits into title contenders.

But our disparate group will instead take to the hypothetical field under the guidance of Roberto Donadoni, who since he has already been sacked as Italy coach, is at least available.

PHOTO: Italy striker Luca Toni after being fouled by Eric Abidal in the area during the 2-0 win over France. June 17. REUTERS/Tony Gentile

14 comments

We welcome comments that advance the story through relevant opinion, anecdotes, links and data. If you see a comment that you believe is irrelevant or inappropriate, you can flag it to our editors by using the report abuse links. Views expressed in the comments do not represent those of Reuters. For more information on our comment policy, see http://blogs.reuters.com/fulldisclosure/2010/09/27/toward-a-more-thoughtful-conversation-on-stories/

I think we have been a tad harsh on De Rossi. I actually think he was Italy’s best player…which isn’t saying much I know

Posted by Mark Meadows | Report as abusive

I agree that it’s harsh on DDR, but he certainly wasn’t the best player for the Azzurri. That distinction would surely go to Buffon. Chiellini, Grosso and Pirlo all have an argument for having out-performed DDR.

We should also mention that Donadoni is undeserving of this honor as it clearly belongs most naturally to Monsieur Domenech.

Posted by tito | Report as abusive

[...] Toni, the natural choice to lead tournament flop XILuca Toni Almost 350 players will leave Euro 2008 disappointed but only 11 will carry the ultimate shame of making it into the Reuters Flops of the Tournament XI. Starting at the back there is nothing like a commanding goalkeeper and we … [...]

Harsh on De Rossi? Seriously? Like that’s even possible. He is deserving of any indignities that come his way. I’ve had more pleasing things on the bottom of my shoe.

Posted by spectre | Report as abusive

Lehmann ahead of Rustu?

Only bitter english can make a claim like that. He made one single mistake against germany and that mistake was nothing compared to those of Rustu and Cech!

Posted by Dirk | Report as abusive

Actually, I think the eleven could consist of entirely French players. Eric Cantona has come out and correctly blasted the French for being “boring” and I agree – they are individually and collectively the biggest disappointment of the tournament.

Definately Donadoni, how can you seriously consider Italy as world champions when they play like that !!!
They got what they deserved. Viva Espana y Viva Fernando !!!

The whole dutch team… that’s who i would pick. Italy being the only team that Spain could not beat in full time and had the best chance of the game too… for all the crap that has been said about Donadoni and the italian team it very easily could have been Italy in the semi final or final had the penalty shoot-out gone their way. Why Holland? Because when you thrash Italy and France you should not be losing to Russia.

Posted by Luke | Report as abusive

I agree Luca Toni was a flop. Any coach can replace a player who underperforms in a match. Why did Donadoni use him in all 4 matches? Even Spain’s Luis Aragones had the luxury of replacing Fernando Torres in the middle of a match with a domestic league star Guiza. Who knows if domestic league star Boriello could have done better in the Italy matches?

Well, I agree with the choosen 11, apart from Daniele de Rossi, who I think was ok. And, as already said by another scriptor, Italy might (and without Toni would) have beaten Spain in the quarter final, and then presumably would have won the whole sheebang.

Posted by Ragnar Jonsson | Report as abusive

In response to the comment above: I don’t buy that Italy actually came close to making it into the semifinals… They were almost knocked out of the group phase by Romania, of all teams!

Posted by bobbem | Report as abusive

Shouldn’t Domeniche be ahead of Donadoni?

Actually no, Donadoni is straight in with whatever that formation was, and for his selection.

i agree with the team, except for de rossi-he wasnt completely useless, whereas a player like ronaldo-after an incredible season at man u, was virtually ineffective at the euro, although its come out he was playing injured…maybe gattuso-he was worse than DDR

Posted by Dan | Report as abusive

It is a nice article.I am very pleased with the thought and don’t feel like adding anything in it.

Hazel Knight
Grand Slam of Slots