by Stuart Moriarty-Patten

Fernando Torres: Hit or Miss

Torres managed to stir up quite a bit of debate in his 19 minute appearance as substitute for Spain, with opinion being divided as to his worth to the team.  Those who feel Torres has lost what ever magic he once had point out his that in his short time on the pitch, he missed a one-on-one when Italian keeper Gianluigi Buffon managed to tackle him after a poor first touch, and then saw an attempted chip sail well over the bar. A popular tweet doing the rounds during the game was “With Torres, Spain’s formation has gone from 4-6-0 to 4-5-0”.

It has to be noted that Spanish manager Del Bosque’s decision to play with 6 midfielders with Fabregas foraging alone up front may have misfired, and that the team came alight with the introduction of Torres, who’s intelligent running provided a much needed focus point for the tiki-taka.  The only thing lacking was his finishing, but if he keeps getting in position a goal will surely come.  If he is to be used as an impact substitute then his runs are the ideal thing to exploit a tiring defence.  This is a tactic that could well pay off and Torres’ moment may yet come in Euro 2012.

Andriy Shevchenko: A Fairy-tale ending to a mostly glittering career

Having played France, any thoughts by England that they have already faced their most difficult game in the group will have been undone by Andriy Shevchenko’ s performance for Ukraine.  While he seemed to have lost a little pace, his movement and reading of the game was exceptional as he scored two goals in six minutes against Sweden to bring the Ukraine from behind and get the co-hosts their first victory in Euro 2012.  John Terry and Joleon Lescott can look forward to a severe test in the meeting between the two teams.

The 35 year old Ukraine may have been the figure of some ridicule when he failed miserably at Chelsea following his then record £30 million move in 2006 but he had a highly successful career with AC Milan, where he scored 175 times in 322 games, and winning the prize for Europe’s top player, the Ballon d’Or, in 2004.  He is still hugely loved in the Ukraine where he now plays for Dynamo Kiev, and it would be a fairy tale come true if one their greatest ever players could lift the European Trophy in Kiev at the end of the tournament.

Andrei Arshavin’s return to form

Another Eastern European who has also seen his reputation dive in the English Premier League, is occasional Arsenal player Andrei Arshavin, who is currently on loan at his hometown club Zenit St. Petersburg where he first made his name.

Arshavin received wide plaudits for his performance in Russia’s 4-1 win over the Czech Republic.  Some judgment has to be reserved as it was difficult to tell whether Russia were very good, or Czechs were very poor, but it is widely agreed that Arshavin turned in a superb performance with assists for two of Russia’s goals.

Arshavin’s performance is indicative that his relationship with Arsenal and life in England is at rock bottom and it is probably time to move him on.  Many pundits felt his poor form was because he was played out of position by Wenger at Arsenal, but the role on the left wing that he took up for the Russian side was the same as that which Wenger has been asking him to play, but gone was the sulky, couldn’t care less attitude that came to mark his last performances at Arsenal.  Instead Arshavin was clearly enjoying himself and eager to be a part of things.

Why doesn’t Portugal produce quality strikers?

While Portugal seem to have no problem producing skillful players, the one area they have never really uncovered a star is in the position of forward.  The defeat to Germany showed that they desperately need someone who can put away the chances produced by the like of Ronaldo and Nani.  Since the legendary Eusebio retired in 1973 only Pauleta has impressed, but of his record 47 goals in 88 appearances only 4 came in a tournament, and 3 of those were against Poland in the 2002 World Cup.  The current incumbent of the striker role, Helder Postiga, who Tottenham fans may remember from the 2003/4 season when he managed 1 goal in 19 league games, has never really set the international scene alight.  The solution could possibly lie in the highly rated 20 year old prodigy Nélson Oliveira who came on for Postiga in the last twenty minutes of the game against Germany and looked lively.  With games to come against Holland and the team who beat them, Denmark, then, if they don’t convert their chances, their stay in Euro 2012 will be a short one.

The enigma that is Mario Balotelli

Love him or loathe him Balotelli always leaves a mark on a game.  This time it was one he probably wouldn’t want to be remembered for as he was guilty of a seemingly astonishing loss of concentration when through on goal in the game against Spain.  Balotelli, who had worked hard throughout the match but was getting increasingly frustrated, was clean through on keeper Casillas, after robbing Ramos of the ball, only to suddenly act like a man who had suddenly remembered he should be somewhere else, giving Ramos time to chase back and dispossess him.  Seconds later the Italian was substituted and to make matters worse his replacement Di Natale scored with his first kick of the game.  Balotelli’s place in the starting line-up for the next game seems in some jeopardy, but it is likely that he will give us a few more talking points before the tournament is over.