by Liam McConville

At the beginning of Euro 2012, I picked out five established stars that in my opinion had a point to prove over the course of the tournament. Now with the Euros sadly over I will review each of these players’ tournament and see if their stock has gone up over the summer.

Andrei Arshavin

Right back on the opening night of the tournament, Russia made a statement of intent that seemingly confirmed their status as the dark horse of the Euros. Arshavin was brilliant as Russia crushed the Czech Republic; the playmaker showed Arsenal fans how good he could be when played in a central role. However this brief renaissance was as good as it got for Arshavin and the Russians.

They went on to claim a decent draw with co-hosts Poland but that left them with work to do in their final game against Greece. In keeping with the spirit of 2004, the Greeks frustrated their opponents before a defensive error allowed them to nick a 1-0 victory and send Russia out. So a fleeting return to form on the stage where he made his name but a disappointing early exit.  Overall it has to be seen as a deeply unsatisfying tournament for the Russian captain.

Franck Ribery

France seemed to have the perfect build-up with Ribery on the score sheet for three consecutive games and a long unbeaten streak stretching back to 2010. However as shown by Italy (whose pre-tournament form was dreadful), results leading up to a major tournament rarely matter. Ribery failed to ignite for France as their much talked up frontline disappointed.

The French drew with England in a hard-fought game before comfortably dispatching Ukraine on a stormy evening in Donetsk. Instead of going for top spot in Group D, they relaxed and were duly defeated by already eliminated Sweden. The build-up to the quarter-final was certainly not harmonious as the French side began to unravel.

Dressing room bust-ups and manager Laurent Blanc being linked with a move to Spurs isn’t the best preparation to take on the footballing juggernaut that is Spain. Ribery and France were given their footballing lesson in a 2-0 defeat, leaving Blanc to resign and everyone else to wonder where they go from here. Ribery now twenty-nine will not have many more chances to prove his class on the international stage.

Zlatan Ibrahimovic

The world-class A.C. Milan striker will no doubt be left frustrated with the rest of his team’s performances as Sweden failed to progress beyond the group stages. The Swedes went ahead in all three of their group games but managed to win only one after they’d already been eliminated. ‘Ibra’ scored against Ukraine before seeing another of Europe’s great strikers of the last decade, Andriy Shevchenko turn the game around.
England then performed another comeback to beat Sweden 3-2, leaving them with only pride to play for against France. Ibrahimovic lit up the tournament with an exquisite scissor volley to send Sweden on their way to a 2-0 victory. It was just another great moment from a man who doesn’t please all (Martin O’Neil once dubbed him ‘the most overrated player in the world’); however there is no doubt that Ibrahimovic truly is a phenomenal talent whose stock has risen after a great individual year with club and country.

Nicklas Bendtner

Denmark sprang the biggest surprise of the tournament as they started Holland’s downward spiral with a 1-0 win. They even looked as they could qualify from the dreaded group of death as they held Portugal 2-2 with five minutes to go, however Portugal substitute Varela gave his side the vital win. Bendtner scored both goals against Portugal to perhaps show that he might be as good as he thinks he is.

However he delivered his own ‘pants’ performance by exposing a pair of sponsored undergarments, thus incurring the wrath of UEFA. His hefty fine brought about much scoffing and mockery (especially in comparison to some of the fines handed down for racism). Denmark needed a result against Germany but they lost 2-1 to see them exit at the group stage. Bendtner’s goals showed his potential but he has to be more consistent to be really considered as a real world star.

Cristiano Ronaldo

As the tournament progressed there was a real feeling that this could be Cristiano Ronaldo’s tournament. Portugal started sluggishly as did their star player with Ronaldo missing a couple of sitters against Denmark. However when they really needed a performance against Holland, Ronaldo delivered. The Real Madrid forward delivered a brace to set up a quarter-final against the Czech Republic.

Ronaldo scored again to see Portugal through to a mouth-watering semi-final against Spain. Portugal frustrated the World and European champions, a goalless one hundred and twenty minutes set up a penalty shootout. Ronaldo was down to take the fifth penalty which has previously worked however on this occasion it backfired. Spain knocked out Portugal and the rest is history. Ronaldo yet again left with a feeling of so near yet so far.