European Football Championship 2008: Don’t call us…
This might sound absurd but some Portuguese fans say Luis Felipe Scolari shouldn’t take Deco to Euro 2008. His technique and industry drove Portugal to the Euro 2004 final and the semi-finals of the 2006 World Cup but he has not fired on all cylinders at Barcelona since their 2006 UEFA Champions League triumph. He failed a breathalyser test in January and is probably one of the players Scolari had in mind when he warned his squad to “worry more about soccer and less about fashion and nightlife”.
In fact, Deco was subbed in four of his ten Euro 2008 qualifiers, amassing just 548pts on the Castrol Performance Index. Without him, Scolari could play Maniche (1317 pts) and Tiago in central midfield, with Marco Caneira and Joao Moutinho on the flanks, supporting Cristiano Ronaldo and Ricardo Quaresma. Scolari can also call on Simao’s artistry and Nani’s flair. To be sure of his place, Deco needs to return to form. Fast.
The furore over Luis Aragones’ refusal to pick Raul became so intense that player and coach held an unprecedented press conference to defuse the issue. The meeting, instigated by Raul, may have reduced the tension but Aragones knows the media will crucify him if Spain struggle up front at Euro 2008.
Still only 30, Raul has been in scintillating form this season for Real Madrid. Yet it’s possible to understand Aragones’ reservations. For Spain, Raul raced to 37 goals in 68 games but in his next 34 appearances, he grabbed just seven. It must seem hard to justify picking him over Fernando Torres (147pts) or David Villa (1261 pts).
Spain qualified with reasonable ease, scoring 23 goals, and Aragones is said to believe his squad has more cohesion without Raul. He did say there was no animus against Raul and he hadn’t chosen his final squad, but the striker may have to wait until the coach quits this summer to resume his international career.
Alessandro Del Piero (Italy)
Azzurri skipper Fabio Cannavaro thinks Del Piero should be in the Italy squad. So do Gianluca Zambrotta and Roberto Donadoni’s son. But the Azzurri coach has not been swayed by this chorus – or by Del Piero’s superb form for Juventus.
Last September Del Piero was reported as saying he would only play for Italy as a striker. Rumours of such an ultimatum did not endear him to Donadoni, who has not played him since. Still, the fact that there is a clamour for Del Piero’s return marks a remarkable upturn for the Golden Boy. When Serie A kicked off, he wasn’t even sure of a place in Claudio Ranieri’s remodelled Juventus.
In Del Piero’s absence, Italy have prospered with Luca Toni (4058 pts), Antonio Di Natale (2885pts) and Fabio Quagliarella up front. Filippo Inzaghi, Alberto Gilardino, Raffaele Palladino, Marco Barrielli and Cristiano Lucarelli are all able to help out. At 33, Del Piero is unlikely to feature in the 2010 World Cup, so Donadoni may think it best to build for that without him.
David Trezeguet (France)
Coach Raymond Domenech says he understands the Juve striker’s frustration at playing just 181 minutes of France’s Euro 2008 qualifiers. “I know David’s qualities. You do not get to be top scorer in Serie A by chance.” But Trezeguet’s international goalscoring has decelerated as markedly as Raul’s. He scored 28 in his first 48 caps but just six in the next 22, with three of those against China and Faroe Islands.
Nor is the French coach short of options up front, with Thierry Henry (720pts), Karim Benzema and Nicolas Anelka (1368pts) heading a strong field that also includes the in-form Djibril Cissé, Stade Rennais star Jimmy Briand (linked with Arsenal) and Monaco’s Jérémy Menez, a possible target for Inter.
Trezeguet, now 30, may have scored the winning goal in the Euro 2000 final but the odds on him making a comeback at Euro 2008 have lengthened.
For more news on the European Football Championship 2008 please visit http://www.castrolindex.com
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