So Euro 2012, it’s been pretty bloody good on the pitch so far hasn’t it? (I’ll leave the talk of empty seats, exploitive hotel prices, countdowns to kick-off and ugly scenes of hooliganism to others). Just about every game so far has been enjoyable with either a high level of drama or intrigue about it. I say just about every game as, predictably, England and France limped to a wheezing and dull conclusion; whereas Germany-Portugal, although certainly bored in parts, it at least exploded into goalmouth action in the final fifteen.
We’ve seen the Greeks stage an admirable comeback against dubious refereeing and tremendous home support, heavyweights Spain and Italy slugging it out with bizarre tactical twists (De Rossi as sweeper? We’ll see that and raise you with no striker), Sheva writing the fairy tale script and rolling back the years, and the Netherlands seemingly forgetting how to score against the Danes. All very enjoyable but, like Alan Carr’s dad, I thought why not scout the land for the very finest players that a club can sign? Or, rather more accurately, sit on my arse, watch the TV and piece together a wish list that amounts to little more than snap judgements and hearsay. First up I’ve been scouting a somewhat problem position for us the last few years (mainly as the erratic Bosingwa has often occupied it), that of the right back. Now I love man mountain Ivanovic as much as the next fan – he’s reliable and dependable as they come but with Jose seemingly on the way out it looks like there’s a vacancy in our squad for new RB – here’s my picks, do let us know yours…
Christian Maggio, Italy
The Italians know how to defend, that’s a given, and they’ve also produced some of the finest full backs in world football down the years. Maggio might not be as well known as some of the illustrious defenders of the past but he’s proving to be one of the defenders of the tournament so far. He was voted into the Serie A team of the season and has carried that good form into the Euros. He’s shown strength on the ball as well as in the tackle. Predominately a wing-back in Napoli’s and Italy’s system, his fantastic work-rate shows he doesn’t neglect defensive responsibilities despite the marauding runs forward. Capable of a neat turn of pace, good close control and a testing cross he looks a quality player. Although a late developer Maggio is now 30 and shouldn’t really be under consideration if we want to sign players that are the future of the club.
Lukasz Piszczek, Poland
All that has been good about Poland has come down the right side and in particular the three Borussia Dortmond players who, fresh off the back of a domestic double, have been star performers. Piszczek had a barnstorming opening 45 minutes tearing the Greeks to pieces on the overlap and producing some teasing crosses. In the following game against the Russians his forward runs were well curtailed by the threat of Zhirkov and Arshavin and, in truth, struggled doing the dirty work at times. Seems to have a superb understanding with the energetic Blaszczykowski, who can be often seen tracking back to help out, and it would be interesting to see how effective he’d be without his club mate ahead of him.
Gregory Van Der Wiel, Netherlands
The Ajax man has long been linked with a move to the Blues but missed much of the title winning season just gone through injury. Has plenty of pace and looks to be a solid technical player but has looked rusty so far. Was too often found wanting in the opening game against Denmark’s Michael Krohn-Dehli and didn’t offer enough going forward in a stuttering Dutch defeat. In an erratic defensive display against the Germans he was culpable for keeping Mario Gomez onside, was steady but barely noticeable for ninety minutes and was completely non-existent as an attacking force. Much like the Dutch squad it’s been a poor tournament so far but, to be fair, he had little protection from Robben ahead of him and is only 24 so might still have some potential.
Star Pick: Mathieu Debuchy, France
Lille’s full back is a bit of rookie on the international scene having only been called up as a late replacement for Bacary Sagna. He’s certainly impressed so far – there’s not many wide players who get the better of Ashley Cole but the Chelsea man struggled to contain him in England’s opener. A low centre of gravity and fantastic technical skills make him a superb attacking outlet and his tight defending limited Oxlade-Chamberlain to just eleven passes. Interesting Debuchy’s pass-completion percentage was up at 78% on par with England’s most accurate passer, our own John Terry. Although not the tallest at 5’9 we could always rotate with Brana for opponents with a greater aerial threat. The paper talk has pointed to a move to Newcastle which once again suggests that Graham Carr knows a talent when he sees one.