With the second round of Euro 2012′s group stage complete, Bigsoccerhead rewards the best and worst of the week:
Major tournaments usually announce a new star to the world of soccer. If we’re lucky, more than one will compete for the limelight, as was the case in Euro 2004, when Cristiano Ronaldo and Milan Baros left their indelible marks – the Portuguese shattered all expectations, while the Czech never quite fulfilled his Golden Boot promise. This year the spotlight is clearly on CSKA’s young starlet, Alan Dzagoev. Already a household name in Russia, Dzagoev has found the net three times, keeping the more familiar Roman Pavlyuchenko on the bench, and more importantly, attracting the attention of Europe’s behemoths. With Russia’s progression to the knockout stages almost guaranteed, the young Muscovite should continue to pad his stats.
It can’t be easy being Fernando Torres. That is if you take away the fact that he’s a millionaire. Since moving to Chelsea, Torres has been one of soccer’s favorite punching bags. For most, his fall from grace has been both precipitous and inexplicable. After all, how does one go from being arguably the world’s best striker, commanding an astronomical transfer fee, to a bench warmer? Yet, his now legendary goal against Barcelona in the Champions League semifinals may have been the catalyst for rejuvenation, which has translated into the Euro. Torres’ introduction in the second half against Italy awakened the Spanish, and while he squandered ample opportunities to score, the fact that he continued to try speaks volumes about his new found aplomb. His two goals against Ireland have surely reinforced his confidence, and given the near certainty that Spain will progress to the latter stages of the tournament, it’s safe to say El Nino will regain his old form, once again.
Irish fans are making the headlines for all the right reasons, and are reminding the world what supporting a team should really look like. Facing another heavy defeat, this time at the hands of Spain, Irish fans began singing “The Fields of Athenry,” a folk song depicting a man’s struggle to feed his family, which has long associated with Irish soccer. This unconditional support is in stark contrast to some of the behavior being witnessed in Poland and Ukraine. The Russian and Croatian FA’s have already been fined for their fans’ disorderly conduct. Apart from brawling with Polish fans prior to Russia’s match against Poland, Russian fans assaulted Polish stewards after both teams tied their Group A match. Not to be outdone, Croatian fans threw flares onto the field, burned EU flags, and displayed right wing signs as their team defeated Ireland. Irish fans have long been among the best the world of soccer, and one can only hope that the support will be rewarded with an Irish win against Italy.
In soccer, no term more accurately reflects the Dutch than “the self-fulfilling prophecy.” Coined by sociologist Robert K Merton, the term refers to those who live up to the expectations that are associated with them, whether positive or negative. In Holland’s case, the term has negative associations. The Dutch have traditionally been thought of not only as underachievers, but also as being notoriously mutinous. Suggesting that Holland has underachieved in this tournament is quite the understatement, given bookmakers’ odds, which ranked them as third favorites to win the whole thing. The loss to Denmark in their first game also reignited old feuds between players, which will in all likelihood add up to a third successive defeat in the group of death, and a search for a new manager.