Euro 2004: Testing times forworld football superpowers

28th June 2004, Comments 0 comments

28 June 2004 , LISBON - Euro 2004 has not been kind to the big footballing nations and their star players like Zinadine Zidane and David Beckham who are now watching events in Portugal from afar. For the first time since the European Championship began in 1960, none of Europe's big five of football-playing nations are in the semi-finals. The group stage saw three-time world champions Germany dumped out along with Italy and Spain. The defending champions France followed in the quarter-finals alongside Engla

28 June 2004

LISBON - Euro 2004 has not been kind to the big footballing nations and their star players like Zinadine Zidane and David Beckham who are now watching events in Portugal from afar.

For the first time since the European Championship began in 1960, none of Europe's big five of football-playing nations are in the semi-finals.

The group stage saw three-time world champions Germany dumped out along with Italy and Spain. The defending champions France followed in the quarter-finals alongside England, beaten on penalties by hosts Portugal.

At least one of these five, who between them have won seven of the 11 titles, have always reached the last four.

Only 1988 winners Netherlands are still around alongside the Czech Republic which has won titles in the past but have not been counted among the soccer elite. Meanwhile Greece had never reached the knock-out stage of a major tournament before.

"Perhaps a change is taking place which should make the major powers think a bit," said former German great Franz Beckenbauer commentating for German television.

The experts believe it is too early to see a trend or one main cause for the shift, apart from the already established fact that the gap between big and small has long closed.

Roy Hodgson, former Switzerland and Inter Milan coach, said: "A small nation like Slovenia prepares just as well as Italy or England do these days. They are just as hard to beat."

But the Englishman, a member of UEFA's technical study group, believes the main nations lost for different reasons.

England's elimination was a mixture of bad luck and the injury loss to their best player, 18-year-old striker Wayne Rooney, he suggested. France did not fulfil their potential while Germany were lacking self-belief after poor results before the tournament.

Italy went out without actually losing any matches and, like Spain, had enough points to go through had they been in other groups, he said.

Hodgson believes fatigue is not an argument and that players had time enough between the end of their seasons and the tournament to prepare.

"The top players, say in the Czech Republic, are not playing in the Czech League, they're playing in Germany, in Italy," he said.

"The same for the Swedes and the Danes, they're playing in Italy, England, too, not in the Danish or Swedish championship, so they're under the same pressures as the players appearing for Italy or England.

"The major point is it's a knockout tournament between three to six games, three to six finals if you like, and in a cup competition the team that's best on paper doesn't necessarily win it."

The Portuguese newspaper Correio da Manha sees another reason for the potential power shift, calling the tournament "a victory for football exporting countries".

The countries which import the most foreign players have been eliminated, it said. A look at the statistics shows that 58 of the players at the tournament are with English clubs, 48 are playing in Germany, 47 in Italy and 36 in Spain.

The German Football Federation (DFB), which believes too many foreign players are preventing German young players from coming through, would certainly like to see this figure reduced.

DPA

Subject: German news

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