At international tournaments, there are always at least a handful of players who who make a good account of themselves. Over the course of this Euro 2012 tournament, however, Flix & Trix will be analysing exceptional cases of players who, on the other hand, make the wrong kind of impact. After all, a chain is only as strong as its weakest link.
Weak Links (Matchday 1, Group A)
Poland — Wojciech Szczesny
The young Arsenal goalkeeper had nothing much to do in the first half except watch his attacking colleagues run Greece riot in the final third. In the second half, however, once his team-mates took up a complacent mentality he was forced into action and ultimately was exploited for not being decisive in dealing with it.
Szczesny was at fault for Greece’s equaliser. Failure to dominate the situation by properly communicating with Marcin Wasilewski saw a horrible mix-up occur between the two, one which handed a gilt-edged opportunity to a well-placed Dimitrios Salpingidis, who willingly accepted the chance by slotting into the unguarded net.
Roughly eighteen minutes later, Szczesny struck again. This time he tried to tackle the lively Salpingidis for the ball in a 1-v-1 situation. The diminutive attacker simply got his foot to the ball first, forcing Szczesny to make contact with the Greek player’s foot instead. Penalty. Red card. Suspension.
In came Przemyslaw Tyton and his first act of the game was to save the resulting penalty. A nervous Szczesny was stooped sanguinely in the tunnel, watching Tyton face the consequence of his action. Upon seeing Tyton’s save, he leapt from his stooped position in delight. There was short term relief.
Long term, however, as far as this tournament is concerned, Szczesny has himself a problem. With him set to miss the next game versus Russia, should Tyton step in and impress, his manager would then have a tough decision to make for the following game. It may well be that Szczesny played his last game of the tournament on the first day of it.
In fairness, he is a better ‘keeper than he showed and his center backs offered little protection but, ultimately, he proved to be his country’s fall man on the day and may subsequently pay the price for it.
Greece — Sotiris Ninis
It’s always a pleasure to see young ones coming through the ranks for club and country. Sotiris Ninis is a much talked about player in his homeland. So talked about in fact, that he was once linked with a move to Manchester United, among other European heavyweights.
Ninis is no stranger to the international scene, having made his debut for Greece all the way back in 2008. He even scored on his debut. However, versus Poland, one could hardly tell he featured at international level before.
Ninis was given a vote of confidence by Fernando Santos; he was chosen to start ahead of Dimitrios Salpingidis. This move proved decisive, but not from Ninis’ point of view. A series of misplaced, unnecessary back-flicks and crosses leading to a dismal pass completion percentage of thirty-three, coupled with an overall lack of involvement saw the player hooked at half time.* He looked a player woefully out of his depth.
The introduction of Dimitrios Salpingidis for the second half proved a masterstroke. The player was hungry, highly motivated as a result of being left out. His experience and burning desire went on to turn the game in Greece’s favor, nearly winnng it too, but for the offside flag.
Ninis, like Szczesny, is a better player than he showed. The question is whether he will get another opportunity during the tournament to prove that. No doubt, Salpingidis has assured himself of a starting berth versus Russia where his experience and attacking endeavor should prove to be key, especially given the lack of quality in this Greece side. Hopefully, Ninis can give a better account of himself should he be called upon to make an impact at some point, just like his experienced replacement did.
*- Stats courtesy of whoscored