AFTER almost every match at Euro 2012, the words “best match of the tournament so far” have been tweeted by football lovers around the world.
Indeed, we have seen some cracking matches in the opening rounds, whether it be German efficiency, Andres Iniesta’s passing and movement or England borrowing the Chelsea bus and parking it in front of their goal.
But we have also seen some of the world’s superstars looking as flat as Minora blades.
Portugal’s Cristiano Ronaldo’s hair looked much sharper than he did during “the game of the tournament” on Wednesday night against Denmark. He missed two glorious chances that you would have backed him to score earlier in the season for Real Madrid.
But the Portugal captain seems to be running on fumes rather than petrol at the moment. His acceleration can be compared with a donkey cart’s – it’s like somebody has put lead in his boots.
The same can be said about the Netherlands’ Arjen Robben, who has been terrible at the European championship thus far. It seems the egos in the Dutch camp at the moment are contributing to his poor form, as he and the rest of the players are playing for themselves.
It looks like a trend these days that the world’s biggest stars are not performing at their best during big tournaments.
The same Ronaldo and Lionel Messi were on fire heading into the 2010 Fifa World Cup, but left our shores drenched in failure and under-achievement.
Going into the African Nations Cup, Demba Ba and Papiss Cisse were touted as the most potent strike force in Africa, but when they got to Equatorial Guinea and Gabon, they couldn’t even strike a match to light Senegal’s fire at the continental showpiece.
But as soon as Cisse returned to Newcastle United, he couldn’t stop scoring, even netting goals from impossible angles with the outside of his boot. He was just phenomenal.
But why? Why do these world-class players only perform for their clubs and not as consistently for their national teams?
The same question can be asked about our own Steven Pienaar. Why is he a match-winner for Everton, but he can’t spark Bafana Bafana into life?
And the answer, in my opinion, is simple: quality. Sometimes you are only as good as the players around you.
Messi and Ronaldo are the best players in the world at the moment, but you could argue that the likes of Xavi and Xabi Alonso give them the type of passes and service they need to excel.
Pienaar doesn’t have to prove anything to anybody, as he performs week in and week out in one of the world’s toughest leagues. He doesn’t become a different player overnight when he plays for the national team, it’s just that the players around him at the moment are rubbish.
Two back-to-back draws against football “powerhouses” Ethiopia and Botswana should have opened our eyes to the fact that we have a misconception about how good our players are.
We have a well-run league, and the television coverage is out of this world, but we just don’t have enough world-class players to compete at the highest level.
The next Bafana coach must admit this first and try to adapt his strategies around that, while it’s time for Safa to take a hard look at themselves about why a country with so much natural talent is not producing more world-class players.
TWEET OF THE WEEK
@RobbieSavage8 (former footballer Robbie Savage replies to Alan Sugar of the British series The Apprentice): Imagine headline when you got fired. RT @Lord_Sugar: Would like to be the new manager of Spurs just to give the media something to write about.
WHO TO FOLLOW
@officialbarnsy: Former Liverpool and England footballer John Barnes’s analysis on SuperSport during Euro 2012 has been superb so far. He is still new to Twitter, but his tweets are sure to add value to your timeline in the near future.
p Follow John Goliath on Twitter: @Anchorman82