Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden)
It was one of the images of the tournament so far. As Ibrahimovic spooned an easy chance over the bar against Italy, the Italian defenders appealed for offside. So too did Ibrahimovic, desperate for the assistant referee to save his blushes. It sums up his tournament as a whole.
“Ibrahimovic is our match-winner, our captain, our only world-class player,” said Erik Hamren before the start of the tournament. It was hardly a shocking admission given that nobody could disagree with the sentiment, but highlights just how reliant Sweden are on Ibrahimovic. He scored 11 of their 19 qualifying goals.
No striker in the tournament has had more shots without getting one on target. No player has been caught offside more often (eight times in two games). Only one player has committed more fouls. Are you watching Manchester United?
David Alaba (Austria)
If pride comes before a fall, Alaba doesn’t deserve this rut. While commentators and pundits rush to spread the gospel of the ultimate utility player, Austria’s midfielder just gets on with his thing. It’s hardly Alaba’s fault that he is very good in about eight different positions and that everyone on BBC and ITV can’t stop talking about it.
Perhaps Alaba’s reputation made him a hostage to fortune but, while Austria have disappointed immensely, it is he who will carry the heaviest can. When your one superstar player is the first player withdrawn after 64 minutes of your second game with the score at 0-0, you know he hasn’t played well.
The peak of Alaba’s tournament came when he hit the post after 30 seconds against Hungary; it’s been downhill since. Against Portugal, he had one shot (off target), failed to create a chance and had a dismal passing accuracy of 52.6%. Ouch.
Robert Lewandowski (Poland)
Poland have actually looked pretty good in this tournament so far. They could easily have scored more than one against Northern Ireland, and then had the better of the chances in a 0-0 draw with Germany. They join Germany, Spain and Italy as the only teams not to have conceded a goal.
Yet it’s hard not to be disappointed by the lack of impact from Lewandowski so far, put into the shade by the influence of Arkadiusz Milik. Lewandowski entered the tournament as Europe’s only elite striker in the peak years of his career, and we’re still waiting to see him fire.
Lewandowski averaged 5.2 shots per game in the Bundesliga this season, and 3.7 from inside the penalty area. So far in France he’s had just two shots in total, both from outside the box and neither on target. For Lewandowski to have just two of Poland’s 25 attempts will be giving Adam Nawalka a headache as he prepares for the knock-out stages.
Arda Turan (Turkey)
Turan started Euro 2016 as his country’s great hope, Turkey’s captain and superstar. There’s a chance he could end it by retiring from international football at the age of 29. Eesh.
If Turkey supporters were unimpressed by the Barcelona midfielder’s performance against Croatia, they hardly changed their tune after Turan again struggled against Spain on Friday night. “Arda out” was the chant, together with boos when he touched the ball and widespread cheers when he was hauled off after 65 minutes. The substitution came after a heavily jeered Turan stopped after receiving the ball to sarcastically give supporters a thumbs-up.
— Cillian O Conchuir (@killeroc) June 17, 2016
“I have nothing to prove,” Turan said after the game. “I have worn this shirt more than 90 times and the times I’ve played badly can be counted on the fingers of one hand.” Unfortunately, two of those fingers came in the last week. Who said football fans had short memories?
Harry Kane (England)
It feels like we’ve kicked Kane quite hard since the tournament started, but there is no doubt that he has disappointed. Whether that’s entirely his fault is a different – and slightly more nuanced – question, but the reality is that his place was under threat after Russia. After Wales, the thread he was hanging by will surely be cut.
The statistic about Kane’s goals when starting for England (two in 11 matches) is concerning, but more worrying still was his distinct lack of involvement in England’s first two group games. England’s first-choice central striker has had one shot on target in 136 minutes against inferior opposition. All but one of his shots have come from outside the penalty area.
With Daniel Sturridge and Jamie Vardy both impressing as substitutes, Kane faces a battle to win back his starting place for the knock-out rounds. One of the pre-tournament Golden Boot favourites might fail to score at all.
Thomas Muller (Germany)
Muller might be Germany’s go-to guy in World Cups, but in European Championships he’s been their hatstand, occasionally useful but mainly stood in the corner and easily ignored. Since Muller made his Euro debut in 2012, ten different Germany players have scored goals in the tournament; Muller is not one. Six different players have contributed assists; Muller is not one.
Muller’s opening two matches in Euro 2016 have been almost entirely forgettable. No goals, no assists, two shots (one on target), two chances created. In his entire Bundesliga season with Bayern Munich, Muller lost the ball through a poor touch on 47 occasions. He’s reached seven in his 180 minutes so far. Germany are left hoping that their big-game player is just waiting for the knock-out rounds.
Cristiano Ronaldo (Portugal)
So big a disappointment that it went full circle and became more entertaining than him being brilliant. There should be no doubt that Ronaldo is the best player at this tournament (331 club goals in his last six seasons, for goodness sake), but nor too that he has stunk the place out thus far.
Unlike Ibrahimovic – and to a lesser extent Alaba and Turan – Ronaldo is not merely suffering for the lack of quality around him. Andre Gomes, Joao Moutinho, Joao Mario are all talented players intent on servicing their captain and striker. It’s Ronaldo himself who has been to blame.
Ronaldo has taken 20 shots in two matches. Fourteen of those have been from outside the area, and only four have required a save. That total includes the penalty against Austria which rebounded back from the post, and a series of free-kicks that have either cannoned into the wall or flown over the bar. The question is whether this drought is at some point going to end with an unstoppable flood of goals.