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Toni and Gomez head top of the Euro flops

It doesn't say much for the Bundesliga defenders that Luca Toni and Mario Gomez accrued 40 goals between them last season and yet when they got to Euro 2008 their return was – zero.

Toni had a pretty thankless task ploughing a lonely furrow up front for world champions Italy, with neither veteran Alessandro del Piero nor Antonio Cassano capable of providing much support – his only moment of note was being brought down by Eric Abidal in their final group match against France leading to a penalty.

The poor fellow was so distraught at his predicament that he got in touch with Bayern Munich strike partner Miroslav Klose.

“I had a text after the Portugal game (Germany's 3-2 win in the quarter-finals), he (Toni) told me he has a problem with his best friend and asked me for help with his best friend,” Klose revealed.

“I asked him what was the problem and he told me his best friend was the ball and he doesn't know what to do with it.”

Gomez too looked all at sea, slipping down the order of Joachim Loew's list of strikers that having started in the 2-0 opening win over Poland he was the last to be sent on in the 1-0 Euro final defeat by Spain, with just 11 minutes remaining.

The German defence too could be added to the list for while Philipp Lahm was great at going forward he was exposed all too often at the back – climaxing with being outpaced by Fernando Torres for the goal in the final.

His centreback partners didn't escape lightly either with former Liverpool and Scotland defensive great Alan Hansen summing up his opinion of them at half-time of the final.

“I would have taken off the entire back four – but you're only allowed three substitutes!”

Cristiano Ronaldo would seem to be a strange choice to list as flopping but once again when his supreme talents were needed in the last eight clash with Germany he was not really to be seen.

Indeed UEFA evidently don't see him in the same light as Real Madrid – whose constant links with the player probably didn't help him – as he was not included even in the top 23 players adjudged by European football's ruling body following the final.

“It wasn't that I played badly, it was because my team-mates didn't play according to the plan,” was the 23-year-old's assessment of the German loss.

Nothing much went right for France – their only really satisfying moment must have been seeing the man they see as the villain of the piece at the 2006 World Cup final Marco Materazzi's defensive limitations being brutally exposed by the Dutch in their 3-0 victory over Italy and relegated to the bench.

But for Willy Sagnol and Lilian Thuram there was not a lot to smile about.

Both the Bayern Munich defender and 36-year-old Thuram felt so disconsolate after the 4-1 hammering by Holland that they asked to be stood down for the final group match with Italy.

However, Thuram's loss of form was put into perspective when a proposed transfer to Paris Saint Germain collapsed because of a previously undetected heart condition.

“It seems that it's the same illness that my brother had a few years ago and from which he died on a basketball court,” admitted a tearful Thuram.

Romania's hopes of progressing from the 'Group of Death' rested and fell on the shoulders of striker Adrian Mutu – his form had hardly been helped prior to the tournament as he was ordered by world governing body FIFA to pay former club Chelsea 12million euros for revenues they claimed to have lost following his sacking for testing positive for cocaine in 2004 and his adored maternal grandmother died.

However, despite scoring a goal in the match with Italy, it was his penalty in the final 10 minutes that was saved by Gianluigi Buffon which kept Italy alive and ultimately condemned the Romanians to an early flight home.

“I have that on my conscience, it is important I push it to the back of my mind, but it is not at all easy … the fault for us not qualifying lies fairly and squarely with me, if you are looking for someone to blame,” he said.

While he may not have set an example on the pitch in terms of his play his acceptance of blame is praiseworthy in that it is not often a word that passes sportspeople's lips – for that alone he shouldn't be top of the flops.

Mon 30 June, 2008
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