Forecasting the European Championships picture

Since I really did not want to confront the odd results in the Champions League, the emphatic derby day victory of Arsenal, or the small group of neo-Nazi FC Kaiserslauten fans in Germany, I thought that it might be fun to look at the international games that will be coming up as a way of trying to predict the performance of the teams at the European Championships this summer. The games that will be played over the next three months will be a good indication of what squads will be picked for the summer and whether there will be any wild card selections in any of these squads that could make for a more exciting tournament.

The fun news is that the most recent Spanish squad does not include Fernando Torres because of the most obvious reason not to pick a striker: he can’t score goals (4 goals in all competitions this season).

It is worth noting that David Luiz at centre back for Chelsea has scored more goals this season than Torres. Torres has scored fewer goals then Danny Graham, Grant Holt and Heidur Helguson who were all playing the Championship last season and are worth considerably less. At his current rate of scoring, Torres would fit in nicely with Wigan who has yet to have a striker over 4 goals in the Premiership and Everton who, bizarrely, don’t have a player with more than 3 goals.

I don’t want to go on too much about how Torres can’t score at the moment even though he claims that he is better physically then he ever has been before. It is unfair to criticise a player too much if he is not on form and he is trying very hard to score, but when the player costs £50 million it is hard not to expect goals. His being dropped from the Spanish squad is a sensible move by Del Bosque, as it will give others a chance to stake their claim for a place in the summer. It will be more interesting to see what happens closer to the European Championships if Torres does not start scoring again.

While poking fun at Torres has become commonplace, including a variety of great websites, his replacement at Liverpool has not been much better. Andy Carroll has scored three goals this season in the Premiership. When Liverpool bought him Carroll was considered to be the great new English striker who was tall, athletic and had a massive shot. All Carroll has proved this season is that he is a little clumsy in possession and struggles to play in the Liverpool system. Carroll has not progressed like everyone has hoped he would and, even after Luis Suarez was banned and Carroll was the main focus for the Liverpool team, he cannot score. This just proves what sort of situation England will be in this summer and enforces the importance of the upcoming matches to try to identify a striker that can score a few goals or at least get a couple of assists.

Wayne Rooney is one of the best strikers in the game currently and he works harder than most people in an England shirt, but England will be without him for the first two matches of the group stage of the European Championships and now will be without first backup Darren Bent due to an ankle injury. It will be interesting to see who will be picked for the upcoming matches in an attempt to find another striker who can score like Rooney. The match against the Netherlands will try out Sunderland striker Frazier Campbell and other strikers including Bobby Zamora, Jermaine Defoe, and Danny Wellbeck or maybe even Theo Walcott and Alex Oxdale-Chamberlain together up front if England gets really desperate (or adventurous depending on whether you are glass half full or empty).

Italy has dropped Mario Balotelli because Cesare Prandelli, the manager, wants 11 players on the pitch and Balotelli is not likely to finish a match given his disciplinary record. While I agree with the action that Prandelli has taken-11 players typically win against 10 players-I do feel sorry for Balotelli.

My pity is not because I sympathize with Balotelli the footballer but because I really want some Balotelli stories from the European Championships. Balotelli, who uses toilets at primary schools, threw a dart at a reserve player, handed out cash Christmas presents to random pedestrians while driving around in his Bentley, wore an AC Milan shirt while playing for Inter Milan, and set fire to his house by launching fireworks in the bathroom. He then gave his house keys to the arriving emergency services and told them that he was going to be in the local 5 star hotel (with a suitcase of money he had taken from his house with him). Balotelli is a walking scandal and it would be wonderful to see what sort of mischief he could get into in Poland and the Ukraine.

Who knows, there could be a Ukrainian wildfire started by a bored Balotelli making a fire during a break at training camp. Or he could mistakenly enter Belarus in search of a bathroom and leave the country with democracy and a free market. Europe, and the world, would be a more enjoyable place if Balotelli goes to the European Championships. Even though his disciplinary record is unlikely to improve, it would be strange if Prandelli did not take Balotelli if only because of his talent, not because he is an interesting guy.

James is a sophomore. He can be reached at

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