Zinedine Zidane, David Beckham, Michael Owen, Raul... All these were stars who were most notable by unfulfilled expectations in this past European Championship in Portugal. Besides a few notable (and to say the least surprising) exceptions, such as Theodoros Zagorakis, Traianos Dellas, Cristiano Ronaldo, Milan Baros and Wayne Rooney, the Euro 2004 in Portugal can be more characterized as absent of the stars that make football-legends. It was indeed a tournament in which the Greek victory symbolized the superiority of the group – underlining the centrality of football as a team effort. On the other hand, there were stars, and differently from many former tournaments, the real stars of this past European Championship were the coaches. This was indeed more because of the tactical prowess’s of some teams.
In any case, there were both good and bad coaches, and firstly, my top-five of the coaches who flunked:
5) Rudi Voller: I greatly admire Mr. Voller, and I still do. A couple of years ago, he did miracles with the Germany national team in Japan and Corea. This time, however, although clearly lacking attacking resources, Mr. Voller seemed to lack the courage to try something new in the games against both Latvia and the Czech Republic.
4) Iñaki Saez: While Spain lacked a complete team, Mr. Saez contributed to an already weak performance, by not showing that he believed in the Spanish qualities of attacking football. Instead, Spain played cowardly football far below what one could expect from such a proud football nation.
3) Dick Advocaat: Although the Dutch reached the semifinal, one was left with the feeling that there was much more in that team. Particularly, after the excellent period they had against the Czech Republic. Mr. Advocaat should have had more courage.
2) Giovanni Trappatoni: As so often, Italy disappointed. The Italian stars did not perform, and this was not due to the otherwise many lame excuses the Italians came up with. With the players available, Italy should surely have killed Denmark, Sweden and Bulgaria. Instead, two lucky draws and a hard-fought last-minute victory... Just not good enough.
1) Jaques Santini: Very anonymous coach in the shadow of all the French super stars. Seemed he did nothing but set the team. But a coach should be so much more than that!
Now, my top-five star coaches are:
5) Morten Olsen: Mr. Olsen's inspiration is the Dutch football school. He wants his team to have possession and dominate. This way, Denmark managed to dominate many games, even against the Czechs, although the inefficiency and the lack of highly technical players in the end proved fatal.
4) Aleksandrs Starkovs: I had not expected Latvia to perform at all. Instead, they put up good games against the Czechs and the Germans, in spite of the lack of experience and players. They played with spirit and fought well, something which I will credit Mr. Starkovs for.
3) Karel Brückner: In spite of the many stars available, Mr. Brückner never overestimated his team. Instead, he tried to adapt the tactics to the different teams, and showed they could both dominate, fight and defend. In the end, the loss of his "queen" (Mr. Nedved), in the semifinal against Greece, proved too difficult.
2) Luis Felipe Scolari: After the difficult start to the tournament, Portugal grew with each encounter. Mr. Scolari gave his players confidence, and let no one stand out. Not even Mr. Figo, whose replacement Postigo in the game against was a master-piece. On the other hand, did he underestimate the Greek defensive power..?
1) Otto Rehagel: With organisation and coolness, the udnerestimated Greeks deservedly won. Mr. Rehagel was crucial in giving them the will and discipline to go all the way, and showing that a team effort still is the most important aspect of football. Mr. Rehagel is the true star of Euro 2004.