A period of agonised waiting came to an end for a handful of
Europe's biggest footballing names at midday yesterday, the
deadline for the 16 nations comprising the UEFA EURO 2008 field to
submit their final 23-man sqauds for the tournament. The scenes
were the same as before every major event, with a mix of
disappointed faces and broad smiles, sometimes from players who
never expected to make the cut in the first place.
FIFA.com analyses the biggest surprises to come
out of squad decision day.
Hopefuls stay at home
Veteran schemer Otto Rehhagel ultimately chose to do without the services of Greek sensation Sotiris Ninis, scorer of the opening goal in his country's 2-0 warm-up victory over Cyprus. Despite the playmaker's successful debut, the continental champions travel to Austria and Switzerland without the 18-year-old Panathinaikos starlet.
Elsewhere, another pair of talented teens also missed out. Barcelona prodigy Bojan Krkic asked to be left out of Spain's squad due to fatigue, despite his outstanding season at cub level.
Marko Marin, perhaps the best up-and-coming midfielder in Germany, will also follow the tournament from afar after coach Joachim Low overlooked the 19-year-old, who chalked up an impressive four goals and 13 assists as Borussia Monchengladbach regained their Bundesliga status at the first time of asking. Many fans were surprised to see Marin's name in Low's preliminary squad of 16, but a string of convincing workouts at the Germany training camp in Mallorca and a full international debut against Belarus had persuaded many experts that the diminutive midfield starlet could seal a berth in the final squad.
France boss Raymond Domenech also caused a stir by dint of the players he has chosen not to take to the summer showdown. David Trezeguet may have scored 20 Serie A goals this season, finishing only just behind Alessandro Del Piero in the scoring charts as promoted Juventus stormed to a UEFA Champions League qualifying spot, but even that failed to persuade Domenech to include him in his plans. Highly-rated Mathieu Flamini, who completed a switch from Arsenal to AC Milan just a few weeks ago, also misses out.
Emotions at the opposite end of the spectrum were the order of the day for 22-year-old Bafetimbi Gomis, a surprise inclusion in the French party. The St. Etienne hitman finished on 16 Ligue 1 goals and staked a convincing claim for a summer in the Alps with a brace against Ecuador on his full international debut shortly before the squad deadline.
Two Bundesliga stars were the biggest losers for Turkey as Yildiray Basturk, part of the team which finished third at the 2002 FIFA World Cup Korea/Japan™, and Schalke forward Halil Altintop failed to make coach Fatih Terim's final 23.
Altintop, first named in a Terim squad in 2005 and capped 21 times to date, had no doubts he would be part of the summer tournament when he spoke to FIFA.com a few weeks ago. "I'm regarded as one of the forward line, so I operate a little further up the field than I do at club level," he replied when asked about his role in the team.
The 29-year-old Basturk has spent a decade as a fixture in the Turkey set-up and misses out on a major tournament for the first time in his senior career.
Del Piero gets nod, Dutch coaches surprise
FIFA World Cup holders Italy take Serie A leading scorer Alessandro Del Piero with them when they cross the mountains to neighbouring Switzerland and Austria. Azzurri supremo Roberto Donadoni appeared set to omit the 33-year-old on tactical grounds but ultimately chose to include the proven marksman, contributor of 21 goals to Juventus' third-place finish last term.
Austria head coach Josef Hickersberger raised an eyebrow or two with the inclusion of Roman Kienast from Norwegian top-flight outfit Ham-Kam-Fotball at the expense of hotly-tipped Rapid Vienna forward Stefan Maierhofer.
At the age of 38, Ivica Vastic is set for a comeback on the major international stage. The attacking midfielder, part of his country's France 1998 squad, appeared 46 times for Austria between 1996 and 2005 and will be expected to draw on his experience in adding stability to an unpredictable side.
Poland coach Leo Beenhakker produced one of the biggest surprises of them all by leaving out regular Grzegorz Bronowicki of Crvena Zvezda. The defender appeared in practically all Poland's EURO 2008 qualifiers, but the Dutch coach dispensed with his services at the last minute.
Netherlands selector Marco van Basten chose to do without a seasoned veteran of the Bundesliga, the Premier League and La Liga by omitting Khalid Boulahrouz, loaned to Sevilla by Chelsea last term. But after an unhappy time in Spain with just six league outings for the Seville side, Boulahrouz is destined to follow the EURO action from his sofa.