There are some rules of thumb people like to use when looking for a Top Goalscorer bet at international tournaments. They’re not all wrong, but they may be less right than it first appears. Here’s a look at three theories that doesn’t necessarily stack up.
Now obviously penalties are a great way of getting soft goals and padding your stats – just look at the career of Darren Bent – but when it comes to being Top Goalscorer at the Euros, it doesn’t really matter.
Since 1984’s tournament, only three of the 50 goals scored by the players who ended up being top goalscorer or joint top goalscorer have been penalties. In fact, the last time a tournament top scorer scored a penalty, Skinner and Baddiel’s singing wasn’t yet tedious and Darren Anderton was considered the picture of robust health.
Alan Shearer in 1996 was the last top tournament goalscorer to score a penalty and that came the wonderful night in Wembley when football came home and the Netherlands forgot to lock the door.
Since then, David Villa, Milan Baros, Patrick Kluivert and Savo Milosevic (joint winners) have all collected the goalscoring accolade without the need for a freebie from 12 yards out.
Prior to that, Michel Platini embellished his nine-goal haul for France in 1984 courtesy of a solitary spot-kick and a third of Tomas Brolin’s vastly less impressive three goals in 1992 for Sweden was thanks to a penalty.
“He could grab a few goals against [INSERT NAME OF RANDOMLY DERIDED EASTERN EUROPE COUNTRY]”
That seems to be a common cliché floating around when pundits look at possible Top Goalscorers. It’s as if every group has a team of clueless amateurs who got their place at the Euros thanks to finding one of Wonka’s golden tickets.
Here’s the newsflash – getting to the Euros is difficult. Fifty-one teams tried to book their tickets and just 14 nations managed it. Yes, some of the initial 51 were loveable losers doomed to perennial failure such as San Marino, Liechtenstein and Scotland, but many were decent teams. Or at least teams capable of boring opponents into submission by being well organised and gutsy.
The Euros have always been a pretty exclusive club – possibly even more exclusive than the Joey Barton Fan Club. The wheat and the chaff have gone their separate ways at the qualification stage. Yes, a few teams at Euro 2012 may be as might be about as exciting as an evening of Songs Of Praise, but they’re good enough to have qualified and that counts for something.
They probably won’t turn to blubbering heaps based solely on Theo Walcott’s ability to run very fast and almost certainly won’t find Andy Carroll to be ‘unplayable’. Despite what Mark Lawrenson thinks.
Bringing good club form into the Euros is undoubtedly nice, but it’s no guarantee of goalscoring success. That’s reassuring for anyone who backed some of the German players last spotted failing to hit water from a boat in the Champions League Final.
David Villa claimed the honour in 2008 on the back of scoring 18 goals for Valencia. It’s the type of tally Andy Carroll dreams of, but in Villa’s world, it’s one of the more sparse seasons of his career. That season, it was the little-remembered, Daniel Guiza was the top Spanish marksman with 27 league goals.
Four years earlier, Milan Baros was the tournament’s top scorer on the back of scoring precisely two goals for Liverpool that season. And no – he wasn’t injured, suspended or missing presumed dead for large parts of the season.
In 1988, Marco van Basten scored just three goals in 11 league appearances for AC Milan, although admittedly he struggled with injury in his first season with the Rossoneri. He then went to Germany and tore it up, destroying England with a hat-trick and scoring one of the great goals in a final thanks to his geometry-defying volley against the Soviet Union.
There are exceptions, and notable ones at that. Alan Shearer went into Euro 96 having scored 37 in 48 games for Blackburn and went on to kick ass before Gareth Southgate earned himself a McDonalds ad and a lifetime of mocking for his lame penalty kick.
Patrick Kluivert and Savo Milosevic are also something of an exception with 23 goals in 42 appearances and 22 goals for Barcelona 22 goals in 42 appearance for Zaragoza respectively in the 1999/2000 La Liga season. And before all that Michel Platini scored 25 goals in 43 game for Juventus before running amok at Euro 1984.
Decent form for your club is clearly useful, but maybe don’t get too hung up about it. Yes your friends might think your valiant defence of Fernando Torres is as mental as your crush on Susan Boyle, but you could be proven right. Not about Susan Boyle. That will never be right.