Robbie Fowler has joined the Paddy Power Blog as our official Euro 2012 pundit and you can catch up with all his opinions throughout the tournament. Today he gives us his views on former Liverpool team-mate Stevie G, France’s in-form striker Karim Benzema and England’s base camp in Krakow.
With Steven, you look at his career and what he’s achieved in the game.
One Champions League. Two FA Cups. A UEFA Cup. Footballer of the year a couple of times. He’s been Liverpool’s top goalscorer most seasons. Almost 100 caps for his country.
Steven comes alive on the big stage. Just remember the Champions League Final in 2005. That FA Cup Final in 2006 when he brought Liverpool back from the brink. He can turn any game. When he plays well, the team plays well – there’s no question about that.
Growing up at Anfield, and having played with Steven for a few years at Liverpool, I know how good he is. He’s an unbelievable player.
Has he still got it at this level? Last year he had an indifferent time with injuries. But in the games when he played well, Liverpool looked a different side. He scored three against Everton in one of his first games back. That match says everything you need to know about Steven. Liverpool were struggling for form. Big game. Big player. I can think of a few players who thrive on the big stage. Steven is one of them.
Benz will a driving force
I watched Karim Benzema destroy Estonia last night. I know it was a relatively easy game against Estonia but Laurent Blanc’s French team looks good. Going into a major tournament with the players they’ve got – Franck Ribery, Benzema, Samir Nasri – all playing in top leagues in top form.
Benzema has probably gone under the radar a bit because he’s playing at Real Madrid with Cristiano Ronaldo hogging the limelight.
Benzema played 50 games for Real last season and scored 31 goals in La Liga, the Champions League and the Copa del Rey. For top goalscorer at Euro 2012, 14/1 is a generous price.
England players would Krak up in the countryside
The Croatian manager, Slaven Bilic, has been critical of the decision by England choose Krako was their Euro 2012 base. (Bilic’s side is based in the countryside.) “I trust my players but I would not dare bring them to the town centre,” said Bilic.
But, in my experience, you rarely venture out when you’re away with the team. At Euro 2000 we stayed in a town called Spa in Belgium. We never had any problems. People wanted to go out any enjoy themselves but the minds of the players are focussed on the tournament.
Krakow is going to be a party town for the fans. It’s certainly not going to be a party town for the players. They’re professionals now.
If you’re in a place that’s too quiet you go mental. The fact is, there’s a little bit of life in Krakow. It’ll keep the players on their toes. They’re not going to go mad.