Unlike a seven-player bench in most European leagues, international tournaments have a much larger set of players waiting in the fray to play while proceedings are ongoing on the pitch.
Yes, as 11 players decide whether to pass the ball or shoot or execute a pirouette, the remaining dozen players wait on the bench with bated breath — thinking that a substitute appearance now will make their career worth it.
But there are some who have been picked in the squad solely for that purpose. They are the ‘super-subs’— the players who can really make a difference off the bench. Ole Gunnar Solksjaer did it for ages at Manchester United, coming on at around 80 minutes and magically rising to head in goals.
But are there any players who could do the same in Euro 2012?
MARIO GOTZE – Germany
Ah the German Messi! Mario Gotze is a star in the making and surprisingly still finds himself contracted to Bundesliga champions Borussia Dortmund. The 20-year old attacking midfielder may well find himself in the starting line-up in Poland and Ukraine. But with Sami Khedira, Mesut Ozil, Bastian Schweinsteiger, Thomas Mueller and Toni Kroos all more experienced than this genius, we should probably see him come off the bench more often than sing his national anthem on the pitch.
He is Germany’s youngest goalscorer in the post-war era and it came against the mighty Brazilians. He then slammed another one against Austria in the Euro qualifiers and if he can do that a couple of times this June, then that should be enough.
If any of those fine German midfielders run out of gas, Gotze will be sent on without a second thought. And with his youthful energy and ability to take on players, this could well be their wildcard.
DANNY WELBECK – England
With Wayne Rooney out of the first two games due to suspension, Danny Welbeck is surely the first attacking option once Ashley Young and Theo Walcott will tire out. Andy Carroll looks like the man to start up front on his own with Steven Gerrard behind him and that will limit the starts for young Danny.
There was a temptation to include Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain here, but Welbeck is more assured and will get the nod when England need an injection of pace. He recently scored his first senior international goal against Belgium in a friendly and this will be expected of him even at the Euros. He had a fine season with Manchester United, forcing Dimitar Berbatov and Javier Hernandez out of the squad often and banging in 10 goals for the Red Devils.
KLAAS-JAN HUNTELAAR and LUUK DE JONG- Netherlands
This one was just too hard to decide. Robin Van Persie, Huntelaar and De Jong have amassed a humongous 117 goals between them this season. But Holland play only one man up front, and that man will certainly be RVP.
Huntelaar has a stronger case than De Jong (who is just 22-years-old but has scored 32 goals this season for FC Twente) after scoring an 12 times in eight qualifying matches. But that could push a tactical change in the Oranje, playing both ‘the Hunter’ and RVP up front.
If that happens, then De Jong will ultimately come on as a sub and unleash his talent on the largest stage possible.
FERNANDO TORRES – Spain
What? Wait? Is that right? Yes, could be spot on given that Fernando Llorente has had an incredible season and the other Fernando has not. Llorente is the ideal marksman and will play. Not certainly, but there is a 90% chance he will be the one to start alongside the rest of the Spanish magicians — who need an able finisher to kill-off their complicated moves. Torres though, will not just be a fringe player.
The Chelsea no.9 will come on and has the capacity to wreak havoc. That may be a bit too much, but it is foolish to write off a talent like Torres. He is a dream substitute to have on the bench and if he can prove his worth with impact, then there’s nothing like it for the defending champions.
FABIO BORINI – Italy
At 21, Borini, is not vastly experienced, but Italy are short of attacking options and he will certainly get a chance to showcase his talent in Poland and Ukraine.
With Mario Balotelli and Antonio Di Natale favourites to start ahead of the now deep lying Antonio Cassano, Borini may well be introduced in case Balotelli has one of those frustrating games which had prompted Roberto Mancini to pull him out after five minutes.
He has scored 10 goals for AS Roma this season and considering their difficult season, that is quite a haul for a youngster. Borini is one to watch out for.