PARIS: They scored a combined 203 goals last season, but superstar strikers Cristiano Ronaldo, Robert Lewandowski, Zlatan Ibrahimovic, Thomas Mueller and Harry Kane have yet to find the net at Euro 2016.
A new, extended 24-team format was expected to give Europe’s finest poachers the opportunity to boost their goalscoring stats in a battle royale to claim the tournament’s golden boot.
Yet the opening 10 days of the competition have seen the continent’s minnows shine with the big guns relying on late goals to dig them out of trouble.
Ronaldo’s troubles have as ever taken centre stage.
Football’s own Mr. Marmite, the three-time World Player of the Year’s ability to divide fans into lovers and haters was in full show after the Real Madrid star was frustrated in his attempt to become the first player to score in four separate European championships against Austria on Saturday.
Three weeks on from scoring the winning penalty as Real saw off locals rivals Atletico Madrid to win the Champions League, Ronaldo hit the post from the spot.
Social media was awash with people revelling in Ronaldo’s misfortune. Yet one devoted follower was left in tears of joy after securing a selfie with his hero on the pitch at full-time.
It was meant to have been a doubly historic night for the world’s highest paid athlete as he broke the legendary Luis Figo’s record of Portugal appearances with his 128th cap.
“Obviously I’m a bit sad, because this wasn’t the way I wanted to break this record,” said a disconsolate Ronaldo.
At least Ronaldo has threatened to make his mark. The 31-year-old has now had 20 shots on goal without scoring in France, more than nine other countries.
Bottom of that list are Ibrahimovic’s Sweden, who haven’t mustered a single shot on target in two games.
The Manchester United target was typically not shy in talking himself up before the tournament.
After hitting 50 goals in his farewell season at Paris Saint-Germain, Ibrahimovic summed up his time in the French capital nby saying he “came like a king, left like a legend”.
Yet, he has not written his legend into the Euros history books as he too has failed to build on his six goals in Euro 2004, 2008 and 2012 to become the first man to score in four separate editions of the competition.
– Deadly duo gone harmless –
Bayern Munich’s deadly duo Lewandowski and Mueller’s quiet start has gone under the radar although, in contrast to Portugal and Sweden, Poland and Germany look comfortably on track to make the last 16.
Neither even threatened to break the deadlock when they faced off in a 0-0 draw in Paris on Thursday.
Yet, Poland coach Adam Nawalka praised Lewandowski’s contribution in teeing up strike partner Arkadiusz Milik.
“He is working for the team even though he hasn’t scored a goal in the last match and tonight,” Nawalka said.
World champions Germany’s lack of a striker solution threatens their chances of success with World Cup final hero Mario Goetze also failing to impress.
“Sometimes you’re the dog, sometimes you’re the tree,” Goetze explained of his fall from national hero to press punching bag in the two years since scoring the winning goal in Rio.
Unusually, England bless arguably the strongest array of striking talent on show in France.
Yet, the man expected to spearhead Roy Hodgson’s attack, Kane, has failed to hit the heights of his 25-goal season with Tottenham Hotspur that won him the Premier League’s golden boot.
Hodgson said Kane was “a little bit tired” after he was hooked off at half-time against Wales, making way for Jamie Vardy and Daniel Sturridge, who both scored to turn a 1-0 half-time deficit into a vital win.
Running out of steam is not a new experience for Kane. After a breakout campaign last season, he was expected to shine at the under-21 Euros last year, but failed to find the net as England crashed out at the group stage.