Portugal's Cristiano Ronaldo looks dejected after the match against Georgia at Gelsenkirchen. Image Credit: Reuters

Berlin: With exciting football and vibrant fans lighting up cities across Germany, Euro 2024 has thrilled even though the European game’s biggest stars have failed to take the tournament by storm.

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Between injury struggles, shaky form and bad luck, many of football’s leading lights have underwhelmed in the group phase.

Portugal striker Cristiano Ronaldo, playing at a record sixth Euros, is yet to strike in three appearances — if he manages to, the 39-year-old will become the oldest ever goalscorer at the tournament.

Golden opportunity spurned

Arguably the best player in the world, Kylian Mbappe is only off the mark for France with a penalty against Poland in a disappointing 1-1 draw that resulted in the favourites finishing second in Group D.

Mbappe spurned a golden opportunity against Austria, missing a draw against the Netherlands with a broken nose before returning with a mask in Les Bleus’ third outing.

Kylian Mbappe has been largely quiet in the tournament so far. Coach Didier Deschamps is confident the star striker will return to his best. Image Credit: Reuters

“He’s hungry to play and the game would have done him some good,” said France coach Didier Deschamps, hopeful the forward will quickly find his devastating best with a last 16 clash against Belgium beckoning.

Poland’s talisman Robert Lewandowski could not feature in their opening defeat against the Netherlands because of a thigh problem.

Ineffective stint

The Barcelona striker and his country were eliminated as he was ineffective when he came off the bench against Austria, before he netted a penalty in the France draw.

England duo Jude Bellingham and Harry Kane scored from open play against Serbia and Denmark respectively but have vastly under-performed after thriving at Real Madrid and Bayern Munich this season.

England coach Gareth Southgate hooked Kane in a drab 1-1 draw against Denmark, but the subsequent 0-0 against Slovenia was even more dour.

“Not every player is going to star in every game,” said Southgate afterwards.

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France midfielder Antoine Griezmann takes part in a training session ahead of the last 16 games. Image Credit: AFP

Griezmann fires blanks

France’s Antoine Griezmann and England’s Phil Foden have also fired blanks after strong seasons for Atletico Madrid and Manchester City.

“Sometimes (Griezmann’s) generosity means he doesn’t have as clear a head as he should have,” said Deschamps, who benched the midfielder in the final group match.

Belgium’s all-time top scorer Romelu Lukaku is also without a goal, albeit not for want of trying, having had three disallowed by VAR as his team slunk through in second from Group E.

Veteran Luka Modric, 38, usually a key figure in Croatia’s frequently impressive exploits, did score against Italy but only after missing a penalty and struggling in the first two matches, with his country eventually eliminated.

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Croatia's midfielder Luka Modric could not make an impact in this edition of Euro. Image Credit: AFP

Own goals galore

Remarkably there have been seven own goals, making up 26 per cent of the 27 inadvertently netted in the competition’s history.

Even the players who have shone thus far have largely been surprises for one reason or another.

N’Golo Kante is proving key for France despite moving a year ago to play in Saudi Arabia, while talented youngster Jamal Musiala has been hosts Germany’s leading light ahead of veteran stars Toni Kroos, Ilkay Gundogan and Kai Havertz.

Target man Niclas Fuellkrug has scored twice for Germany like Musiala, while Slovakia’s Ivan Schranz and Romania’s Razvan Marin also have a pair of goals to their name.

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Poland’s talisman Robert Lewandowski was ineffective before netting a netted a penalty in France draw. Image Credit: Reuters

Appalling performance

Netherlands forward Cody Gakpo finished neatly for his second goal in a 3-2 defeat by Austria, in a performance their coach Ronald Koeman labelled “appalling”.

The tournament’s current top scorer is debutants Georgia’s Georges Mikautadze with three goals, two of those from the penalty spot.

Spain qualified top of Group B with a game to spare and have arguably been the team of the tournament so far, but two of their key players have been unlikely candidates in Fabian Ruiz and Marc Cucurella.

With 15 matches still to play before one of the 16 remaining sides is crowned champions in Berlin on July 14, fans are still waiting for the tournament’s star names to join the party.