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Raul Meireles and Florent Malouda failed to impress, but John Terry and Ashley Cole marshalled the England defence well while Fernando Torres' goals hinted at a revival

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By Liam Twomey

Like all top club managers, Roberto Di Matteo will have been keeping a close eye as Euro 2012 unfolded, but in reality Chelsea’s stake in the tournament was minimal.

Only seven Blues players took the field in Poland and Ukraine this summer, a paltry sum compared to the 11 men dispatched by Real Madrid or the 12 from Bayern Munich. Of those, only Raul Meireles, Fernando Torres and Juan Mata experienced life beyond the quarter-finals, the latter duo for a Spain team in which they were hardly key components.

Yet ultimately the impact of the tournament will be viewed at Stamford Bridge as a positive one – notably for providing, as it did, the latest step in Torres’ long road to recovery. The £50 million man has scarcely looked comfortably since his arrival in west London, and many have attempted to solve the enigma of his mysterious decline, without success.

Towards the end of last season it began to look as though the debate might become irrelevant. Against opponents as diverse as QPR and Barcelona, the touch, clarity of thought and speed of foot which made Torres such a force of nature at Liverpool appeared to be returning.
CHELSEA'S EURO 2012 STARS

PETR CECH
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
360
 
ASHLEY COLE
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
390

FLORENT MALOUDA
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
181
 

JUAN MATA
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
6
N/A
RAUL MEIRELES
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
437
JOHN TERRY
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
390

FERNANDO TORRES
MINUTES PLAYED
AVERAGE RATING
189


But despite this progress, he played only a supporting role as Chelsea claimed the FA Cup before finally realising their Champions League dream in Munich, and made his discontent clear to reporters in the bowels of the Allianz Arena after the match.

In truth, Euro 2012 was little more Torres’ triumph – he played just 189 minutes across his country’s six matches – yet, having clinched the Golden Boot with a goal in the final under the enthusiastic gaze of Roman Abramovich in Kiev’s Olympic Stadium, he can at least allow himself to think different.

A more confident striker should emerge and, if he does, Chelsea will be the beneficiaries.

By comparison, Mata’s level of involvement in Spain’s glorious campaign makes Torres look indispensable. Scoring his side’s fourth against Italy was probably as much as he could do in the six minutes afforded to him at Euro 2012.

But having made 54 appearances for Chelsea last season, Di Matteo may well be relieved his wing wizard had an enforced rest. In doing so, he got to contribute to his country’s moment of history while incurring none of the fatigue.

Looking beyond the tournament winners, Euro 2012 yielded plenty else for Blues fans to be encouraged by. John Terry and Ashley Cole were among the most consistent performers in an England side which garnered respect for its defensive organisation and commitment, if not admirers for what many perceived to be pragmatic, unambitious football.

Frank Lampard was forced to pull out of the trip to Poland and Ukraine with an untimely thigh injury, and his presence was sorely missed in a squad shorn of quality midfield options.

Recent weeks have given rise to rumours of a link-up with David Beckham at LA Galaxy, and Lampard knows that, whenever he leaves Stamford Bridge, he will do so with his legacy complete. If, however, he does decide to stay, Chelsea will hope three months away from a football field will have reinvigorated him.

Gary Cahill was denied the opportunity to appear at a first major international tournament by Dries Mertens’ nasty shove during England’s friendly with Belgium last month. He will be cursing his misfortune, and itching to earn himself another chance by building on a series of impressive performances in a blue shirt last term.

Petr Cech endured an underwhelming Euro 2012 with the Czech Republic, conceding four to Russia and making a horrible handling misjudgment against Greece. He was, however, impressive despite losing his personal duel with Cristiano Ronaldo in the quarter-finals, and Di Matteo will hope his talismanic goalkeeper has got the errors out of his system.

Chelsea’s two other representatives at the tournament – Meireles and Florent Malouda – did little to enhance their reputations in Poland and Ukraine.

The Portuguese was inconsistent and outshone by the more lavishly-gifted Joao Moutinho, while the Frenchman was anonymous as his compatriots were undermined by characteristic in-fighting before being outclassed by Spain. Both must improve if their long-term futures are not, as recent rumours suggest, to lie away from Stamford Bridge.

Such concerns will weigh on Di Matteo’s mind as he plans for his first full season as Chelsea boss – but, on the whole, he should take more positives from Euro 2012 than negatives.

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