Out with the old, in with the young

GARETH WHEELER -- Sun Media

, Last Updated: 9:32 AM ET

Father's Day is always special. It's about celebrating the influence your old man has had on you and everything he has passed to you along the way.

So on that one day, you let him beat you at golf and, basically, give him the royal treatment.

At Euro 2008, the treatment of the game's elder statesmen has been anything but royal -- more like a royal ass-kicking.

While older players -- and the teams loaded with them -- have struggled at the tournament, the game's young guns have ruled the day.

The stars of the tournament: David Villa, Wesley Sneijder, Cristiano Ronaldo, Lukas Podolski.

All are attacking players; all are under the age of 26.

The goats? Take your pick from the old-guard nucleus of France and Italy.

The football world has seen an amazing transition in recent years. It used to be that older players could extend their careers and extend the longevity of their importance by getting results through a controlled and well-calculated slower style of game, particularly on the international stage.

The success of aging players has extended the belief that wily veterans are necessary to have success in tournaments.

In hockey, they call it the Gary Roberts Rule. (Sorry to break it to you Gary, but aside from aesthetics and a cozy storyline, that rule is dead.)

While the Netherlands dropped Clarence Seedorf from its squad, and Spain did the same with Raul, the insistence of France coach Raymond Domenech and his Italian counterpart, Roberto Donadoni, to not only have older players in their respective squads, but to play them, has come back to haunt them.

It was blatantly obvious that Lilian Thuram's 36-year-old legs couldn't close down the fleet-footed Arjen Robben, letting the Dutchman turn and fire to bury France for good. And as for Claude Makelele, his influence isn't what it used to be.

Same goes for Italy. Gennaro Gattuso, Mauro Cameronesi, and Massimo Ambrosini may be able to hold their own in the slower-paced Serie A, but their deficiencies have been exposed at the Euro tournament. And Christian Panucci? You've got to be kidding.

Quite frankly, it's not just a case of speed. The defensive-based systems that suit these players have been cast aside in favour of open, free-flowing football, where talent and ability prevail.

No offence to the old guard, but the skill set of the up-and-coming players is vastly superior to anything that has been seen in a long time.

The runs and off-the-ball movement of Villa and star strike partner Fernando Torres are mesmerizing.

More than ever, young players are getting the chance to star for the biggest club teams in the world, playing in massive matches and competitions week in, week out.

THIS BUDD'S FOR YOU

The Canadian soccer and broadcasting communities lost one of their good guys last week with the passing of Brian Budd.

Brian truly was a man's man. He was a guy with a story for every occasion, and he had the energy and passion to make you want to hear more.

His exploits on the pitch have been well-documented, but for a young generation of football fans, it was on television where he made his mark.

In an industry in which so many are focused on superficial intangibles -- whether it be voice, hair, or appearance -- Budgie was a breath of fresh air. His irreverent, unconventional approach not only was embraced, it was celebrated.

In broadcasting, it's not enough to simply know the sport. The viewer relates to passion, to knowing the broadcaster cares. Budd always cared. So in the spirit of Budd, let's make sure, broadcasters and football fans, that we keep the game fun, passionate and spirited. Budgie would have wanted it that way.

WHEELER'S MUSINGS

It's time Canada's World Cup qualifiers found proper television coverage. If our own country can't be seen, how can it be heard? And people wonder why Torontonians support other nations ... Has there ever been a better collection of goals put together by TFC than those scored Saturday against Colorado?


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