Sunday, 10 June 2012

EURO 2012: Group C Review

Italy grab a deserved point against Spain whilst Croatia dampen Irish hopes

Match day 1: By Jamie Hepburn

This was the second game in the Euros that featured two of the big teams, and unlike the dull game between Germany and Portugal, this game was exciting from the start. 

Both teams were set up in a strong and attacking manner, leading to an interesting spectacle. From the start Spain were keeping the ball, passing it around how they usually play, but this wasn’t working against an Italian defence which stood up to Spain and made it difficult throughout the game for them to make a clear chance. 

During the first 15 minutes, Spain had a few chances that were wasted by David Silva and everyone thought a Spanish goal was on it's way. Just after 20 minutes the Italians started playing some good football and started making opportunities of their own. Christian Maggio, who was very impressive throughout the game, used good skill and good pace to get past Jordi Alba before passing to Antonio Cassano who shot narrowly wide. Just after it was time for Balotelli to get the headlines but this time for having his first tantrum of the tournament, resulting in a yellow card.

The first clear cut chance fell to Iniesta which he failed to take advantage of and he volleyed the ball over the bar. Italy then launched a quick counter attack, with Thiago Motta forcing Iker Casillas into a fine save, as his header from Maggio's cross was pushed wide.

At the end of the first half the only problem with the game was that there wasn’t a clinical finisher. Spain once again came out from half time controlling the possession and wasting their chances, which made it seem impossible for Italy to actually make a chance or steal a goal, but when Balotelli stole the ball from Ramos and was one on one with the keeper most people would of bet on him scoring it, but he slowed down and Ramos took the ball of him, this could have been seen as a wasted chance and maybe the only chance Italy would get to beat the world champions.

Cesc Fabregas scores for Spain
Photo: Claudio Villa/Getty Images Europe
However, things were about to take a turn for the worst for the Spaniards, as Antonio di Natale came on for Balotelli, as he made an instant impact by scoring in the 59th minute after a inch perfect pass from Pirlo pierced the Spanish defence and di Natale put the ball past Casillas into the right bottom corner. 

Surely Italy could hold on to this lead, most people would have thought they could of but two minutes later David Silva put in an amazing pass to Fabregas who slotted it past Buffon. Now this game was back at a stalemate who would have the nerves and power to go on and win this match, well Spain surely thought Torres could do it for them, this wasn’t the best of ideas as he wasted two amazing chances and surely made the game stay at a draw. Italy did have some chances towards the end but the efforts were tame and from a team who were happy taking a point. The final result was 1-1 and was probable a fair result as both teams didn’t have the clinical finisher to give them 3 points. 

Unlike the first game in Group C today, the game between Croatia and Ireland exploded into life within the first 3 minutes with Mario Mandzukic scoring a header that wrong footed Shay Given, sending the Croatian fans into crazed scenes. This was followed up with the amazing and technically gifted Croatian side passing the ball delicately to one another and creating chances that weren’t taken.

Throughout the opening 20 minutes, Kevin Doyle was causing Vedran Corluka issues with his physical presence, and on 17 minutes Corluka nudged Doyle and gave away a free kick. This was proved to be a costly error as Mcgeady put the ball to the back post and St Ledger headed the ball in to make it 1-1 and get the Irish Poznan going throughout the stadium.

Ireland were posing threats from set pieces but Croatia’s flair was causing problems for the Irish defence and making them stay vigilant, the only problem was on 42 minutes Stephen Ward did a wayward back pass and Croatia gained a corner from it, from this corner Ward made another mistake by passing the ball to Nikica Jelavic and he finished the ball with so much style and confidence just like he has done over his time at Everton.

Nikica Jelavic scores an easy goal for Croatia
Photo: Clive Mason
Once again 3 minutes into the second half Croatia scored another goal, and it was the man Mandzukic with a header that beat Shay Given and dampened the Irish spirits. As the second half carried on so did the Croatian attacks, but they didn’t come to anything except a few close tries.

Throughout the second half the Irish team didn’t ever have any urgency until the final minutes which left them with not enough time to make a difference to the game, and Croatia won the game comfortably. Which leaves it all up to Ireland as to go through to the next round they have to beat Spain and Italy. 

Irish can hold heads up high as they face early exit

Match day 2: By Alex Babcock 

The second set of games in group C began with a 1-1 draw between 2006 World Cup Champions Italy and Croatia.

It was the Italians that provided the main threat early on, when a quick swivel and turn from our very own Mario Balotelli brushed just past the post, with a thunderous strike from Marchisio from just out the box coming close moments later.

Balotelli was knocking at the Croatian’s door once again shortly after, with another powerful strike forcing Stipe Pletikosa to push the ball away from goal.

It was Italy who provided the breakthrough within the 39th minute, after dominating the midfield and having the majority of position.

Andrea Pirlo showed the whole of Europe that he is still a free-kick master, placing an exquisite strike which coolly curled into the left hand corner of Pletikosa’s goal, a goal that was coming for most of the first half.

Balotelli was knocking at the Croatian’s door once again shortly after, with another powerful strike forcing Stipe Pletikosa to push the ball away from goal.

It was Italy who provided the breakthrough within the 39th minute, after dominating the midfield and having the majority of position.

Andrea Pirlo showed the whole the world that he is still a free-kick master, placing an exquisite strike which coolly curled into the left hand corner of Pletikosa’s goal, a goal that was coming for most of the first half.

Many would predict that the Italians were going to run away with it after the wondrous free-kick provided by Juventus midfield Pirlo, however this was not the case. The Croats started the second half solidly, creating decent chances on various occasions.

The equaliser came in the 72nd minute thanks to a lushious cross from the flank was converted, striking the post on the way from Mario Mandzukic.

From there on, it was Croatia who piled on the pressure. However, they could not break down an established Italian back line, resulting in a fair result of 1-1 leaving the Croats on four points, leading the group before Spain were to play Ireland.

Later on, the European and World Champions Spain faced the Republic of Ireland in Gdansk. With Ireland losing their first game 3-1, they were hoping to cause an upset against a Spanish side held to a 1-1 draw against Italy on Sunday.

Ireland started the game brightly, with a fierce shot being fired in from Simon Cox of West Brom, who only started seven premier league matches last term forcing Iker Casillas into a save at his right hand post.

Fernando Torres had a storming game against Ireland last night
Photo: Alex Grimm/Getty Images Europe

Two minutes later the Spaniards had taken the lead. Andreas Iniesta split the defence forcing Richard Dunne to make a tackle, but then Fernando Torres snatched the ball away from his feet and smashed into the roof of the net from 6 yards out.

Spain, in typical style, dominated possession and provided a constant threat to Shay Given's goal.
And shortly after the restart Spain increased their advantage, as David Silva calmly passed the ball through Dunne's legs and it trickled past Given, giving the Irish a mountain to climb.

Not many chances were created after but the Irish exit was imminent on the 70th minute. David Silva set Fernando Torres through one on one and a glimpse of the old Torres we all know was once more reminisced, as he placed the ball past Given for his second of the evening.

It got bad to worse for the Irish, as some sloppy defending allowed Cesc Fabregas to put the icing on the cake with a stunning shot from a tight angle.

Ireland were well beaten, and despite the tremendous effort of the Irish faithful in the stands, they couldn't grab a consolation goal, with one game left to play against Italy on Monday, who need a win to secure qualification to the knockout stages.
Day 11 of EURO 2012 saw Ireland take on Italy in Poznan, whilst Spain entertained Croatia in GdaƄsk. Ireland went into this fixture knowing that they could not qualify for the last eight of the tournament, fighting for their pride. However, qualifying spots at the top were left open for Italy, Spain and Croatia to contest over, with Italy and Spain coming away victors, leaving a hard done by Croatia side facing the long trip home.

Italy 2-0 Ireland

By Archie Barnett

The situation for both sides couldn’t have been more different, Ireland were looking for a win to at least keep some of their pride, whilst Italy were fighting for a place in the last eight of the competition.

It was Ireland who started the game brightly, dominating possession in midfield; however the Irish were unable to put the finishing touches to this possession, proving costly.

A penalty shout for Italy was turned down after a Antonio Di Natale strike was blocked by Sean St Ledger, with the ball striking his chest at high speed.

The opening goal was provided by Antonio Cassano minutes after forward counterpart Di Natale saw his strike from a tight angle cleared off the line following a lovely touch past a sprawling Shay Given. Shay Given was unable to get a prominent hand to a goal-bound header from Cassano, with the ball bundling into his goal.

The Irish may have felt hard done by, feeling that the ball had not crossed the line before Fulham midfielder Damien Duff cleared it clear, however video replays indicate this was clearly not the case.  

The second half started brightly for the Italians, with a brilliant interlocking move resulted in Di Natale’s strike being saved by former Manchester City man Shay Given.

The Italians knew that a goal from the Irish would’ve sent them out no matter the score in the other game, and Keith Andrews came close after a 25 yard strike was saved by Gianluigi Buffon from a free kick on the edge of the area, shortly before being sent off for a second bookable offence.

Mario Balotelli scores a sensational goal for Italy 
Photo: Claudio Villa/Getty Images Europe
The red card appeared harsh on Andrews, seemingly given for a tug on the arm of Daniele De Rossi however it is now clear that the second yellow was for his furious reaction at the decision to award the free kick.

As if things weren’t bad enough for the Irish, Italy grabbed their second of the night courtesy of a fantastic volley by our very own Mario Balotelli. Balotelli is not one for celebrating; however the superstar’s actions towards the bench had to be silenced by Leonardo Bonucci in order to avoid any possible altercations.

A disappointing end to a campaign in the prestigious trophy for Ireland, finishing bottom with no points and a goal difference of minus eight, however it was celebrations all round for Italy as they secured their place in the last eight of EURO 2012.

Spain 1-0 Croatia

By Aaron Leggott

In a game where any result could prove disasterous for both teams involved, Croatia set up in manner which has come to be expected when playing the Spanish, and their tactics proved successful for the majority of the game in Gdansk. 

There has been some talk of Spain overplaying during their Euro 2012 adventure, and this was carried into this game, as some neat football between David Silva and Andres Iniesta saw the latter free in the box, but his shot was weak - leaving Stipe Pletikosa with a simple save to make.

The first half was void of many chances for either side, and the only other real chance fell to the feet of Fernando Torres,but his shot was palmed behind by Pletikosa.

With half time approaching, Croatia could well have had a penalty after Sergio Ramos hacked down Mario Mandzukic, and whilst he won the ball, he slid right through the Croat striker and there was a big shout for a spot kick.

It was a poor half, with both sides not really creating many chances. Whilst Spain were dominating possession, they were not really doing much with the ball, and this didn't really change going into the second half as well.

Croatia were also struggling to create chances, but on the hour mark they could've easily taken the lead as Ivan Rakitic spurred an unbelievable chance for Slavan Bilic's side. 

A classic counter attack spearheaded by Luka Modric resulted in the Tottenham midfielder delivering a superb ball to the unmarked Rakitic, but his header was straight at Iker Casillas. 

It was a great chance, and Bilic reacted by making two attacking substitutions, introducing Nikica Jelavic and Ivan Perisic for Domagoj Vida and Danijel Pranjic. 

Jesus Navas celebrates
Photo: Jasper Juinen/Getty Images Europe
Croatia kept pushing on, and this was unfortunately their downfall with three minutes of normal time to play. Spain, who were not at their best in the slightest, eventually got their breakthrough as Cesc Fabregas delivered a moment of inspiration.

Fabregas used the Croatian desperation to his advantage, as he delivered the pass of the tournament to Iniesta, as he deceived the whole Croat defence with a deft chipped ball. Iniesta then had the simple task of squaring the ball to substitute Jesus Navas, who tapped in from close range.

Croatia went out of the competition with their heads held high, with some superb displays under their departing manager Slavan Bilic. 

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You can also follow Alex on Twitter: @AlexMatthewBab
You can also follow Archie on Twitter: @ArchieMCFC
You can also follow Aaron on Twitter: @Aaron_Leggott

(c) The Sky Blue View 2012

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