Tuesday, 19 June 2012

Group C Review

Spain and Italy were narrow victors last night which sent both sides into the Quarter-Finals.

It took a goal 3 minutes from time through Jesus Navas to secure Spain's Quarter-Final place as winners of Group C.

Up until then Italy were going to win the group & a single goal from Croatia would have saw Spain exit the competition.

Spain have won the group with two wins and a draw but it hasn't exactly been comfortable for them with the exception of the Ireland game.

In the opening game Italy took the lead before Fabregas levelled. Italy had chances to win the game but a point each was probably a fair result.

Spain cruised to a 4-0 win over Ireland & looked impressive in doing so but Ireland have been by far the worst team in this tournament so it is hard to judge just how good Spain were in that game.

Last night Spain found themselves in that awkward position were they knew a draw would see them through to the knockout stages and they looked like a side who didn't really know whether to go for the win or settle for a draw.

After riding their luck a bit they got the only goal of the game with 3 minutes to go. Fabregas played a superb chip pass into Iniesta, who after controlling the ball on his chest/arm, played the ball across for Jesus Navas to blast into the empty net.

On paper it looks like a case of job done for Spain after picking up 7 points from their 3 games but look into it further & they don't seem like the same invincible team we have saw in the last two major Championships.

They will now face the runner-up in Group D which could be France, England or Ukraine. I would expect a victory against Ukraine but unless they get back to form, England or France just might be able to spring a surprise.

Italy secured the runner-up spot in Group C with a 2-0 win over Ireland. Italy changed from their 3 at the back formation & also made a few personnel changes.

Italy got the 3 points in the end but it was far from their best display. The game was quite even until Cassano opened the scoring with a header from a corner. In the second half Keith Andrews had a few chances for Ireland which he hit straight at Buffon. If Ireland had scored an equaliser and held on for a point, Italy would have been

Once Spain went 1-0 up it also left Italy in the unusual position of needing to win by 3 clear goals if Croatia equalised at 1-1.

Italy did get a 2nd goal when Man City striker, Mario Balotelli scored a superb volley from a corner.

Fortunately for them Croatia were unable to get the goal they needed & it's the Italians who have a Quarter-Final to look forward to.

In that Quarter-Final Italy will meet either France, England or Ukraine. Once again I would expect them to beat Ukraine in the unlikely event they win Group D. Should the Italians come up against England or France I'd find it very hard to pick a winner. It is as close to 50-50 as I can imagine.

Croatia can consider themselves unfortunate to be on the way home after holding their own with the big two for 177 minutes.

Yet again Slaven Bilic's side came to a major tournament and played some superb football, winning over the hearts of fans from far and wide.

In Luka Modric they have one of the best, most exciting midfielders in the world. It appears his wish of a move to a big club may finally be coming true. If reports are to be believed the Spurs man may be on his way to Spain to sign for Real Madrid.

If Croatia had got a 1-1 draw on the night they'd have been through. They had a superb chance to take the lead when Luka Modric made a great run forward from midfield and crossed with the outside of his right foot. The cross was perfect for Ivan Rakitic who put the ball the only place he could without scoring, straight at Iker Casillas.

The chance came & went and the Croats had another half chance or two but it wasn't to be & Croatia were eliminated.

Slaven Bilic leaves the role of manager now the tournament is over & he will no doubt get a club job as he has made Croatia a team to be taken seriously again in the major tournaments.

Ireland go home early after 3 defeats and as I understand it they equalled the record as the worst ever European Championship performance.

I won't go too deep into it as I have already wrote an article on the Irish campaign.

Hopefully Ireland will learn lessons from it and come back stronger but there is no doubt that there needs to be changes & for me the changes would start with the 4-4-2 formation.

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