Euro 2012 Group C: The Last Two World Cup Champions Must Pass the Test
This group may well be considered the second ‘Group of Death’ as Croatia and Ireland will certainly not be pushovers.
Defending European champions, Spain, are among the top three favourites in this tournament seeing that they easily qualified with two games remaining. Coach Vincente Del Bosque has a very well-balanced team at his disposal and it is difficult to pinpoint the weakness, if any, of his squad especially when talented players such as David Silva, Andres Iniesta, Iker Casillas, Xabi Alonso, Gerard Pique, Cesc Fabregas, and Xavi Hernandes are in the squad. However, two main injuries may hinder the Spaniards’ chances as prolific striker David Villa and captain Carles Puyol will sit out Euro 2012, which could have a grave impact on their scoring and defending capabilities.
That said, other players will need to step up to take over the reins and Spain absolutely has adequate solutions. David Villa’s injury hands Fernando Torres another chance to shine. But, which Torres will show up? Will it be the Torres of the first half of the season or the one from the second half of the season? He will definitely take this opportunity to prove that he is capable of being the Spanish hitman.
Another concern Spain fans need to consider is the team’s hunger. The Spaniards have won the last two international tournaments with pretty much the same team. Are they satisfied or will they fight for honour and respect to show the world that the desire to win still exists? Spain will take on Italy in the first game on June 10 at 12:00pm ET. Nothing other than top-spot is expected for Del Bosque’s men.
Italy had a record qualification only conceding two goals and finished undefeated, which was expected considering their humiliating exit suffered in World Cup 2010. Four years back, the Italians were eliminated at the hands of Spain in the quarterfinals in a game which ended in a 0-0 draw and needed PKs to decide the fixture. What do we expect from the Italians in Euro 2012? Well, Italy certainly does not lack talent with players such as Andrea Pirlo, Antonio Cassano, Mario Balotelli, Sebastian Giovinco, Giorgio Chiellni, and of course the world’s best ‘keeper, Gianluigi Buffon. Head coach Cesare Prandelli has completely revamped the squad keeping only two players from Marcello Lippi’s disappointing WC 2010 team. With the new betting and match-fixing scandal brewing in the midst, the Italians will not be short of any motivation to bring back credibility to their nation. Although the Azzurri claimed the 2006 World Cup in Germany, the Italians will definitely be hungry for success and demonstrate eagerness to prove that they deserve to be considered one of the favourites. Do not let the 3-0 defeat to Russia fool you as the Azzurri are known for underperforming in friendlies. Look for Italy to finish second in this group and may very well surprise Spain in the opening game.
Croatia have been unsung heroes for a long time. A lot of people do not realize that the Croatians have a decent team and can compete with the bigger countries. For example, are you aware that Croatia has never been defeated by Italy? As an Italian fan, I sincerely hope this streak ends at Euro 2012. Croatia will depend on playmaker Luca Modric and striker Mario Mandzukic who led Wolfsburg in scoring this season. Let’s not forget about Eduardo da Silva and Ivan Perisic. However, it has been recently reported that Croatia was dealt a major blow to their frontline as Ivica Olic is out of the tournament with a thigh injury. This will hurt the Croatians deeply, but beware as the men known for their red and white checkered shirts will fight tooth and nail until the bitter end.
Republic of Ireland is coached by ex-Azzurri tactician Giovanni Trapattoni who also coached Juventus, Fiorentina, Milan, and Inter in his career as a club coach. Ireland had a good qualification finishing second only two points behind Russia and needed to win in the playoff round to qualify. Trapattoni’s tactics depend primarily on defence and counter-attacking at the opportune moment. If the Irish are aiming to get out of this group and get far in the Euro, they will need to stick to this game plan. The middle of the park seems to be the Achilles tendon of this squad and this will most likely cause problems for the Irish as Spain, Italy and Croatia have bolstered their midfields with very talented players and it is in the area of the field where the battles need to be won. It is very difficult to know what to expect from the Irish except for the fact that they will not be pushovers and they will aim to give their opponents a very good run for their money. This group is as wide open as Group B – the so-called ‘group of death’. Tough call on this one.
4) Republic of Ireland
*I believe that Croatia and Ireland will challenge Italy for second, which will most likely be a very tight race.
…and that is the Last Word.
Feel free to leave your predictions in the comments below.