Euro 2012: Going home early

Group C

Spain 4 – 0 Ireland
Italy 1 – 1 Croatia

I wouldn’t be surprised if the Irish boys find a beach and lie on it for the next few days. Have a look at the line up when they play Italy see how their tans are. Their tournament is officially over. They have one more public engagement, but it’s a formality. Their task, a difficult one, will be to limit the number of goals the Italians take off them. It was a dismal display. The Spaniards scored in the fourth minute and it was downhill from there. The fact which bests paints the picture is that in each half of football they’ve played they’ve lost a goal inside the first five minutes. You can’t win games when you’ve taken both barrels to your feet. Spain on the other hand will be pleased to see their strikers in action. Torres finally found his international shooting boots, (they’ve been lost for almost two years). We should expect to see more from him. Silva and Fabregas scored the others; theirs were not the only performances of note. Spain already look like Champions.

With Pirlo taking control of the game from the Italian midfield, scoring a majestic free-kick into the bargain, it makes you wonder why they didn’t replace the ineffective Balotelli with the older head of Di Natale much earlier. Late in the game the Italians looked the tireder and it could have cost them. It was their game to lose after all. With their two difficult games over, Italy can relax and enjoy the final game of the group. A win by more than two will see them progress regardless of what happens with Spain and Croatia. There is a chance of course that Croatia beat Spain and progress, but let’s face it, the way Spain played this morning, it is highly unlikely. Mario Mandzukic, who has scored a goal a game, and his teammates can feel aggrieved. They’ve put in two hard shifts and showed a bit of flair too. In most other groups it might have been enough to get them into the next round. With Spain looking every bit of the European and World beaters they are and the wily, if fatigued, old dog of Italy in the way, it was always going to be difficult for them.

Tonight’s games could be huge. And then again, maybe not. Sweden desperately need the win and they don’t want to have to get it off France. England need it too, if only to keep their own ravenous media off their backs, but they’ve had ‘difficulties’ beating the Scandinavians. The Ukraine will hope for the win and settle for the draw. They’ll have had Shevchenko on ice since the last game. They’ll have the hairdryers out warming him up as we speak. France won’t be so cautious this time round. No one wants to lose the first game. They’ll want to win their second to make things comfortable, but knowing they’ve the Swedes to beat in their next game, they’d be happy with the draw too. Despite the potential for it, I hoping things are not as dull as the first round this group offered. The ball is round, of course.

Mario Mandzukic’s second-half equaliser earned Croatia a vital draw.


  1. Sad for Russian players that they are out but very good that their supporters will now go home.

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