Spain and Italy turn it up to 11


Euros 2012 commentary by Lee Hugh McGowan


Group C.



Croatia, and

The Republic of Ireland.

After last night’s matches I suspect this is how this group finishes. The Irish showed up, but apart from a last gasp 10 minutes of bravery, they looked like the only team who didn’t belong here (we’ve still to see Ukraine though). Croatia did well to shine in the scrappiest game so far. It would appear the Croats don’t need their boots. They scored more headers than any team coming into the tournament and scored another three on the night. The Irish offered one in return. Croatia are good, but sadly no where near good enough to get out of this group. Modric was magnificent and their front players are on form, but the Irish fans stole the show. Despite their team’s dismal display, they filled the stadium with song.

Spain, the current World and European Champions, and Italy, a team with more problems than an austere banker at a Greek Cabinet meeting, set the benchmark for experience, prowess and pure quality in the World Game. Like the Grand Masters they are, they played out a compelling and beautiful game of football. Without the defensive strength and luscious hair of Puyol, the Spaniards looked a little weaker at the back, but then, the Italians are one of the few teams in the world able to exploit it. They have exciting young players and in Balotelli* an unpredictable firebrand, but for this match they leaned on the old guard. Pirlo and Di Natale shrugged off their cardigans and their slippers and put on a show. Well before Buffon offered the officials a pre-kick-off fist-bump this was looking like a cracker. It lived up to every expectation and even exceeded a few.

Tonight, England (Boo! Freedom! Hodgson?) tip their lances at the windmills of a French side who, I fear, will probably turn out to be giants. And Sweden and co-hosts the Ukraine really will be playing for third spot.

That said, the ball is round.


* Balotelli has been at the centre of a number of controversies. Rodney Marsh once described him as having the brains of a rocking horse. There’s footage of him not being able to put on his training bib; he admitted sleeping with ‘Juicy Jeni’ Thomson (see Wayne Rooney) rather than being blackmailed, and was caught throwing darts at youth team players. My favourite story is his dressing up as Santa Claus at Christmas and wandering through Manchester shopping precinct handing out cash. It’s hard to not like a footballer happy to give his money away. Though I’ll be happier if we see the best of him on the pitch.


  1. The final scores:
    Spain 1 – 1 Italy
    Croatia 3 – 1 Republic of Ireland

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