After seeing the first upset of the tournament yesterday, Spain hope not to be the next tournament favorites to drop point on their opening match. It’s funny treating Italy as such underdogs, but that’s their situation. Ireland and Croatia will close the day in Group C, in one of the toughest matches to predict in Euro 2012.
Spain – Italy
It’s funny to talk about Italy as clear cut underdogs, but pretty much any team facing Spain these days, winning 41 of their last 45 competitive matches, would be in the same situations. Considering Italy’s 2010 World Cup and problems back home, anything but a loss would be a great result.
Rumors suggest Cesare Prandelli will go ultra defensive on the day, with Daniele De Rossi, maybe the key man for the Italians, playing more as a centre back than an anchorman, leaving Pirlo to organize the few Italy attacks on their own. For Spain, despite no Villa or Carles Puyol, everyone knows what to expect, with the identity of the man up front possibly the only real mystery.
Ireland vs Croatia
A match both nations have to win, but while Croatia do have a more experienced side in terms of big tournaments and probably a bit more upper-echelon quality in their squad, Ireland haven’t lost in their last 14 matches and have kept a clean sheet in 11 of them.
Luka Modric will look for Nikica Jelavic to recreate his form for Everton during the past few months, while Ivan Perisic talked about the need to keep the game on the ground, where the Irish are less effective. For Ireland, it’s about working the flanks (Duff and McGeady), with Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle as the executioners.
Predictions – Spain are favorites in every match they play, but had to spit blood until beating Italy four years ago in the Euro (penalty kicks). Expect a similar tough outing for the Spaniards, overcoming with a small 1-0 win. Ireland and Croatia is hard to call, and although there’s something good in terms of vibe coming out from Trap’s team, I see a draw between the sides.
How did we do – Almost everyone missed the Denmark stunner over the Netherlands, while we had a bullseye with 1-0 for Germany over Portugal. So far, 3 for 4, 75%.
Game Times – Spain face Italy on 19:00 (local time) in the PGE Arena in Gdansk, while Ireland take on Croatia on 21:45 in the Miejski stadium at Poznan.