Fernando Torres came out as the big star and winner of the day, scoring twice to lead Spain in their impressive 4-0 thrashing of Ireland, while Italy were probably filled with questions about how they let Croatia come back from behind to end their clash in a 1-1 draw, in another fantastic day of football in Euro 2012.
Italy 1 Croatia 1
Everything worked fine for Italy, on their way to beat Croatia for the very first time in an official match and get their first win in a finals tournament since the Euro 2008 group stage, but for one split second someone missed the mark and Mario Mandzukic was left free to head in his third goal of the tournament.
Italy were the better team, completely erasing the Croatian midfield for over an hour, until the moment Thiago Motta left the pitch, which made it easier for Croatia to get back in the match. Andrea Pirlo was fantastic, scoring a beautiful free kick to put Italy in front in the first half, which didn’t last in the end, forcing them to beat Ireland which even then might not be enough to qualify.
Spain 4 Ireland 0
This is how Spain should play like, look like. David Silva and Andres Iniesta had a target to feed their brilliant passes to Fernando Torres, who was uncharacteristically sharp in front of Shay Given, like people remember him to be not too long ago.
Ireland had short moment of enthusiasm, but every time Spain managed to draw them out and press unwisely, it created an opportunity for one of their players. Ireland didn’t handle the pressure well and didn’t defend with any kind of intelligence or thought behind it. Just mindless running after the ball, with Spain happily moving them around until they found an opening, ending Ireland’s interest in the tournament. A draw should be enough against Croatia, but a win is safer.
Group C Table
1. Spain, 4 Points (5-1)
2. Croatia, 4 Points (4-2)
3. Italy, 2 Points (2-2)
4. Ireland, 0 Points (1-7)
1. Alan Dzagoev (Russia), Mario Gomez (Germany), Mario Mandzukic (Croatia) – 3 Goals
2. Andriy Shevchenko (Ukraine), Vaclav Pilar (Czech Republic), Nicklas Bendtner (Denmark), Cesc Fabregas, Fernando Torres (Spain) – 2 Goals
3. 3. Robert Lewandowski (Poland), Dimitris Salpigidis (Greece), Roman Shirokov, Roman Pavlyuchenko (Russia), Michael Krohn-Dehli (Denmark), Antonio Di Natale (Italy), Nikica Jelavic (Croatia), Sean St Ledger (Ireland), Joleon Lescott (England), Samir Nasri (France), Zlatan Ibrahimovic (Sweden), Petr Jiracek (Czech Republic), Theofanis Gekas (Greece), Jakub Blaszczykowski (Poland), Pepe, Helder Postiga, Silvestre Varela (Portugal), Robin van Persie (Netherlands), Andrea Pirlo (Italy), Davis Silva (Spain) – 1 Goal
What We’ve Learned
Italy – When not facing Spain, can actually move the ball quite well with the talent they have in midfield and Antonio Cassano using his wonderful off the ball movement and on the ball skills to help dominate a team like Croatia. Thiago Motta’s presence in the defensive midfield seems even more important now after conceding right after he came off. Will need the same kind of attitude against the weak Irish team.
Croatia – Suddenly, it didn’t look that great. Did have a few good moment by working the wings, but Italy showed that a strong and crowded midfield is something Luka Modric doesn’t have an easy time operating successfully, making their chances of success against Spain looking rather grim.
Spain – Del Bosque heeded to everyone’s plea and play with a real striker. Cesc Fabregas obviously didn’t like coming off the bench, showing his frustration after scoring the fourth goal, but the most important things was winning back Fernando Torres who scored twice and simply looked like the Torres of old. British defenses, and not a great one at that, help a Spanish striker regain his form apparantly.
Ireland – Out of their league. Having players from mid-table teams in the Premier League, some of them not even playing, is too much for Trapattoni to make into a formidable squad, at least at the top level. The severe lack of any kind of creativity and ingenuity in the midfield killed their chances of ever making it in the Euro.
Ukraine vs France – France are the favorites to win this match, have no doubt, but a less than committed performance from them will leave them exposed against the industrious home side.
Sweden vs England – The English side will probably look a bit better against Sweden than they did against France, with a bit more daring and attacking ambitions, but the track record suggests they never do beat Sweden in big tournaments.