Euro 2012: Matchday Seven (Group C)

Italy 1-1 Croatia

A close one, but a fair result in the end.

Italy came out attacking and Croatia looked a little lost at times. The Italians don’t have the bests set up, especially when they get into the opposing penalty area, with a number of good chances wasted. The defence was solid the midfield was doing its job, but the forwards were half assing it, especially Balotelli, who failed to be retained for the full 9p again. Di Natale is a bit old to be playing a full game, but I refuse to believe there is not some other, young Italian forward who could be given a chance in Balotelli’s place.

Pirlo free kick was stunner, though it was defended quite poorly by Croatia and their goalkeeper. Italy really should have come out in the second with the aim of killing it off, but they stopped off the gas, Croatia really weren’t that great all game, but they were allowed to get back into it. Mandzukic’s strike was well taken, but the Italian back line had fallen asleep. They could even have gone on to win it, but actually didn’t look good enough to do so.

The Italians pass well and organise well when they want to. They’re better then I, and others, gave them credit for. But they’re still not at the level of the 06 team. They don’t see out games like they should. It’s also clear now that Croatia were made to look better then they really are against Ireland and have their own problems, that Spain will probably exploit. Italy can expect a win in their last game against…

Spain 4-0 Ireland

Oh dear lord where to start? Goal by goal?

Three opportunities to stop the first with St Ledger not helping Dunne enough, Ward not having the courage to tackle Torres and Given not getting his arms up in time to stop the shot. The second, an embarrassment, with three defenders lined up in front of Silva but unable to stop him. The third, a terrible lapse from St Ledger and Dunne to leave Torres in so much space. The fourth, Green fell asleep and then failed to account for himself. Fabregas didn’t even feel the need to celebrate it.

The defence was pulled to and fro, the midfield was largely anonymous and the forward line was isolated and impotent. The Spanish passed and passed and passed at their leisure, pressed when they didn’t have the ball, took advantage of every mistake. Patient and calculating. A cat with a wounded mouse. It was oh so easy for them, not because they are utterly flawless, but because Ireland made it so. Spain haven’t had this easy a ride in a long time. Neither has Torres.

Given tried. Duff tried. Andrews tried. They’re the ones I would excuse. The rest were outmatched, outpassed, outclassed, lost in an aimless tactical formation, chasing shadows, lucky to get more than two seconds on the ball when they had it. The heads were down after the first goal and it seemed a case of damage limitation from there. It was torturous at times, watching Ireland hoof the ball away, only for Spain to have it back where it was within seconds.

Ireland did not perform to the level that they could have and, as in the Croatia game, had no decent Plan B to fall back on when they fell behind. They were boys against men. We should not delude ourselves too much into thinking that this result was inevitable, but it was always likely. Ireland did well to get to this tournament, but the team and the tactics have not been the best that they could have been.

The fans were amazing though. Anyone who has a bad word to say against them just doesn’t get it.

I expect Spain will get the required result against Croatia and that Italy will beat Ireland. It might come down to GD then to decide the last place. For Ireland, it will probably be the wooden spoon of the entire tournament. It is well deserved.

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