Spain 1-0 Croatia
As I had my full attention on the other game, I can only offer brief thoughts garnered from highlights. Spain were unconvincing and struggled to break down the tough defence offered by the Croatians. The first half was actually Spain’s best as they out passed the opposition to the hilt but they fell out of it more and more as the game went on. The goal was taken very well when it came, and Croatia can rue a lack of attacking impetus throughout the game. They never really looked like they were seeking a win at all, reliant on the Irish doing them a favour.
Spain are through, but it remains to be seen if they can keep the stuttering performances ticking over.
Ireland 0-2 Italy
A frustrating game, but the right result.
Ireland went forward a bit more, showed a little bit more heart than before, but were ultimately outclassed by a far superior Italian outfit. Given made repeated errors that simply aren’t like him, the defence was shaky and organised for the first goal, the midfield was ineffective and the forwards were still anonymous.
Whelan was absent and McGeady, playing a more central role at times, was hopeless with the final ball. Andrews threw himself around, but all he got was two yellow cards for his troubles. Duff out in some running, but was mostly isolated and useless. Keane, Doyle, and the three strikers that were brought on in the second half added nothing of value.
Ireland continued to step off the ball in their own half, continued to give away corners and frees like they were going out of style, continued to lack any kind of attacking precision or verve. Italy played a patient passing game, marked by a competent attack that always looked like it was going to score. Their defence was never unduly troubled and crowded out the Irish attack when it had to. Their midfield supplied with ease, and they had more than enough set pieces to make their mark. Balotelli remains a liability and a brat, but he took his goal well under pressure.
Italy go through in, but like Spain, they are unconvincing. They will struggle against better opposition in a knock-out setting, opposition like France, maybe even England, especially with a front line that isn’t stellar by any stretch of the imagination. Ireland head home in ignominious fashion, the worst team in the tournament.
One more day of group games to go. Expanded thoughts on Ireland’s performance tomorrow.