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What I Learned From Watching Day 3 of The Euros 2012

June 11, 2012

Play began on Day 3 in what some are calling the “Group of Debt” (Get it?  Group of Debt?  Because Spain, Italy and Ireland have debt problems?  Get it?  Yeah, I thought the novelty wore off quickly too …) as we saw the first of Gdansk and Poznan as host cities. In honor of the Tony Awards, let’s get on with the Group C show.

  • Spain and Italy ended up like I thought it would, enterprising yet cautious, entertaining yet lacking, and equal on the scoresheet.  I thought Spain’s decision to not start with a true striker up top was slightly inspired but moreso madcap. Cesc Fabregas isn’t a striker, he’s more of a facilitator than a finisher, better running onto balls (as he did on Spain’s goal) from a withdrawn position than playing up front and creating scoring chances for himself.  Spain’s offensive lot in the game actually improved with the insertion of “El Niño” Fernando Torres, even if he has the touch of a brickmason and the same confidence now as Tiger Woods has with a putter. Alexi Lalas said on ESPN’s post-game show that he thinks opponents “smell blood in the water” with Spain; I think they just miss David Villa (out since December with a broken tibia) and should employ one of their strikers – at this point, Fernando Llorente looks like a proper candidate – from the opening whistle against Ireland on Thursday.
  • Yesterday’s game against the reigning European and World Cup Champions proved once more that no one circles the wagons better than the Italians. (Which makes sense, since they are the home of the “Spaghetti Western”, but I digress).  Mario Balotelli’s 2nd-half laugher aside, Italy was the more consistently dangerous team, as Andrea Pirlo and the Antonios (Cassano and Di Natale, who scored Italy’s goal in perfect rhythm) created the better chances (only to be thwarted on all but one of them by Spain’s unsung hero in the game, goalkeeper “San” Iker Casillas), and battled Spain toe-to-toe in the midfield even with only 40 percent of the possession.  Croatia looked vulnerable today against a pedestrian Ireland, so Italy has no reason not to continue their newfound attacking ways.
  • “The Luck of the Irish”, as irony would have it, abandoned Ireland’s defense.  Bad fortune played a role in all three of the goals Ireland let in, whether it was goalkeeper Shay Given being shielded by his own defender until it was too late to get over on the first goal a mere three minutes into the match, or a terribly shanked clearance by wingback Stephen Ward that could not have been a better slide-rule pass and assist for Croatia’s Nikica Jelavic on the second, or Given heading in the third goal as it caromed off the post.  Never mind that they were probably robbed of a penalty kick opportunity by referee Bjorn Kuipers as well when Croatian defender Gordon Schildenfeld went through Robbie Keane for the ball inside the box. Unfortunately for “The Republic” they’ll need more than a reversal of luck against Spain and Italy, as today’s result likely guarantees they’ll be home before the postcards they’ve sent (Thanks for that one Tommy Smyth!).
  • Don’t get me wrong, Croatia was definitely the better team, dominating the stats and deserving the win.  Yet the score flattered to deceive, especially considering how luck shined on them for each goal.  Then again, some believe you make your own luck, and if so, Croatia definitely made theirs today, orchestrated by their own midfield leprechaun, Luka Modric, who controlled tempo and defensively frustrated Ireland’s build-up on several occasions. Next up, an Italian side that they’ve never lost to as an independent nation.

Up Next: Monday June 11, Group D starts with the marquee match of the group, France vs. England, 9:00AM PST, followed by the co-host Ukraine’s first game, vs. Sweden, 11:45AM PST.

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From → Soccer, Sports

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