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What I Learned From Watching Day 7 of The Euros 2012

June 15, 2012

The Euros kept humming along as we entered Day 7 of the tourney, which included the battle for my personal European soccer soul (my personal heritage is heavy in Spanish and Irish ancestry, and that’s how I’ve chosen who to root on in a tournament where the United States can’t participate). Sadly, it wasn’t that close of a battle. We’ll start there:

  • Every sign pointed to The Reign of Spain continuing as the rain in Gdansk fell mainly on the Irish. Leave it to Ireland to get Fernando Torres going again; given a start by Manager Vicente Del Bosque and scrapping his “False No. 9” lineup of no strikers, “El Niño” responded with two class goals to spearhead the rout. Spain scored within four minutes of the start of each half and never let Ireland come up for air, as David Silva’s 49th minute meringue in front of the Irish backline ended any hopes of a comeback and left me struggling for a Michael Flatley joke (I haven’t seen an Irish   . Not to be outdone, Torres’ second-half substitute (and Italy game starter in the “False No. 9”) Cesc Fabregas contributed his own ridiculous goal from a preposterous angle (Fabregas looks like a modern-day Sweathog from a potential “Welcome Back Kotter” remake, can’t you imagine Vinnie Barbarino saying “Hey Fab-reh-gaas, up your nose with a rubbah hose!” … I knew you could …). The 4-0 final score really could have been 7-0 or 9-0, Spain having possessed the ball for 2/3rds of the match, creating 20 Spanish shots on goal forcing 11 Irish saves (several of which by Given were fantastic) and several other deflections or near misses, only the clock seemed to end La Furia Roja’s scoring chances. The Defending European Champions leave the impression that they are just getting warmed up.
  • Not much to say about Ireland, who came into this tournament hoping, praying, needing its defense to step up, to be a citadel so Robbie Keane could find some gold at the other end of the rainbow, and through two games they’ve allowed seven (7!) goals. Simply put, whether it was nerves over being on the European stage or the collective realization that they lacked quality, Ireland gave away the ball too much, not only in defense leading to both of El Niño’s’ goals (as well as two of the three goals in the Croatia match), but the few opportunities they had in attack against Spain. Manager Giovanni Trapattoni’s (“Trapa” to his legion of Italian and Irish admirers) very design has failed, their defensive fortress a sieve as the Irish are clearly the minnows of the whole tournament, becoming the first team to secure their exit after the group stage.  At least the fans were still singing as the match ended (and probably still are).
  • Where would Italy be without Andrea Pirlo? His magical direct free-kick goal (the first in the Euros since 2004) for all intents kept Italy alive in the group. Forza Azzuri had the better of it in the first half, creating most of the chances and 11 of their 15 overall shots (6 of their 7 on goal), culminating in a foul on Mario Balotelli that set up Pirlo’s free kick. Then Luka Modric took over the match in the second half, running at goal and testing Italian ‘keeper Gianluigi Buffon twice in the first five minutes of the second half, as Croatia raised their physicality (37 fouls between the two teams) and adjusted their scheme to directly match Italy’s 3-5-2 thereby allowing Modric to push the attack. Function followed form, paying off in the 72nd minute when after some sustained possession for Croatia, the criminally unmarked Euro 2012 scoring co-leader Mario Mandzukic (who in added time come off with an ankle injury) settled a beautiful cross from substitute Ivan Strinic and beat Buffon near post.  A deserving result for both teams, so it was that after this latest Battle of the Adriatic, Italy still has not found a way to beat an independent Croatia, and this time it could foreshadow their early departure from Euro 2012 should they somehow meet a similar fate against an Ireland squad with nothing more to lose; stranger things have happened in soccer, and no doubt Trapa knows what Italy can and can’t do better than any manager in this tournament.
  • As an aside, “The Song of the Italians” might be my favorite national anthem in the competition.
  • Group C has the clearest scenarios so far with Ireland (0 points) eliminated and Spain & Croatia tied for the lead (4 points each). Spain and Croatia can win to get in, and if there is a winner in Monday’s Spain-Croatia match, the winner tops the group and the loser can still advance if Italy (2 points) ties or loses to Ireland, otherwise Italy must win to have a chance to advance.  If Spain and Croatia tie their match, Spain wins the group, and their final score will dictate whether an Italy win advances them past Croatia – 0-0 advances Italy with a win regardless of their winning score, 1-1 advances Italy with a 3-1 win or greater, and a 2-2 or higher scoring draw eliminates Italy. I would surmise that since Spain hasn’t yet secured advancement, they will come out to play, and as they usually win when that happens the last five years, so I ever-so-slightly favor Italy’s chances to overcome Croatia for the second Group C spot.

Up Next: Friday June 15, Group D returns for another round with Ukraine vs. France, 9:00AM PST, followed by Sweden vs. England, 11:45AM PST.


From → Soccer, Sports

One Comment
  1. June 16: Edited the first two paragraphs of this post to add further thoughts after a rewatch to the Spain-Ireland match. What can I say, it was a battle for my personal European soccer soul. Spain won it over, as they did in the 2002 Japanorea World Cup, I was just hoping Ireland would be more than just happy (or nervous as the case may be) to be there. Bit of a stretch to pull my Ireland jersey over my Spanish kit anyways …

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