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Euro 2012 Day 11: Spain and Italy labour through

Perhaps the least enjoyable day of the European championships ended with Spain and Italy booking their quarter-final places. The possession stats show complete domination by both teams, but don’t really do justice to the performance of either Croatia or Ireland.

This time around, the Italians fielded a 4-4-2 formation with a diamond midfield. With the full backs offering good support, the extra man in midfield helped the Italians keep the ball for longer periods. But it also made them look a little open at the back and the Irish had a couple of good chances.

Italy’s defense is not as solid as in the past and while Pirlo is a big influence, their midfield doesn’t look as strong as those of Spain, Germany or France. But their three main strikers have all scored in the opening three matches now. What they lack in individual quality, they make up for in collective effort. And along with their ability to improve in later stages of tournaments and their flexibility to change tactics for different opponents, Italy still have the potential to go the distance.

Spain had even more possession than Italy but Croatia were in the game until late on and could have won it if Rakitic’s late header had not been saved by Casillas. Spain’s build up play was slow and predictable and Croatia defended with eight men behind the ball.

The fact that Croatia needed to score played into the hands of the Spaniards. Bilic made attacking substitutions which opened the game up and with tiredness setting in among the Croatian back-line, Cesc Fabregas had plenty of time to find Iniesta with a chipped pass. The Croats were caught flat-footed as their attempt to play Jesus Navas offside failed when the pass was delivered to Iniesta. From there, it was a simple matter of the Barcelona man squaring the ball for the Sevilla winger to walk into the net.

The final two matches of the group stage take place today, with France and England favorites to go through. One can expect Ukraine to come charging out for their match against England, but if Gerrard & Co. can see off the initial energy from the co-hosts, their desperation to score a goal will allow England chances later in the game. Sweden have nothing but pride to play for against France and I expect Laurent Blanc’s side to dominate the game in midfield.

With Rooney back in the side, Hodgson is faced with the dilemma of whom to leave out of the side. I suspect it will be Carroll, even though he scored that wonderful header against Sweden. This is because I believe England will be better served to have the understanding of Rooney, Young and Welback in forward areas especially if they are playing for the counter.

Roy may also start Theo Walcott on the right-wing. His inclusion would be justified not only for the goal and assist against Sweden, but also because the threat of his pace means opposing full backs can’t join attacks without leaving the back door open. With Rooney, Welback, Young and Walcott, the sides look far more attacking than it did in the first game.

2-0 to both France and England. Enjoy the games.


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4 thoughts on “Euro 2012 Day 11: Spain and Italy labour through

  1. jumpingpolarbear on said:

    Felt Croatia deserved to go through but it was a very tough Group!

  2. Bradster on said:

    There’s a problem with the offside rule. Spain did the same in the world cup, Nevas in this case, same as Iniesta then, was offside when the initial ball was played but because he was not the player that touched the ball was not ruled offside however they both did not remove themselves from play they stayed where they are which allowed them to be available to score, unfairly in my eyes.

    • My thoughts exactly, this is the same converation I was having with a fellow blogger last night on Twitter (see my timeline:

      It’s unfair on defenders because it’s virtually impossible to try and catch two players offside at the same time. Maybe the rule needs to say that a player who is in an offside position but not interfering with play will be deemed to be doing so if he receives the next pass even if he’s onside by then. Of course, this makes it very complicated for the linesman and will lead to even more inconsistencies.

      Spain will argue that it’s the same rule for everyone but of course that type of play suits Spain more than it does Croatia – same as an unwatered pitch suited Italy more than it did Spain. Difficult to control all the variables in a fast-moving game.

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