RWD’S EURO 2012 PREVIEW: GROUP C

We have more than a passing interest in Republic of Ireland's Group C...

6 years ago

By Teg

GROUP C

So the Group of Death is underway, what of our neighbours Ireland? They’ll have to beat-out Spain, Italy and Croatia in what would be the toughest group in most tournaments. Introducing Group C.

SPAIN

SPAIN

The reigning European and World Champions, the world has convinced itself that a third consecutive international title is beyond the reach of Vicente del Bosque’s men, which is interesting. Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Cesc Fabregas and Sergio Busquets make-up the most mouthwatering midfield in the game and that’s not even taking into consideration the fact that Juan Mata and David Silva could easily slip into the middle three. Spain should win Euro 2012, so why all the doubt?

Key Player

At Euro 2008 Cesc Fabregas managed to record the most goalscoring chances created despite only starting two games, which proves how effective their midfield masters can be. But it’s looking more like Spain’s tournament will be defined by its defence. No Carlos Puyol this time around, it will fall to Gerard Pique, who hasn’t had the best calendar year to maintain the Barcelona presence in the back-five, but who cares about Barcelona? Real Madrid won La Liga and Sergio Ramos has become one of the most single-minded players in the world since hooking up with Jose Mourinho.

Where will the goals come from?

When Fernando Torres began his as-yet undisturbed descent into the half-player we know today, it was up to David Villa to rescue Spanish hopes at the 2010 World Cup, but the Barcelona striker will miss Euro 2012 with a broken leg sustained at the World Club Championships which means the responsibility falls once again at the feet of the club footed Chelsea flop. If del Bosque wants to win the tournament he might want to consider starting Fernando Llorente, a proven goal scorer and one of the more traditional hard workers in the current squad. The chances will be created, but one of Pedro, Alvaro Negredo or Llorento will have to make the most of them.

How far will they go?

If there should exist a ‘Simulate All’ button on the European Championships it would fast forward straight to a Spain Vs Germany final, but that doubt is still there, where has it come from? Why does it exist? So Barcelona didn’t win everything this season, is that enough of a reason to question Spain? The presence of Fernando Torres in the squad is a major turn-off, but we still believe…kinda.

ITALY

ITALY

The once great Italy are something of a laughing stock in 2012, riddled with corruption allegations and players for whom the word average was invented,  the Azzuri have still got Andrea Pirlo and Gianluigi Buffon and with a Daniele De Rossi here and an Antonio Cassano there, they almost pass for something resembling a top international team, but they’re not.

Key Player

Daniele De Rossi and Andrea Pirlo will hold Italy’s midfield together, acting in tandem to sweep, probe and attack with the less capable Claudio Marchisio and Riccardo Montolivo chipping in. Let’s be clear, this Italian team’s better players are among the world’s best, but Buffon and Pirlo are aged and Mario Balotelli is, as we know, insane, but the nut-job striker and his similarly eccentric partner Antonio Cassano are Italy’s only chance of scoring goals and/or doing something special at Euro 2012. Let’s just hope for Italy’s sake they manage it.

Where will the goals come from?

Antonio Di Natale has long been touted as a potential goal scorer at international level and this tournament will be his last chance to prove it. Mario Batotelli isn’t expected to start the first game of the tournament with his attitude still in question, so the pressure will be on the recently recovered from heart surgery Antonio Cassano, who has the talent, but is another whose prone to the occasional meltdown. A long-term injury to Giuseppe Rossi means chances for Fabio Borini and Sebastian Giovinco to shine, but don’t hold your breath.

How far will they go?

We’re struggling to see a place for Italy in Group C’s top two with Croatia boasting more elite talent across the park and a lower ratio of borderline personality disorders. There should be an investigation by trading standards into what they’re calling an Italian defence and Ireland beat them not long ago. If they do make it out of the group stages, they won’t go further.

CROATIA

CROATIA

Croatia could be the surprise package of the summer, but we say that every four years, so how much of a surprise could they really be? In Luka Modric and Dario Srna they have two of the most in demand midfield players in the world and a general quality across the pitch make them a genuine threat in Group C.

Key Player

Luka Modric is one of the world’s elite ball-players and while his goals and assists don’t reflect somebody who is generally the most important player on whichever pitch he’s standing, he’ll provide the heartbeat of a Croatian side that Slaven Bilic has got playing some pretty neat football.

 

Where will the goals come from?

With Ivica Olic dropping out of the side through injury this week it’s up to Nikica Jelavic and Eduardo, to put the ball in the net. Both strikers are more natural finishers than Olic, but the Bayern forward’s industry pulls the orthodox 4-4-2 together and neither Eduardo nor Jelavic offer that work rate. There are goals in this Croatia team, but making them happen is the potential head-scratcher.

How far will they go?

The way we’ve got Group C worked out, Croatia will slide in just behind Spain, but that doesn’t really take into account the impossible to predict Republic of Ireland. Should they make it through to the knockout stages they’re anybody’s guess. Get scoring and manage to get that Modric/Srna dynamic clicking and the story could continue.

IRELAND

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND

The reason pessimistic England fans aren’t writing-off this summer’s tournament completely; on the rare occasion that Republic of Ireland quality for a major international tournament they generally write themselves a pretty interesting script. There is quality in this generation, but on paper it’s not one that should make it out of Group C, this is Ireland though and they care not for your expectations.

Key Player

Keith Andrews shot from League Two obscurity to scoring a belter in a win against Italy for his country [his actual country, no dodgy granddad rule needed] in little over three years. And for that we consider him something of a cult hero. If Ireland ever find themselves short on inspiration they won’t have to look further than their Dublin born midfielder. Even when Blackburn Rovers turned their back on Andrews he dropped a division to Ipswich Town and fought his way back into the Premier League ending the season as a regular at West Brom. Keith Andrews represents our [admittedly] patronising view of the Irish national team so perfectly that just taking the field in the first game against Croatia on June 10 is a story in itself.

Where will the goals come from?

Robbie Keane ran out of steam on the bench at Tottenham Hotspur and probably took that retirement in Los Angeles too early so it was no surprise that he came back for a winter spell at Aston Villa and immediately looked like their best player and with 53 international goals it’s not unreasonable to expect him to step-up this summer.

How far will they go?

We want to believe they’ll escape Group C and they’re capable of causing a shock or two, but it might take three to get the job done and that is a serious ask. Shay Given, John O’Shea and Richard Dunne mean they should be pretty sharp at the back, but there’s a lot of pressure on Aiden McGeady to produce for Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle.