Group C is what I will be covering in this part 3 of a 4-part series previewing the Euro 2012 groups. Group C consists of Spain, Italy, Republic of Ireland, and Croatia.
Spain: Spain will be looking to defend it’s title from Euro 2008 where they bested Germany in a close 1-0 final. Spain will be looking to cruise through their group after not losing a game and only conceding 5 goals in qualifying. The player likely to start at the lone striker position for Spain will most likely be Fernando Llorente. He had a great season with his club team in Spain and will be asked to continue that for his country. Of course players like Casillas, Iniesta, Xavi, Pique, the list goes on and on and on and on, etc… Spain is filled with talent at every position and are clearly one of the favorites to win this tournament. The only way I see them losing this tournament is by making little mistakes or just simply being bested in one game by an opponent that works harder than them. To beat Spain, you just need to be thinking one step ahead of them and put in a good work rate. I expect Spain to at least make it to the semis.
Italy: Italy have a lot to prove after having an abomination of a display at the 2010 World Cup where they did not make it out of their group. Mario Balotelli will be looking to be one of Italy’s top players at this tournament. Regardless of whether you think he is a player of character, the man has a lot of skill. Danielle De Rossi will surely be a forced to be reckoned with in the midfield, where he will be looking to control the midfield and be a defensive barricade to protect Gigi Buffon, Italy’s veteran and world-class keeper. Striker Antonio Cassano will also be looking forward towards playing in a major tournament under Italy manager Prandelli, who has loved the striker’s work-rate and performances for the national team so far. I think Italy will be able to advance to the knock0out rounds but beyond that I don’t know if this Italian team can manage many games after that. They still have some catching up to do with the likes of Spain, Germany and the Netherlands.
Republic of Ireland: There would be nothing more rewarding than for the Irish to advance out of the group stage. Ever since they were robbed of being awarded a trip to the 2010 World Cup by the French national team and the referees which reffed that game, the Republic of Ireland will be looking to prove themselves on the international stage once again. While Ireland may not have depth, their starting XI are quality. There strength lies in their experience keeper Shay Given and their veteran striker Robbie Keane. And even between those two, the other players on the Irish team are good as well, including midfielders Aiden McGeady and Damien Duff. The defensive team will be anchored by Richard Dunne. Personally I think it would be pretty cool if Ireland could advance out of their group, but it will be very hard to do, as their group is rather difficult.
Croatia: The Croatian team is a very impressive team to watch when they are in-form. The have a diverse team with players of many different play-styles. Croatia’s team is led by the brilliant Luka Modric, Darijo Srna, and keeper Stipe Pletikosa. Croatia will be hoping that their attack can help bend games into their favor, as the Croatian defense tends to struggle and perform inconsistently. While Croatia has their moments, I have a hard time picturing them in the knock-out rounds since they find themselves in a challenging group where teams will need to give their all if they want to progress. But if anything Croatia would be the team to upset either Spain or Italy, and thus, progress out of the group.
I predict that Italy and Spain will advance out of the group, but if one of those teams do not, I think Croatia can advance out of the group. But (and that is a BIG but) that will be hard to do, as I think Italy and Spain will do enough to advance.