Spain and Italy even as Croatia capitalise – Day 3 at Euro 2012

Day 3 of Euro 2012 delivered nothing but disappointment for two sets of fans who felt like they could have got more out of the day’s games. The Spanish fans would have felt that, on the back of European Championship and World Cup victories, they would be able to ease through this group, especially with Italian heads being turned back towards their homeland with the ongoing investigations in match fixing allegations.

Di Natale scoring for Italy

Spain dominated possession in the first half, with no strikers on the pitch, their game was obviously to play their way past Italy, a nation famed for their defensive capabilities and trains being on time during the Mussolini times, with their impressive passing that they have become famous for in recent years.

However, despite the constant pressure, mostly coming from Andres Iniesta and David Silva, Italy still looked dangerous themselves. Spanish attacks were mostly stopped dead single handedly by Roma midfielder, Daniele De Rossi, who was played in the heart of a 3 man defence, and the Italians looked more likely to score every time they got near Iker Casillas’ goal and eventually on the hour mark that happened.

A splendid through ball from the ageless Andrea Pirlo, evading the Spain defence, found itself at the feet of Antonio Di Natale, who had only been on the pitch for a couple of minutes after coming on for Manchester City striker, Mario Balotelli, who did what he did best and curled the ball around the on rushing Casillas and found the back of the net.

Unfortunately for the Azzurri, their lead did not last long, as Iniesta and Silva once again combined, and the latter clipped the ball through the defence to find Cesc Fabregas who made no mistake in smashing the ball past Gigi Buffon for the equaliser.

Fabregas celebrates after getting the equaliser

La Furia Roja could sense that this game was theirs for the taking but could not capitalise, despite all of their possession, even when substitute, Fernando Torres, found his way through on goal in a similar way to when he scored in the winner in the final in 2008 vs Germany, only this time, he tried to go around Buffon and failed, and then later on, found himself in another goal scoring position but his spectacular lob went over the cross bar. It doesn’t help his case for a place in the squad, especially when namesake, Fernando Llorente, as well as Alvaro Negredo, were sitting on the bench waiting for their chance to shine.

The game overall was an aesthetically pleasing spectacle but Spain will be ruing on missed chances while Italy will take great confidence into their next game with Croatia who, in the late kick off, took advantage of both European giants dropping points, by defeating a deflated Ireland side 3-1.

The European campaign for the Boys in Green started disastrously when Mario Mandzukic’s relatively tame header found its way into the back of Shay Given’s net only three minutes into the game. However, in true Irish spirit, they fought back and in the 18th minute they were rewarded for their efforts.

A superb free kick from Aidan McGeady found itself bouncing in off Sean St Ledger after the defender got on the right side of Spurs’ Vedran Corluka, who gave away the free kick, in a period of the game when he was constantly getting bullied by Wolves striker Kevin Doyle.

Jelavic makes it 2-1

And this was probably the high point of the game for Ireland, as it seemed to go all downhill from here. Rumoured Manchester United target and Spurs star, Luka Modric, was the best man on the pitch as he ran the midfield, and Croatia’s second goal came from a shot of his which was blocked by the wall of green but was knocked into the path of Everton’s Nikica Jelavic by Stephen Ward, another player who didn’t have a good game. At first look it seemed to be offside, but replays showed that it was Ward who knocked the ball back and Jelavic had the easy job of poking it over Given. Another one touch goal to add to his collection.

The second half wasn’t any better from an Irish point of view either, as Croatia continued where they left off, another Mandzukic header and another Mandzukic goal within minutes of the restart, although it could be argued to be a Given own goal as the ball originally bounced off the post and then off his head to find itself in the back of the net. Either way, Croatia were 3-1 up and Ireland looked almost down and out, especially after having a clear cut penalty decision turned down by the Dutch referee, Bjorn Kuipers.

Despite some last minute chances for Ireland, it just wasn’t their night and now find themselves at the foot of Group C and will have to win against both Spain and Italy for a chance to progress. I just hope they do better so we see more of this:

If anyone knows her, send her my way *swoon*


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