After a weeklong absence, it is time to dive into the third part of our four part series on the groups that will be involved with Euro 2012. Today, we are going to take a look at Group C, which is set up favorably for the reigning champions, Spain. This group features two teams that barely made the tournament and two historical powerhouses. I wonder which two teams are going to advance?
Following the disappointment of not qualifying for the 2010 World Cup, Croatia was able to squeak into Euro 2012. Croatia won seven games, drew once, and lost twice during their qualifying campaign. They had to beat Turkey in a playoff in order to make the tournament. Croatia does not appear to be a huge threat in the group. However, during Euro 2008, Croatia made a run to the quarterfinals and they are hoping to replicate that success this summer.
Ireland has only qualified for the Euro’s once and that was all the way back in 1988. Ireland, like Croatia, had to play in a playoff in order to qualify for Euro 2012. They won six games, drew three times, and lost once during their qualifying campaign, and were able to beat Estonia 5-1 on aggregate in a playoff. Robbie Keane had a fantastic qualifying campaign, scoring seven times. If Ireland has any chance of advancing, they are going to need a monumental effort from Keane to carry them through the group stage. An interesting subplot for Ireland will be their manager’s ability to manage against his old team. Giovanni Trapattoni managed Italy at the 2002 World Cup and Euro 2004, so it will be interesting to see if he can beat his former side and help Ireland make a historic run.
This subplot leads us to Italy. Italy had a successful qualifying record. They won eight games, drew two, and did not lose any. They also allowed only two goals in 10 games, while scoring 20 goals. A problem for Italy at this tournament is the fact that a key factor in their goal production will not be available. Antonio Cassano had six goals and four assists for Italy during their qualifying campaign but, due to a heart issue, he will not be able to play in the Euro’s. We know Italy is good at keeping teams from scoring on them with only two goals allowed through 10 qualifying games, but the big question will be where their goals will come from. One man in an Italy jersey will need to step up and pick up the production lost with the absence on Cassano.
Finally, we get to the reigning Euro champions, Spain. The players wearing Spain jerseys have had incredible success, winning the last two major international competitions, Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup. Spain won every game during qualifying; scoring 26 goals, while conceding only six. After a disappointing season for some of the Barcelona players such as Xavi and Iniesta, it will be interesting to see if they can keep their intensity up for this tournament and win three straight international tournaments.
This group looks pretty straightforward at first glance, with Italy and Spain easily making it through the group stage. However, I do not think it will be as easy as it looks. Since Italy has some questions at striker, I am wary of where the goals are going to be coming from. Therefore, as long as Robbie Keane keeps up his fine international form, I see Ireland and Spain advancing from this group. Ireland has not had much success at the international stage, but I think they will be able to surprise people and make it through the group stages. Spain, on the other hand, should easily qualify. I do not see them winning the tournament, but the group stage should be a pretty easy feat for a team that talented.
Written By: Eric Stoyanov, Contributing Writer, soccerprose.com
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