Spain Training and Press Conference - Group C: UEFA EURO 2012

As it happened, Euro 2012: Spain held by Italy; Croatia’s attack impresses

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Day three of Euro 2012 sees the holders and defending world champions Spain kick things off against four time world champion Italy. First whistle is at 12:00 p.m. ET on ESPN, with Ireland and Croatia rounding out Group C’s day at 2:45 p.m. ET.

As we did on days one and two, we’ll be trying to keep you up to date here. Refresh this page to get updates on scores and major events. We’ll also have match reports and our daily review later on Sunday.

For now, here’s some catch up reading material:

And now that you’re through skipping over the bullets, here’s Sunday’s action:


(all times Eastern)

1342 – Croatia 3-1 Ireland – Seeing his defense struggle over the last 15 minutes may have ruined Slaven Bilic’s day, but he got what he wanted. Croatia won, won easily, and were convincing while doing so. They sit atop Group C.

1332 – Croatia 3-1 Ireland – As good a Croatia has been going forward, their central defense is scary. Ireland’s been able to pump crosses in over the last 10-or-so minutes, with the likes of Damien Duff at times able to get on the end of them. Stipe Pletikosa has been mildly tested a couple of times.

Mario Mandzukic has had to come off. He was injured during an aerial challenge with Sean St. Ledger. Eduardo is replacing him.

1319 – Croatia 3-1 Ireland – Trappatoni uses his final substitution. Robbie Keane is off. Shane Long is on.

EPLFAN: BUT WHAT ABOUT MCLEAN!?!?!!?

1316 – Croatia 3-1 Ireland – Croatia’s going into preservation mode, which means Nikica Jelavic is off. Niko Kjancar is on, and the team looks set to play more 4-4-1-1 than the 4-4-2 (4-1-3-2) they’ve been using.

1307 – Croatia 3-1 Ireland – Whether it’s the substitutions or a change in approach from Croatia, Ireland’s been better over the last 10 minutes. The last moments, however, have been dominated by the crowd booing as Ireland plays on with Mandzukic down in the other half. Eventually, Ireland give up the ball after Robbie Keane’s penalty shout is denied, Schlidenfeld having gone through the back of him.

1258 – Croatia 3-1 Ireland – Giovanni Trappatoni’s first changes. Kevin Doyle, Ireland’s best player so far, comes off. John Walters comes on. Aiden McGeady comes off, and much to the chagrin of every Premier League fan that’s adopted James McClean as a hidden gem, Simon Cox comes on.

1253 – Croatia 3-1 Ireland – Another Mario Mandzukic headed goal to open the half has Croatia up 3-1. A ball swung in from the left sees Mandzukic nine yards from goal rise to redirect it to the right post. The ball isn’t hit that hard, but it nails the posts, bounces of and finds Shay Given’s head, going in.

It should end up as an own goal that isn’t. Perisic and Mandzukic made that goal.

1251 – Croatia 2-1 Ireland – Second half has started with Ireland going from right to left.

1549 – Croatia 2-1 Ireland, Halftime – Stats: Possession: Croatia 58-42; Shots: Croatia 9-5; Shots on target: Croatia 5-3.

1535 – Croatia 2-1 Ireland, Halftime – When Croatia strings together those one-touch passes, they leaving Ireland standing in mud (particularly given how much rain is reportedly falling). Just before the half closes, a series of passes from Schlidenfeld, to Strinic, to Maddzukic, to Perisic, to Jelavic and behind the defense to Perisic leads to a cross for Rakitic. He puts it over the cross bar, but Croatia had Ireland bent out of shape.

It’s halftime, now. Croatia’s goals were a bit fortunate, but they’re controlled the match and are deserved leaders.

1530 – Croatia 2-1 Ireland – Another goal for Croatia from the second ball in off a corner. Darijo Srna plays it in, headed out by Ireland to Strinic, who plays across for Modric. He moves past one man then shoots into a crowd, the ball coming out the other end of Nikica Jelavic. He chips over an oncoming Given for a fortunate goal, restoring Croatia’s lead.

1520 – Croatia 1-1 Ireland – Croatia has had most of the possession, but Ireland’s been relentless, giving them little time on the ball when it’s in their half. Croatia seems to be able to use the right flank whenever they want, with Ivan Rakitic coming in to give Darijo Srna room to burst forward.

For the Irish, their chances center around playing the ball to Kevin Doyle and waiting for him to draw a foul. Which has worked. The referee has a quick whistle.

1505 – Croatia 1-1 Ireland – Kevin Doyle’s hard work does draw a foul on Vedran Corluka. Aiden McGeady puts a great to the far post that Sean St. Ledger puts home for the equalizer. What a terrible sequence for Corluka.

There’s something very strange going on. Somebody in the crowd has a very prominent whistle that’s being blown at every restart. It’s pitch is very close to the official’s. It’s annoying, and in the post-goal commentary there was brief speculation that the whistle that blew right after McGeady’s restart could have been a factor.

1450 – Croatia 1-0 Ireland – Horror start for Shay Given and Ireland. The second play off a corner kick sees Darijo Srna chip a ball back from the line. Mario Mandzukic is 14 yards out and get a soft header toward the right post, but Given’s off-balance, moving the wrong way. No way this ball shot go in, but Given doesn’t get a touch on it. Ireland’s down early.

1447 – Croatia 0-0 Ireland – We are off with Croatia kicking off, going right to left.

1435 – Lineups for the game that starts in 10 minutes:

Croatia: Pletikosa, Strinić, Ćorluka, Schildenfeld, Rakitić, Vukojević, Modrić, Srna, Perišić, Jelavić, Mandžukić SUBS: Kelava, Subašić, Šimunić, Buljat, Vrsaljko, Vida, Pranjić, Badelj, Dujmović, Kranjčar, Kalinić, Eduardo.

Ireland: Given, St Ledger, Ward, O’Shea, Dunne, Whelan, McGeady, Andrews, Duff, Doyle, Keane SUBS: Westwood, Forde, Kelly, McShane, O’Dea, Gibson, Hunt, Green, McClean, Walters, Long, Cox.

Interesting the Croatia’s Darijo Srna looks set to start at right back. He plays there for club but rarely for country, but against a set-in Ireland, Slaven Bilic seems ready to be agressive. Sevilla’s Ivan Rakitic has also gotten the call. They’ll play 4-4-2 with Vukojevic holding.

Ireland’s team is as expected. They’ll play 4-4-1-1.

1429 – Here’s the Offshore Drilling recap of Italy’s draw with Spain.

1350 – Spain 1-1 Italy, Final – Full time, and a very good performance from Italy gets a deserved point. Spain didn’t play poorly, but they could have done more, and some strange choices from Vicente Del Bosque saw little justification.

The next game starts at 2:45 p.m. Eastern. I’m off to write the Offshore drilling for the match. Be back soon.

1344 – Spain 1-1 Italy – Torres has been fun. Three times he’s been put behind the line or in on goal. Three times he doesn’t even get a shot on target. And, he’s picked up a card.

1335 – Spain 1-1 Italy – Five minutes ago, Fernando Torres came on for Cesc Fabregas. That means the goal scorer and the man who provided it are off for Spain.

Giorgio Chiellini just picked up a yellow for taking down Andres Iniesta at the edge of the area.

1321 – Spain 1-1 Italy – Quick response. Andrea Iniesta plays a ball to David Silva, back to goal 20 yards out. Rather than give it back, Silva turns and sees Cesc Fabregas coming in from the right. He feeds him, and Cesc blasts it into goal. We’re even.

Curiously, two subs immediately come on. Jesus Navas replaces David Silva in a move that should probably have been put off. Sebastian Giovinco replaces Antonio Cassano for Italy.

1318 – Spain 0-1 Italy – At halftime we asked which would pay off first: Spain’s possession or Italy’s isolated chances. If you read the score, you obviously know.

Andrea Pirlo picks up a ball inside Italy’s half and burst forward, beating Sergio Busquets easily. A ball played behind a high Spain line sees Di Natale beat Gerard Pique. As Casillas comes out, Toto has an open goal, and he buries it into the right of goal.

1312 – Spain 0-0 Italy – After Spain opens the half with a couple of cracks on goal, Mario Balotelli creates and blows a spectacular chance. A ball punted out of Italy’s end down their right leads to an aerial battle between Balotelli and Ramos, and when it seems Ramos is really to control, Balotelli steps in, wins the ball, and discarding Ramos, charges toward goal. He has 35 yards to decide what to do. His choice: Slow up so much that he allows Ramos to make up the ground and re-win the ball.

Minutes later, Cesare Prandellis takes Balotelli off, bringing on Antonio Di Natale.

1302 – Spain 0-0 Italy – No changes as Italy kicks off to start the second half.

1259 – Spain 0-0 Italy, Halftime – Stats: Possession: Spain 57-43; Shots: Spain 7-6; Shots on target: Spain 5-4. Note UEFA counts blocked shots as shots on target. Three of Spain’s shots were blocked. None of Italy’s were blocked.

1247 – Spain 0-0 Italy, Halftime – A very interesting first half, though we go to break scoreless. Spain took half of the period to figure out the Italians and still have not developed a winning plan, yet they seems to have something going through Andres Iniesta on the left. They’re often brining David Silva off his wing to support on that side.

Italy is working almost everything through Antonio Cassano, who was responsible for creating five good chances for himself and others (two shots by him, one drawn foul deep in Spain’s end, three chances created for others).

Based on the first half, you’d say Spain’s slightly more likely to break through in the second, yet Italy generated the better chances in the first half. Spain better figure this out before Italy takes it from them.

1242 – Spain 0-0 Italy – Spain has almost exclusively attacked down the left, leaving Giorgio Chiellini with little to do. That gives him the freedom, though, to take some chances coming off the line. Here, he comes high into midfield and wins a ball targeting Sergio Busquets. Moments later David Silva plays a ball behind Daniele de Rossi for Cesc Fabregas, making a run from the left behind the defense. Leonardo Bonucci does a great job of reading the play and gets across for a block. Seconds after that, Xavi knifes a ball for Iniesta, whose first touch tries to catch Buffon off his line. Ball goes over and out.

1237 – Spain 0-0 Italy – Mario Balotelli picks up the first yellow card of the nice for persistent infringement (or something like that). Obviously, he’s not the guy you want carrying a yellow. In the interim, Spain’s still looking like they’re on the very of clicking, but Italy, in isolation, are creating the beter chances. The last was created when Antonio Cassano went wide left, took on Alvaro Arbeloa, got a ball bak to the to of the arc for Claudio Marchisio, who one-timed it right at Iker Casillas.

1227 – Spain 0-0 Italy – Somewhere in the last few minutes, Spain seems to have figured something out. They seem to be intuiting what spaces will be open, where to feed passes into Italy’s defense. They’re playing David Silva (in from the right) on the left more often, creating a numerical “advantage” on Christian Maggio-Leonardo Bonucci’s side. Andres Iniesta’s been at the center of it all.

1223 – Spain 0-0 Italy – Italy’s held more of the ball over the last five minute, and after creating a turnover along the left, see Claudio Marchisio feed a nice ball into the right channel for Antonio Cassano. Cassano goes far post and misses by a yard as Mario Balotelli is just a bit late.

1218 – Spain 0-0 Italy – Through the first 17 minutes, Spain’s held most of the ball but haven’t bothered Buffon. Italy’s had the best chance, drawing a foul from Sergio Ramos inside the arc that gave Andrea Pirlo a chance at goal. Iker Casillas easily dealt with a ball at the lower left corner.

1201 – Spain 0-0 Italy – Group C has begun.

1200 – Teams are on the field, and we’re in the final moments before kickoff. The commentary teams utters an interesting piece of speculation, asking if Spain’s lineup is in response to Italy’s shift. In other words, would Fernando Torres be starting if Italy didn’t switch to 3-5-2?

1122 – Lineups for the first game between Spain and Italy, courtesy UEFA:

Italy: Buffon, Maggio, Chiellini, Bonucci, Motta, Marchisio, Giaccherini, De Rossi, Pirlo, Balotelli, Cassano SUBS: Sirigu, De Sanctis, Ogbonna, Balzaretti, Abate, Barzagli, Montolivo, Diamanti, Nocerino, Di Natale, Borini, Giovinco.

Spain: Casillas, Piqué, Ramos, Arbeloa, Alba, Iniesta, Xavi, Fàbregas, Alonso, Busquets, Silva SUBS: Valdés, Reina, Albiol, Martínez, Juanfran, Cazorla, Navas, Rodríguez, Torres, Negredo, Mata, Llorente.

Thiago Motta is preferred over Ricardo Montolivo in Italy’s midfield. It’s not a complete surprise, though it has implications on where exactly Andrea Pirlo will be used. The Azzurri do look set to go 3-5-2, with De Rossie flanked by Chiellini and Bonucci.

Spain’s big news? Fernando Torres doesn’t crack the starting XI. Instead, Vicente del Bosque has Cesc Fabregas in the starting XI. I feel like saying something like “Spain’s taking this false nine business to a new level, seemingly intent on playing a series of false 10s,” but do I even want to be flippant with tactics jargon? It all seems so crass.

1120 – My picks for today: Spain (2-0) and Croatia (1-0).

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.

Norwich City striker Ricky van Wolfswinkel signs with former club Vitesse Arnham

NORWICH, ENGLAND - AUGUST 17:Ricky van Wolfswinkel of Norwich City celebrates after scoring their second goal during the Barclays Premier League match between Norwich City and Everton at Carrow Road on August 17, 2013 in Norwich, England. (Photo by Tony Marshall/Getty Images)
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Ricky Van Wolfswinkel, Norwich City’s record transfer at the time of his purchase from Sporting CP in 2013, is moving on after a largely unsuccessful four-year stint with the Canaries.

The 27-year-old has returned to his home country, moving to Vitesse Arnham – the club he went professional with as a 19-year-old. Van Wolfswinkel made his professional debut in April of 2008 with Vitesse, and now returns for an undisclosed fee.

Van Wolfswinkel came to Norwich in 2013 with much fanfare, signing for a reported fee of $11 million – a club record signing at the time.

He proceeded to score just a single goal in 25 appearances during his first season in the Premier League, with Norwich finding itself relegated. He moved to Ligue 1 on loan with Norwich in the Championship, but still managed just five goals in 28 league appearances with St. Etienne. He never made another appearance for the Canaries, instead moving on loan again Real Betis last season, but flopped there too, scoring just once in 16 league appearances.

“I debuted in professional football on behalf of Vitesse and that is something you never forget,” van Wolfswinkel said upon signing. “After several foreign adventures I look forward to returning to the Dutch fields. I hope to find my niche and want to play well and add many goals and assists for Vitesse.”

Report: Arsenal continues to push for Lacazette transfer, readies another bid

LISBON, PORTUGAL - JULY 23:  Lyon's forward Alexandre Lacazette celebrates scoring Lyon«s goal during the Friendly match between Sporting CP and Lyon at Estadio Jose Alvalade on July 23, 2016 in Lisbon, Portugal.  (Photo by Carlos Rodrigues/Getty Images)
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According to Friday’s edition of French publication L’Equipe, Arsenal is set to table yet another improved bid for Lyon striker Alexandre Lacazette should the current one of $44 million be rejected.

The Gunners have spent little this transfer window, with the capture of Granit Xhaka their only incoming purchase thus far, and it has unsettled many supporters. The club has looked to calm those fears, going so far as to claim they are unable to spend big like many others across England, but on the inside they appear ready to spend for the French frontman.

Should Arsenal submit yet another bid for Lacazette, it would be their third. An initial bid for $39 million was rejected earlier this week, the Ligue 1 side announced on Wednesday.

“The reality is that the Arsenal made an offer of £30m,” the club confirmed in a statement, “which Olympique Lyonnais did not respond to for one reason only: OL wishes to keep Alexandre Lacazette because he is irreplaceable and one of the major leaders of Bruno Genesio’s group.”

The Frenchman scored 21 goals last season in Ligue 1 play, including 11 goals in the season’s final 10 games. His total haul was second in the league behind Zlatan Ibrahimovic‘s whopping 38.

It seems that, with this report out in public, Lyon would be silly to accept the new bid, given that Arsenal is likely to have another improved one soon to follow.

Europa League qualifying roundup: West Ham falls in Slovenia

NYON, SWITZERLAND - AUGUST 08:  The UEFA Europa League trophy is displayed during the 2014/15 UEFA Europa League Play-off round draw at the UEFA headquarters, The House of European Football on August 8, 2014 in Nyon, Switzerland.  (Photo by Harold Cunningham/Getty Images)
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In what is often described as more of a distraction than anything for English teams, the Europa League third qualification round is under way, and a Premier League club is in danger of crashing out of the competition prior to the group stage for the third straight season.

West Ham fell 2-1 at NK Domzale, the third-placed finishers in the Slovenian league last season. Mark Noble grabbed an 18th-minute penalty, the only takeaway from an otherwise depressing road result. On the other side, 24-year-old Matic Crnic scored twice to put Domzale through.

Last season, the Hammers also dropped out of the competition in the third qualification round, to Romanian club Astra Giurgiu, although they had wins in the first and second rounds after entering the competition via fair play. In addition, Southampton also crashed out of last year’s Europa League in the playoff round to Danish side FC Mitdjylland. Hull City dropped out of the tournament two seasons ago in the playoff round.

West Ham has the opportunity to turn things around at home in a week as they host Domzale at the Olympic Stadium on Thursday, August 4 in what will be West Ham’s first competitive game in their new home.

Other notable scores from Europa League qualification include:

  • Lille 1-1 Gabala FC
  • Panathinaikos 1-0 AIK
  • Genk 1-0 Cork
  • Pandurii Targu Jiu 0-3 Maccabi Tel Aviv
  • Videoton 0-1 Midtjylland
  • Hertha BSC 1-0 Bronby
  • AZ Alkmaar 1-0 Giannina

Napoli chief calls Gonzalo Higuain a “traitor,” striker hits back

Argentinian striker Gonzalo Higuain shows the Juventus' jersey as he arrives in the team headquarters in Turin, Italy, Wednesday July 27, 2016. Italian champion Juventus said Tuesday it has signed  Higuain from Serie A rival Napoli for 90 million euros ($99 million). (Alessandro Di Marco/Ansa via Ap)
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Gonzalo Higuain’s summer move to Juventus has not come without bad blood.

When the 28-year-old striker moved from Naples to Turin thanks to Juventus activating his release clause, it left Napoli president Aurelio De Laurentiis with a sour taste in his mouth. “There are those who say that talk of betrayal is an exaggeration, but I think the opposite,” De Laurentiis told Corierre dello Sport. “Because, in this decision, there is the full sense of betrayal, which also includes ingratitude.”

“We never seriously thought he would leave. Nor that he would have erased in a flash the memories of his three years in Naples.”

That didn’t sit well with Higuain, who fired back that it was de Laurentiis who drove him out of his former club.

“It was my decision to leave, but it was [De Laurentiis] who pushed me into making it,” Higuain told the media at his Juventus unveiling. “I’d like to thank the fans and my teammates, but not De Laurentiis. I no longer had a relationship with him; I couldn’t stand another minute with him.”

Higuain was more celebratory about his time at Stadio San Paulo. “These have been three amazing years,” Higuain said, “and I can only say thanks for all the love I was given, but this was a decision I took for my own reasons. I can understand that they are angry with me and I’ve seen the insults, but it is something I had to do and I’m happy about it.”

Napoli visits Turin in Serie A play on October 30, while Juventus will not travel to Naples for the return fixture until early April of 2017.