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.

Wigan player races off for son’s birth after scoring 2 goals

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WIGAN, England (AP) It was better than a hat trick.

A player for English soccer team Wigan had a night to remember when he scored his second goal before dashing off the field and to the local hospital, where his girlfriend was in labor.

[ MORE: Chelsea advances to UCL Round of 16 after win over Qarabag ]

A picture of Ryan Colclough holding his new-born baby, Harley, while still in his soccer uniform was shared on social media by Wigan chairman David Sharpe.

Colclough said his father, sitting in the stands on Tuesday for Wigan’s 3-0 win over Doncaster in the second division, “gave me the action that the waters had broken,” but he didn’t want to come off until the ball was out of play.

“My head was a little bit battered, but I went and scored, looked at the manager and he said we’ll bring you off now,” Colclough said Wednesday of his 58th-minute goal, which he celebrated by pretending to rock a baby. “I came off and was straight down the tunnel, grabbed my keys and my phone, and went to hospital.”

Colclough had visited the midwife that day, and was told the baby was unlikely to arrive for “another couple of days.”

Lille suspends coach Marcelo Bielsa

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LILLE, France (AP) French club Lille has provisionally suspended coach Marcelo Bielsa following a string of poor results in the top tier.

[ MORE: Basel stuns Man United late to keep UCL hopes alive ]

The northern side said in a statement that Bielsa has been suspended “as part of a procedure started by the club.” Lille did not elaborate.

Bielsa joined Lille this season but has failed to make the club competitive again, with the team second to last after 13 matches.

The 2 Robbies podcast: PL sides in the UCL, Pulis sacking and more

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In today’s Euro Pod Edition, the Robbies breakdown the latest Champions League action. Man United lose at Basel, Chelsea cruise at Qarabag, Spurs impress against Dortmund, Man City continue to win, Liverpool surrender a 3-goal lead against Sevilla. Plus, the guys weigh in on the Oumar Niasse ban for diving and the Tony Pulis sacking.

Join Earle & Mustoe on The 2 Robbies Football Show, Saturdays at 5pm ET. Listen on the NBCSports Radio App and call 855-323-4622 in the U.S. for lively passionate debate.

All of the The 2 Robbies content can be accessed by clicking on this link:

Click here for The 2 Robbies archive ]

Listen to the latest pod by clicking play below.

Follow them on Twitter @The2Robbies

Europa League preview: Arsenal looks to wrap up Group H and more

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While several teams have already booked their place in the knockout phase, the Europa League reaches its penultimate round on Thursday with many big matches in hand.

[ MORE: Yannick Bolasie finally returns to Everton training ]

Of the two Premier League sides in the competition, only one will advance to the Round of 32, as Arsenal have all but assured themselves of the top spot in Group H. The Gunners can do so tomorrow with a win over Koln or a Red Star Belgrade defeat.

The other end of the spectrum features Everton, who has already been eliminated from reaching the next round after acquiring just one point in its first four matches.

European giants AC Milan can lock up a spot in the knockout phase on Thursday despite the club’s ongoing struggles in Serie A, while fellow Italian side Atalanta can move a step closer to the Round of 32 in Group E along with Lyon.

Here’s the full rundown of Thursday’s UEL matches.

Astana vs. Villareal — 11 a.m. ET
Konyaspor vs. Marseille — 1 p.m. ET
Rosenborg vs. Real Sociedad — 1 p.m. ET
Lazio vs. Vitesse — 1 p.m. ET
Viktoria Plzen vs. Steaua Bucuresti — 1 p.m. ET
Lokomotiv vs. Copenhagen — 1 p.m. ET
Zenit vs. Vardar — 1 p.m. ET
Red Bull Salzburg vs. Vitoria — 1 p.m. ET
Athletic Bilbao vs. Hertha Berlin — 1 p.m. ET
BATE vs. Red Star Belgrade — 1 p.m. ET
Ostersund vs. Zorya — 1 p.m. ET
Koln vs. Arsenal — 1 p.m. ET
Nice vs. Zulte Waregem — 1 p.m. ET
Lugano vs. Beer-Sheva — 1 p.m. ET
Ludogorets vs. Istanbul — 3:05 p.m. ET
Braga vs. Hoffenheim — 3:05 p.m. ET
AEK vs. Rijeka — 3:05 p.m. ET
AC Milan vs. Austria Wien — 3:05 p.m. ET
Lyon vs. Apollon — 3:05 p.m. ET
Maccabi Tel Aviv vs. Slavia Praha — 3:05 p.m. ET
Sheriff vs. Zlin — 3:05 p.m. ET
Partizan vs. Young Boys — 3:05 p.m. ET
Skenderbeu vs. Dynamo Kyiv — 3:05 p.m. ET
Everton vs. Atalanta — 3:05 p.m. ET