Group C “Power” Rankings (after one round)
1. Spain – Italy gave the type of defensive performance Spain’s unlikely to see from Germany, the Netherlands, or any other contender. Any team and sit deep can wait, but Italy’s willingness to consistently throw Thiago Motta and Claudio Marchisio forward out of midfield is something Spain rarely sees. La Roja will be happy to be done with them.
2. Italy – Which team in this tournament beats the Italy we saw today? More readily, which team consistently beats them? Maybe Spain, though that’s hard to say after today’s performance. Germany, after they couldn’t break down Portugal? I’m not seeing it. The Netherlands?
Maybe we’re asking the wrong question. Perhaps we should be asking how likely Italy is to replicate this performance.
3. Croatia – The attack may have matched the quality Russia showed on Friday, but the defending was horrible. Ireland made them look better than they are. Slaven Bilic has a long three days ahead of him if he’s going to have his team ready for Italy.
4. Ireland – Giovanni Trapattoni has to wonder what happened to his defense. Facing Spain and Italy after taking nothing from Croatia, Irish fans would be forgiven for wondering if their tournament is over.
Crystal Ball – What Needs to Happen Next Round
Group C resumes play next Thursday.
Italy vs. Croatia
Did Italy play up to Spain’s level, or is this how they’ll play going forward? The question’s particularly pertinent against Croatia, who Italy’s never defeated. How can that be? Croatia’s been playing as an independent nation for nearly 20 years, yet the four-time world champions still haven’t beaten them? Have they consistently played down to their level? And if so, will it happen again?
If Croatia’s defense as poor as it was against Ireland, Antonio Cassano will tear them apart, especially given there isn’t a clear plan for cutting off the supply from Andrea Pirlo (except “get him, Luka”). Croatia will need a big day from defensive midfielder Ognjen Vukojević.
And, of course, Luka Modric will be a major consideration for Italy. As important as Modric is to Croatia’s game, Italy should send one of Thiago Motta or Claudio Marchisio from midfield to deal with him. Against Spain, those two (along with Pirlo) sat deep. We’ll see if that was how they play Spain or their general approach.
Spain vs. Ireland
If the weaknesses Ireland showed against Croatia aren’t fixed by Thursday, it might not matter. Unless Vicente Del Bosque is ready to start Fernando Llorente, he has nobody whose going to take advantage of Ireland’s central defense in the air. Spain’s not even set up to play that way.
Spain’s going to have to pass their way through Ireland’s defense, which shouldn’t be much of a problem. It just makes life harder than it need be.
For Ireland, they’re going to have to rely on hitting Spain in transition, perhaps forcing some set piece opportunities. It might help of Trapattoni brought Darron Gibson into the team, went 4-5-1, and used Gibson to try to play long to his striker.
PST’s Euro 2012 “More Powerful” Rankings
1. Germany (–) – They barely hold on to the top spot. Though Spain drew, you could make the case they showed more quality than Germany did Saturday.
2. Spain (–) – You can roll out the old tropes about Spain not being able to finish the deal, and they’ll be well-timed. For one day (at least), I’m going to give Italy the credit.
3. Italy (NR) – As alluded to above, that was a performance that could take the Italians deep in the tournament. The only question is whether they can replicate it.
4. Russia (-1) – Now that we’ve seen three-fourths of the draw, the Czech Republic look like an especially weak opponent.
5. France (-) – They get their showcase tomorrow against England.
6. Croatia (-2) – The attack was impressive. The defending was atrocious.
7. Denmark (-1)
8. Netherlands (-1) – They’ll likely be dropped from this list after Monday’s results.
… and PST’s Player of the Tournament Wunderlist
1. Alan Dzagoev, Russia
2. Mario Mandzukic, Croatia
3. Andrei Arshavin, Russia
4. Andres Iniesta, Spain
5. Daniele de Rossi, Italy
6. Andrea Pirlo, Italy
7. Simon Poulsen, Poland
8. Roman Shirokov, Russia
9. Dimitrios Salpingidis, Greece
10. Ivan Perisic, Croatia
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