Shipped from Abroad, Euro 2012: Taking inventory of Group C’s opening round

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source: Reuters

How we’ll remember …

Italy 1, Spain 1: As one of the best matches of the tournament. Those hoping Italy would quickly bury memories of 2010 were given their reprieve, while Spain overcame a number of obvious deficiencies to provide a good performance. Within Spain’s game you saw a team that should contend for their third straight major title, while Italy now look a good bet to get out of Group C.

Croatia 3, Ireland 1: As a day where Irish hopes were quickly vanquished. In front of what’s become customarily impressive traveling support, the Irish gave up a goal within three minutes. Although they would pull even, they did the same coming out of halftime. The one thing Irish hopes rested on – the reliability of their defense – was taken from them within the tournament’s first hour.

Team of the Day

G: Iker Casillas, Spain
LB: Jordi Alba, Spain
CB: Daniele de Rossi, Italy
CB: Giorgio Chiellini, Italy
RB: Darijo Srna, Croatia
M: Luka Modric, Croatia
M: Andrea Pirlo, Italy
LW: Ivan Perisic, Croatia
M/F: Andres Iniesta, Spain
SS: Antonio Cassano, Italy
F: Mario Mandzukic, Croatia
Subs: Thiago Motta, Italy; Cesc Fabregas, Spain; Ivan Strinic, Croatia

source: Getty ImagesThree lessons to take home

1. Your stubborn ways will be your undoing – Despite spending the whole match chasing goals, Vicente Del Bosque persisted with Xabi Alonso. Alonso’s a fine player, one of the best passers on the planet – women want him and men want to be him – but a Spain that already features Sergio Busquets at that level, he’s becoming increasingly superfluous. He was a late match substitute under Del Bosque’s predecessor (Luis Aragones) and remains best-suited for that role.

Today, with Spain perpetually on the brink of breaking Italy’s defense, they could have used Pedro Rodriguez. As was later shown, they could have used Jesus Navas (earlier). They needed one extra piece in the final third to wilt that resilient Italy defense. Instead, they had Alonso camped out 10 yards inside their attacking half.

Instead, Del Bosque persisted, stubbornly, a set up that’s taken team from providing to feigning dominance.

A final symptom of Del Bosque’s obstinacy: David Silva was the first player off despite assisting on the only goal (and combining well with Andres Iniesta). Silva was the player Del Bosque sacrificed from the Euro 2008-winning XI to incorporate Alonso. Despite two spectacular years in England that mirror his contributions to Spain’s national team, Silva may not even be in this year’s XI were it not for David Villa’s injury.

All things considered, Silva should be happy to get the hour he did. Del Bosque doesn’t seem to rate him as highly as others do.

Europe’s catching up. Del Bosque can’t continue to inhibit his team. He needs to treat the Italy result as the scare it is. His team did not play bad today, yet they were still drawn by the Italians.

2. There are somethings you just can’t change – Ireland was down to Croatia within three minutes and, despite pulling that goal back, went into halftime down. For a team whose tactics are predicated on goal prevention – hoping to take advantage of teams chasing goals – early deficits become more painful. That Ireland doesn’t have a Plan B makes it even worse.

Coach Giovanni Trapattoni can only play his team one way. They work their butts of in their half while maintaining their shape, but a nation of 4.5 million people whose biggest star is finishing out his career with LA Galaxy doesn’t have the resources to have a meaningful Plan B (can you imagine how limited England would be if David Beckham were still one of the their best players). At this point, Ireland can’t change what they are.

The same could be said for Fernando Torres. At this point, he is what he is.

The Chelsea striker had an unfortunately comical substitute’s appearance against Italy. Given three opportunities to generate something, he never put the ball on goal.

At this point, it’s a mistake for Del Bosque to assume Torres is going to change. He should not be brought on ahead of Alvaro Negredo, Fernando Llorente, Pedro Rodriguez … Pepe Reina. But Del Bosque has always liked Torres, only dropping him from Spain when he reached his EPL nadir. Odds are, we haven’t seen the last of El Niño.

3. Central defense problems will persist – Only one central defense performed well on Sunday: The one with a midfielder at its center. Cesare Prandelli dropped defensive midfielder Daniele de Rossi into the middle of a three, and he was the day’s best defender. Unfortunately for Group C’s other sides, there aren’t enough de Rossis to go around.

Spain saw both Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique make major errors. Ramos’s was absolved when Mario Balotelli Torres’d his second half chance, while Pique’s led to Italy’s only goal.

Sean St. Ledger and Richard Dunne didn’t provide the kind of aerial presence Trapattoni’s relying on. If they can’t win the type of balls that Mario Mandzuvic converted for Croatia’s third goal, they lose a lot of their value.

And for Croatia, Vedran Corluka and Gordon Schildenfeld were only saved by being matched against Ireland. As Croatia shifted gears over the last 15 minutes and ceased controlling the ball, Ireland continuously redirected crosses toward goal. Damien Duff turned into a viable target man. Combine that with Corluka being responsible for the first goal, and Croatia probably had the day’s worst central defense.

It won’t get better tomorrow. England’s without one of their two starters, Sweden’s got a question mark in left-central defense, Ukraine’s Dymtro Chygrynskiy’s fitness is a doubt until proven otherwise, and France’s biggest weakness is the Philippe Mexes-Adil Rami pair.

What’s going in with world soccer that all this tournament is being defined by problems in defense. Germany, the Netherlands, Russia – they all have question marks. Is this the brutal club season taking its toll on a demanding position? Or, coincidence?

Author’s note: Starting today, I’m going to break up the post-match review into two parts. The one-part thing was a bit too long.

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.

Player ratings: Chelsea v. Liverpool

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Chelsea – Liverpool player ratings: This game ended up being a very straightforward win for the reigning Premier League champions.

[ MORE: 3 things we learned ]

A red card to Andreas Christensen right on half time swung the game in Liverpool’s favor and two goals early in the second half from Sadio Mane sealed a comfortable win for Jurgen Klopp’s side. With big mistakes and star performance, the Chelsea – Liverpool player ratings are extremely mixed.

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Here’s a look Chelsea – Liverpool player ratings as Frank Lampard will be trying to keep things in perspective, while Liverpool and will be keen to keep building momentum.


Chelsea player ratings

Kepa: 3 – Wandering around early on and generally indecisive. Hesitant on the ball over the top which led to Christensen being sent off which forced the decision. Gave the second goal away with a poor mistake. He knows he will not be Chelsea’s goalkeeper with Edouard Mendy coming in soon.

Reece James: 6 – Wasn’t able to showcase his attacking talents from right back and Mane beat him to head home the first goal.

Andreas Christensen: 4 – He was actually playing pretty well until he was sent off right on half time. One long ball over the top set Mane free and Christensen hauled him down with Kepa dallying.

Kurt Zouma: 6 – Steady and tried his best to hold everything together at the back.

Marcos Alonso: 4 – He knows Chilwell is the first-choice left back, and he worked hard but was caught out on a one-two by Firmino and Salah for the first goal.

N’Golo Kante: 6 – One glorious chance to shoot when found in the box but looked for a pass. Struggled to shut Liverpool down.

Jorginho: 4 – A few loose passes, which is unlike him, and the captain struggled to hold down midfield. Missed a penalty kick too.

Mateo Kovacic: 7 – Plenty of mazy dribbles and was the one Chelsea midfield he looked to support the attack.

Mason Mount: 5 – Spent most of his time defending and wasn’t able to impact the game in a positive way.

Kai Havertz: 5 – Some lovely touches and oozes class on the ball, but not involved enough. Subbed off at half time.

Timo Werner: 7 – Always a threat and went close a couple of times in the first half. Caught offside too often. But that’s his game. Won a penalty kick in the second half and never stopped trying.

Substitutes
Fikayo Tomori (on for Havertz, 45′) 6 – Did his best to try and stop Liverpool’s juggernaut and made some decent blocks.
Ross Barkley (on for Jorginho, 79′) N/A
Tammy Abraham (on for Kovacic, 79′) N/A


Liverpool player ratings

Alisson: 7 – Hardly had anything to do throughout the entire game, then he saved a penalty kick superbly. Involved in the red card incident too with his claim and quick throw to turn defense into attack.

Trent Alexander-Arnold: 7 – Always whipping in dangerous balls and a real outlet on the right. Off target with his set pieces.

Fabinho: 8 – Stood in superbly at center back for the injured duo of Joe Gomez and Joel Matip. Could he play at center back now that Thiago is around?

Virgil van Dijk: 7 – Did his job well enough and no uncharacteristic mistakes this week. Almost scored from a set piece situation.

Andy Robertson: 6 – Didn’t see much of him as an attacking threat but worked hard, as always.

Jordan Henderson: 7 – Led by example and a lovely ball over the top which led to Christensen’s red card. Subbed off at half time with a small issue.

Georginio Wijnaldum: 7 – Typically robust display in central midfield. Is he really going to be allowed to leave for Barcelona?

Naby Keita: 6 – Always wants to get on the ball but didn’t really happen for him with Kante and Jorginho around.

Mohamed Salah: 7 – Worked hard to conjure space for himself and teammates. Didn’t score but involved in the first goal.

Roberto Firmino: 7 – The Brazilian forward took a while to get into the game, but created the first goal with a lovely one-two and cross.

Sadio Mane: 9 – Great run to force Christensen to foul him and get sent off. Then headed home the opener in style and scored a second as he chased down Kepa’s pass. Incredible desire.

Substitutes
Thiago Alcantara (on for Henderson, 45′) 6 – Did okay on the ball but did give away a penalty kick on his Liverpool debut for a slight trip on Werner. Not ideal, but not disastrous. Showed his quality in possession.
James Milner (on for Keita, 64′) 6 – Solid as ever and helped Liverpool see out the win.
Takumi Minamino (on for Firmino, 86′) N/A

Leicester – Burnley: How to watch, start time, team news, prediction, odds

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Leicester – Burnley: Brendan Rodgers seeks to become just the 23rd manager to win 100 games in the Premier League, and becoming the fourth-fastest Brit to reach the mark, when Leicester City host Burnley at the King Power Stadium on Sunday (Watch live at 2 pm ET, on NBCSN and online via NBCSports.com).

LEICESTER – BURNLEY BROM STREAM LIVE

Rodgers moved one step closer to his century of PL wins last weekend when the Foxes began their 2020-21 campaign with a 3-0 thrashing of newly promoted West Bromwich Albion. Burnley, on the other hand, are set for their season debut this weekend after their opening-day clash with Manchester United was rescheduled.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]  

Here is everything you need to know ahead of Leicester – Burnley this Sunday with team news, odds, stream link and more.


Team news: Leicester – Burnley (INJURY REPORT)

Leicester will be missing three players Ricardo Pereira (knee), Jonny Evans (thigh), Filip Benkovic (groin) — with absolute certainty.

Meanwhile, Burnley doesn’t have Johann Berg Gudmundsson (knee) or Jack Cork (ankle).


What they’re saying: Leicester – Burnley

Leicester manager Brendan Rodgers, on transfer target Cengiz Under: “He’s a very, very good player. There have been negotiations with the club [Roma] and we’re hopeful there. We need a different kind of attacking player to help out at the top end of the pitch. It’s clear we have pace and power, but I feel we need more football in there.”

Burnley manager Sean Dyche, on the club’s desperate transfer approach: “Lastminute.com — [it] started back in the day of Charlie Austin, two days before the first game of the season. There are many different ways that clubs operate. It is very difficult, it is tricky, but it’s the reality of it. I’ve been here eight years. This is not new news. I’ve been saying this for three years at least, saying we’ve got to stretch, we’ve got to pre-plan. But you can only offer these opinions. I don’t sign the checks, I can assure you.”


Odds and ends (full odds provided by our partner, PointsBet)

Leicester (-165) are heavy betting favorites with Burnley (+460) widely expected to simply roll over and concede the three points up for grabs. Even the draw (+290) is though a bridge perhaps too far for the Clarets.

PointsBet is our Official Sports Betting Partner and we may receive compensation if you place a bet on PointsBet for the first time after clicking our links


Prediction: Leicester – Burnley

Leicester managed to shake off the rust and disappointment that was the end of the 2019-20 season (just two wins from nine games during “Project Restart”) and win going away last weekend. On the other hand, Burnley finished with just two losses from their final nine games, and won four of them. We’ll see if either side is in the midst of a trend, or simply a blip on the radar. Leicester 2-1 Burnley.


How to watch Leicester – Burnley stream and start time

Kickoff: 2 pm ET Sunday
Online: Stream via Peacock

Liverpool too much for 10-man Chelsea at Stamford Bridge

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Chelsea – Liverpool: A first-half red card took much of the drama out of a much-anticipated meeting between new-look Chelsea and reigning champions Liverpool on Sunday at Stamford Bridge.

Andreas Christensen was sent off for a DOGSO tackle of Sadio Mane in the 45th minute and Sadio Mane scored twice in the early throes of the second half in a 2-0 Liverpool win.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ] 

Liverpool moves to 2-0 on the young season while Chelsea falls to 1-1.

Kepa Arrizabalaga made a silly error leading to the Reds second goal and will only increase the pressure on Chelsea to seal the arrival of a new goalkeeper (Eduoard Mendy is reported to be en route to London).

Chelsea next visits West Brom while Liverpool is home to Arsenal.


Notes from Chelsea – Liverpool

1. Christensen madness sucks life out of fixture (at least for neutrals): A terrific Jordan Henderson long ball sent Sadio Mane into a race for the ball with Kepa Arrizabalaga, but Christensen was worried about the Senegalese attacker and used a tackle better suited for the NFL games later Sunday. The Blues would play down a man for a half-minute and the entire second half and Lampard would need to withdraw Kai Havertz for Fikayo Tomori. There was little chance the already-shorthanded Blues would get anything done and it only took a few minutes to end the hopes of the game.

2. Werner nearly sours Thiago debut: Jurgen Klopp found it laughable when asked before the game whether Thiago Alcantara could start after arriving from Bayern Munich this week but he was fine to go 45 minutes in the new system. The steady, technical midfielder was as advertised in his Premier League debut until he gave away a penalty to Werner. Alisson, however, stopped Jorginho’s low penalty in the 75th minute and took away any hopes for a grandstand finish.

3. Kepa is a mess: Chelsea knows its need an upgrade at goalkeeper thanks to Kepa Arrizabalaga’s unsteady 2019-20 season, and the Spaniard made two terrible decisions on Sunday. The first was bailed out by Andreas Christensen on the goal line but the second wouldn’t be anything but a Liverpool goal as Arrizabalaga somehow lost track of Sadio Mane, who is pretty good, and passed the ball directly to him in front of goal. Eduoard Mendy is supposed to arrive any day and Arrizabalaga would’ve known this, so why not play Willy Caballero?

Man of the Match

Mane delivered the goals but Alisson Becker made some fine saves including the penalty stop on Jorginho


Chelsea – Liverpool recap

Timo Werner was active in the Liverpool third when the ball got there but the Reds had hold of possession early in the match.

Shaky play from Kepa Arrizabalaga nearly put Liverpool in front as Mohamed Salah beat the keeper to a loose ball and crossed for Roberto Firmino only to see Andreas Christensen block the in-tight effort for a corner.

N’Golo Kante and Werner both wasted promises chances in the first 20 minutes, the latter’s wayward touch allowing Fabinho to break up the play.

Mason Mount couldn’t reach a long ball from Marcos Alonso in the 23rd, Liverpool tested in its organization.

Werner drove to the arc to snap a shot toward Alisson that bounded wide of the Liverpool goal. He badly missed a chance to finish when an offside Kai Havertz slid the ball through the 18.

Christensen was initially given a yellow for tackling Sadio Mane in the 45th minute in what could’ve easily been a red card.

VIDEO: Premier League highlights ] 

Lampard took Havertz off at the break in favor of Fikayo Tomori, while Jurgen Klopp responded by handing a debut to Thiago Alcantara in place of Henderson.

The Reds breakthrough took less than five minutes, Mane turning a header home after Salah slid Firmino into the right side of the box for a cutback.

Kepa handed the game to Mane on a platter with a terrible decision in the 54th. Goodnight, right?

Maybe not. Werner kept grinding and won a penalty off Thiago that withstood VAR review but not Alisson’s right paw. The Liverpool keeper waited out Jorginho’s slow run-up to keep this sheet clean.

Alisson then denied Tammy Abraham in the 84th minute, Chelsea still hoping to produce a miraculous comeback.

Van Dijk saw a late chance corralled by Arrizabalaga in the 87th.

3 things we learned: Chelsea v. Liverpool

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Chelsea – Liverpool wasn’t exactly the goal-fest we expected and in the end it was a very straightforward win for the reigning Premier League champions.

[ MORE: How to watch PL in the USA ]   

A red card to Andreas Christensen right on half time swung the game in Liverpool’s favor and two goals early in the second half from Sadio Mane sealed a comfortable win for Jurgen Klopp’s side.

Here’s a look at what we learned from Chelsea – Liverpool as Frank Lampard will be trying to keep things in perspective, while Liverpool will be keen to keep building momentum.


Hunger of Sadio Mane underlines Liverpool ambition

The hunger with his runs, his passes and his finishing and his general desire to score goals and win games is incredible. Sadio Mane forced the red card which changed the game and scored twice early in the second half to kick Chelsea while they were down. Mane got my vote for the Football Writers’ Association player of the year in 2019-20 and the work he does often goes unnoticed. On his second goal, the way he reacted to giving the ball away epitomized him. He hunted down Kepa and intercepted a pass and slotted home into an empty net. Mane is often the least lauded forward out of Mohamed Salah, himself and Firmino. But his hunger in this game is replicated in most games. Liverpool fans appreciate Mane’s desire and the fact that fire is still burning bright proves how hungry this team are to win back-to-back titles.


Defensive Chelsea show Liverpool too much respect

We get it. Chelsea were without new signings Thiago Silva, Ben Chilwell and Hakim Ziyech. Christian Pulisic is out injured. Goalkeeper Edouard Mendy isn’t officially a Chelsea. All of that led to an extremely defensive and tentative display from Lampard’s side. Kai Havertz struggled out wide once again, while the defensive issues remain for Chelsea as Kepa had a nightmare on the red card situation and for the second goal. Aside from individual errors, the setup from Chelsea was too defensive from the start. They tried to hit Liverpool on the counter with the pace of Timo Werner and it almost worked a few times in the first half but their usual attacking swagger was totally missing. With a host of new players to come into the lineup, plus the injured Christian Pulisic to return, Chelsea will be better in the coming weeks and months. However, the respect they showed reigning champions Liverpool here was too much and underlined just how far they have to go to become genuine title contenders.


Kepa knows his time is up; new boys will take time to gel

It is sad to see a player struggling so much with confidence but that is Kepa right now. The Spanish international goalkeeper is the most-expensive goalkeeper on the planet but his shaky displays continue and Senegal international Edouard Mendy is expected to join from Rennes in the coming days. Kepa played like he knew his time at Chelsea is up. He wandered around the penalty box early on, didn’t command his area and gave the second goal to Sadio Mane on a silver platter with a poor pass. Kepa has never settled at Chelsea and the best thing he could probably do for his career is move on as soon as possible. As for the other new boys, Havertz will take time, Werner looks more than okay and Ziyech, Chilwell and Thiago Silva will now all be expected to deliver right away. Often it doesn’t work like that and Liverpool’s lone new boy, Thiago Alcantara, gave away a penalty kick after coming on at half time for his debut. Adapting to a new team in a new league and in a new country isn’t easy, even for superstar talents. So often it takes much more time than most expect. That is not good news for Chelsea who have spent close to $275 million this summer on new talent.