Shipped from Abroad, Euro 2012: Looking forward from Group C after Day 11

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Grading out Group C

The extent to which each team met expectations.

Spain, B – The final record is impressive, but they were very close to being out of the tournament. And we’re not talking about some kind of Germany versus Denmark, “if they somehow find a goal” kind of way. Croatia had a marvelous chance to go up 1-0, executed it well, and only a Iker Casillas save on an Ivan Rakitic header kept Spain from dropping to third place. They went on to get full points but only after Croatia changed gears. Still, they go through a difficult group in first place having accumulated a +5 goal difference. It’s hard to grade that too poorly.

Italy, B+ – It wasn’t pretty, but with Italy, is it ever? They go through the group undefeated, showing the ability to beat anybody over 90 minutes. They also portray the ability to lose to anybody, something which may keep them from the semifinals.

Croatia, C+ – They should have reasonably expected to get out of this group but couldn’t get a second goal against Italy. Croatia still played some great soccer, arguably better than many of the teams that will be in the final eight. However, as discussed yesterday, the best teams don’t always go through. The most deserving do.

Ireland, F – Even by their modest expectations, this was a horrible tournament. Some respected voices picked them to get out of group, and with good reason. But they never got out of the driveway.

Crystal Ball: What Needs to Happen Next Round

The quarterfinal match ups look good for Spain. Though they recently loss to England, Spain featured mostly second-choice players at Wembley. The potential style conflict represents the same bargain Spain always faces: We’ll dominate play and push forward; you try to counter; we’ll see who wins. It’s almost always the Spanish.

Spain could also face France or Ukraine, depending on how Tuesday’s results shake out, but the bargain will be the same. Perhaps France and Ukraine won’t sit back quite as much as England, but who knows. With any matchup, Spain’s possession wil be north of 63 percent, and their opponents’ best chances will come on set pieces and in transition.

For Italy, who are likely to face France, the quarterfinals may pose a significant match up problem. We saw what Croatia was able to do to the Italians in the second half when they used Luka Modric as an advanced playmaker. That created the same kind of flowing game Italy’s likely to see from the French. Having Daniele de Rossi in midfield to disrupt that flow could lead to improved results.

PST’s Euro 2012 “More Powerful” Rankings

Taking a long term look, toward teams’ title hopes.

1 (–). Germany
2 (–). Spain
3 (-). Portugal
4 (+1). France
5 (-1). Italy
6 (-). England
7 (-). Czech Republic
8. (NR). Greece

Italy’s lack of creativity against Spain and Croatia is one thing, but against Ireland it becomes disturbing. They drop below France but stay above England, though Wayne Rooney’s return could push the Three Lions above them.

… and PST’s Player of the Tournament Wunderlist

1. Andres Iniesta, Spain
2. Mario Gómez, Germany
3. Andrea Pirlo, Italy
4. Luka Modric, Croatia
5. Mesut Ozil, Germany
6. Xavi Hernandez, Spain
7. Daniele de Rossi, Italy
8. Alan Dzagoev, Russia
9. Fabio Coentrão, Portugal
10. Sami Khedira, Germany

It almost seems unfair to put numbers besidesthese players. Better put: There are a number of players (not all listed here) who’ve had good tournaments, though nobody’s done enough to be considered a clear Player of the Tournament favorite.
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