Andrea Pirlo, false nines, and Spain-Italy: Sunday’s Euro 2012 final playlist

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source: Getty Images

It’s strange to think of Italy as upstarts, but given what the Azzurri have been through since their 2006 World Cup, their presence in Sunday’s Euro 2012 final is a minor shock. They floundered at Euro 2008, leading to the dismissal of their coach. They finished last in their group at South Africa 2010. Grouped with Spain and Croatia at this tournament, Italy weren’t a sure bet to make the quarterfinals, particularly given a squad that lacked proven international scorers.

Three weeks later, Italy has earned a rematch their chance to claim another improbable title. In 2006, the Azzurri won their fourth world championship while their country’s domestic league was in the middle of the calciopoli scandal. This year, with another match-fixing probe engulfing Italian soccer, Italy has made another strangely timed run. That they’ve done so with a less-talented team than the one that won Germany 2006 emboldens conspiracy theorists ascribing undo connections between scandal and success.

Spain – the defending world and european champions – aren’t worried about the mystical as much as the practical. Italy has neither lost nor trailed in the tournament, having already claimed an opening match draw from the Spaniards. That the world’s top-ranked team played well against Italy and wasn’t able to get a win had to be engender some doubts.

Doubts or not, Spain still go into Sunday’s final marked favorites. They haven’t allowed a goal since Toto Di Natale scored in the teams’ first meeting, setting a record Euro record for the longest span without allowing a goal (a streak now up to 419 minutes). Between European Championships and World Cups, Spain have not allowed a knockout round goal since World Cup 2006.

Their quest to extend that streak begins at 2:45 p.m. Eastern on Sunday, when they’ll meet Italy in Kiev for the title of 2012 European champions. Here’s your playlist:

source:  1. Stories of threes and nines

Italy and Spain’s first meeting nearly broke the internet, with tactics freaks freaking out when a sweeper system went up against a team employing a false nine. Crudely translated: One team (Italy) was playing with too many defenders against another (Spain) with not enough forwards. Somehow, we got two goals out of a match that’s turned out to be one of the tournament’s best.

On Sunday, Italy will start with a conventional back four, though it’s unclear what Spain will do. They could see their first match struggles as caused by their lack of a striker. That would almost assuredly push Cesc Fabregas to the bench, even though Fabregas has arguably been their best attacker (when playing). He scored the goal versus Italy and was the team’s best playmaker when coming on against Portugal.

In that match, Vicente Del Bosqure gave Alvaro Negredo his first start of the tournament, trying yet another striking option. Negredo was also Del Bosque’s first sub after the Sevilla striker never properly utilized. Ultimately, the choice was little more than a hint that Del Bosque doesn’t have things figured out. Who knows which direction he’ll go in on Sunday.

2. Andrea and Mario

Italy’s had been a one-man show throughout most of the tournament, but with Mario Balotelli bagging two goals against Germany, Andrea Pirlo’s no longer the only star Spain will have to worry about. Fortunately for Vicente Del Bosque, the holders are well-equipped to handle both.

Against Pirlo, Spain will have a number players capable of pestering him. Xavi Hernandez is most likely. If Spain goes striker-less from the start, Cesc Fabregas will help. Also expect David Silva and Andres Iniesta to help, with Italy having almost no threat from the fullback positions. All of Spain’s players are used to the kind of high-intensity pressing that could disrupt Italy.

At the back, the holders have two defenders who match up well with Balotelli, even if a Sergio Ramos-Mario Balotelli confrontation could be explosive. But both Ramos and partner Gerard Pique have a combination of footspeed, athleticism, and strength that will keep them from being overmatched in one-on-one situations.

The bigger worry for Spain is whether their defense can avoid the mistakes that befell Germany – the type of mistakes that were responsible for Italy’s only goal during the teams’ group stage meeting.

source:  3. Relying on Andres

Even through all three of Spain’s forwards played well against Italy, Andres Iniesta was by far Spain’s most effective player. His willingness to dribble at and through defenders was Spain’s most reliable tactic, with the Barcelona star often forcing sweeper Daniele de Rossi into evasive action to snuff out movements.

Unfortunately, that tactic didn’t produce any goals in the first game. Though Iniesta started the movement that led to Spain’s equalizer, that goal came via combination play through the middle (David Silva finding Cesc Fabregas running through the left channel). It didn’t come through Iniesta’s ability to beat a man.

On Sunday, Iniesta will be going at a right side anchored by Andrea Barzagli. His injury during Italy’s first two matches caused Cesare Prandelli to go to a 3-5-2/5-3-2 formation. Since he’s been back, Italy’s gone 4-4-2 (or, 4-3-1-2) and have not allowed an open play goal.

Iniesta may be one of the best players in the world, but Italy’s performance since Barzagli’s return serves as a cautionary note. If Spain’s relying on Iniesta to break down Italy’s right side, the tactic’s unlikely to be more successful than it was three weeks ago.

4. No more patience

Last round, we noted many of Spain’s opening goals during their string of knockout round victories have come in the second half. Although they didn’t break through against Portugal, Spain certainly looked better at minute 120 than minute one, hinting Spain’s still capable of winning an attritional battle.

Italy doesn’t seem likely wilt by attrition. Though Cesare Prandelli has Italy playing with the ball more, they remain very comfortable ceding control of the game and waiting for their opponents to make mistakes in attack. That’s how they got their two goals against Germany.

That leaves Spain in the uncomfortable position of needing to increase pressure on Italy while maintaining more than a mere safety net at the back . You would think, given Germany’s problems breaking down Italy, one of those two things would have to give. Spain would either have to be more aggressive – more readily push the likes of Jordi Alba and Xabi Alonso higher into the attacking third – and push for a goal, or they could prioritize their shape at the back and perhaps end up waiting for an Italian mistake.

That paradoxical tension will define Sunday’s match. The more aggressive Spain are, the more they play into Italy’s hands. But if they aren’t aggressive enough, they risk Italy taking the game from them, as the Italians almost did in group play.

In that way, this will be the most difficult of Spain’s three major finals since 2008. Both Germany (`08) and the Netherlands (`10) were there for the taking. The Spanish could control the game without worrying about how that fed into their opponents’ attack. On Sunday, unless they’re careful (or happen to score early), the qualities that make Spain so dominant could become their undoing.

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.

Japan vs Croatia: How to watch live, stream link, team news

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Japan and Croatia clash in the last 16 of the World Cup and both will fancy their chances of reaching the quarterfinals.

STREAM LIVE JAPAN V CROATIA

This is the second time in as many tournaments the Samurai Blue have reached the knockout rounds and they were splendid in wins against Spain and Germany to win Group E in dramatic fashion. Can their solid unit and incredible rotation of attacking players by manager Hajime Moriyasu bamboozle Croatia too? They have never made it past the Round of 16 stage at a World Cup.

As for the 2018 World Cup runners, Zlatko Dalic’s side continue to fly under the radar as they got out of Group F with minimum fuss. The experience is plentiful in this side, while emerging talents are also starting to star. Can they go on another deep run?

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Here is everything you need for Japan vs Croatia. 


How to watch Japan vs Croatia live, stream link and start time

Kick off: 10am ET – Monday, December 5
Stadium: Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
TV channels en Español: Telemundo
Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)


Key storylines, players to watch closely

Japan’s comeback wins against Germany and Spain have been a joy to watch and anybody who watched them before this tournament will not be that surprised. Moriyasu has created a squad which has a total ‘team first’ mentality and so many players are stepping up to deliver in midfield and attack. From Maya Yoshida captaining the side and dominating at center back to Mitoma, Doan, Endo and Tanaka dazzling in midfield and attack whenever they feature, this is a joy to watch. The energy Japan plays with is dizzying and they will create plenty of chances against Croatia. The big question: can they be more clinical?

As for Croatia, the likes of Dejan Lovren, Luka Modric and Ivan Perisic have been here before. They exude confidence and Josko Gvardiol is a fine young center back and the likes of Mateo Kovacic and Marcelo Brozovic add extra class. This is a side which always seems to overdeliver and they will be thinking another deep run at the World Cup is on the cards. Surely they can’t get to the final again, right?


Japan quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 24
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 7
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from AFC
Coach: Hajime Moriyasu
Key players: Maya Yoshida, Takehiro Tomiyasu, Ritsu Doan
At the 2022 World Cup – Won Group E with 6 points (+1 GD)

Croatia quick facts

Current FIFA world ranking: 12
World Cup titles: 0
World Cup appearances: 6
How they qualified: Qualified automatically from UEFA (1st place)
Coach: Zlatko Dalic
Key players: Luka Modric, Andrej Kramaric, Mateo Kovacic
At the 2022 World Cup – Finished second in Group F with 5 points (+3 GD)


World Cup 2022 schedule – how to watch, last 16, calendar, match schedule, brackets, dates

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The World Cup 2022 schedule is locked in and this tournament in Qatar has been sensational as the knockout rounds will capture the imagination of the globe.

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Japan, Australia and Morocco made the last 16 with so many huge shocks during the tournament, while Germany, Denmark and Belgium all crashed out in the group stage.

From the USMNT and England getting out of their group to Lionel Messi dragging Argentina through and Mexico just missing out on getting out of the group stages and amid upsets galore, there are plenty of intriguing games in the latter stages.

[ MORE: World Cup rosters for all 32 teams ]

We now have the small matter of the Round of 16, quarterfinals, semifinals, and final to look forward to. Bring. It. On.

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Below is the schedule in full, details on how to watch the games and everything else you need..

[ MORE: World Cup odds ]


World Cup 2022 schedule, start time, dates, how to watch live

  • When: November 20, 2022 to December 18, 2022
  • Knockout round kick-off times: 10am, 2pm (both ET)
  • Location: Qatar
  • TV channels en Español: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock
  • Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Follow along with ProSoccerTalk for the latest news, scores, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 World Cup, and be sure to subscribe to NBC Sports on YouTube!


Group A | Group B | Group C | Group D | Group E | Group F | Group G | Group H | Full tables


Round of 16 schedule

Match 49 – Saturday, December 3: Netherlands 3-1 USA – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan

Match 50 – Saturday, December 3: Argentina 2-1 Australia – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan

Match 52 – Sunday, December 4: France 3-1 Poland – Al Thumama Stadium, Doha

Match 51 – Sunday, December 4: England 3-0 Senegal – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor

Match 53 – Monday, December 5: Japan vs Croatia (preview) – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah – 10am

Match 54 – Monday, December 5: Brazil vs South Korea (preview) – Stadium 974, Doha – 2pm

Match 55 – Tuesday, December 6: Morocco vs Spain (preview) – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am

Match 56 – Tuesday, December 6: Portugal vs Switzerland (preview) – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm


Quarterfinal schedule

Match 58 – Friday, December 9: Winners Match 53 vs Winners Match 54 – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan – 10am

Match 57 – Friday, December 9: Netherlands vs Argentina – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 10am

Match 60 – Saturday, December 10: Winners Match 55 vs Winners Match 56 – Al Thumama Stadium, Doha – 10am

Match 59 – Saturday, December 10: Winners Match 51 vs France – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm


Semifinal schedule

Match 61 – Tuesday, December 13: Winners Match 57 vs Winners Match 58 – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 2pm

Match 62 – Wednesday, December 14: Winners Match 59 vs Winners Match 60 – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 2pm


Third-place play-off

Match 63 – Saturday, December 17: Losers Match 61 vs Losers Match 62 – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan – 2pm


Final

Match 64 – Sunday, December 18: Winners Match 61 vs Winners Match 62 – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail – 10am


Group stage results

Group A

Recap/highlights: Qatar 0-2 Ecuador – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Senegal 0-2 Netherlands  – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor – 5am
Recap/highlights: Qatar 1-3 Senegal – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Netherlands 1-1 Ecuador – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Netherlands 2-0 Qatar – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Ecuador 1-2 Senegal –  Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan

Group B

Recap/highlights: England 6-2 Iran – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: USA 1-1 Wales – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: England 0-0 USA – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Wales 0-2 Iran – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Wales 0-3 England – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Iran 0-1 USA – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor

Group C

Recap/highlights: Argentina 1-2 Saudi Arabia – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: Mexico 0-0 Poland – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Poland 2-0 Saudi Arabia – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Argentina 2-0 Mexico – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: Poland 0-2 Argentina – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Saudi Arabia 1-2 Mexico – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail

Group D

Recap/highlights: France 4-1 Australia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Recap/highlights: Denmark 0-0 Tunisia – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: France 2-1 Denmark – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Tunisia 0-1 Australia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Recap/highlights: Tunisia 1-0 France –  Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Australia 1-0 Denmark – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah

Group E

Recap/highlights: Spain 7-0 Costa Rica – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Germany 1-2 Japan – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Spain 1-1 Germany – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Japan 0-1 Costa Rica – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Japan 2-1 Spain – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Costa Rica 2-4 Germany – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor

Group F

Recap/highlights: Belgium 1-0 Canada – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Morocco 0-0 Croatia – Al Bayt Stadium, Al Khor – 5am
Recap/highlights: Belgium 0-2 Morocco – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor
Recap/highlights: Croatia 4-1 Canada – Khalifa International Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Croatia 0-0 Belgium – Ahmed bin Ali Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights Canada 1-2 Morocco – Al Thumama Stadium, Al Khor

Group G

Recap/highlights: Brazil 2-0 Serbia – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: Switzerland 1-0 Cameroon – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Recap/highlights: Brazil 1-0 Switzerland – Stadium 974, Doha – 11am
Recap/highlights: Cameroon 3-3 Serbia – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah
Recap/highlights: Cameroon 1-0 Brazil – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: Serbia 2-3 Switzerland – Stadium 974, Doha

Group H

Recap/highlights: Portugal 3-2 Ghana – Stadium 974, Doha
Recap/highlights: Uruguay 0-0 South Korea – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Portugal 2-0 Uruguay – Lusail Iconic Stadium, Lusail
Recap/highlights: South Korea 2-3 Ghana – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: South Korea 2-1 Portugal – Education City Stadium, Al Rayyan
Recap/highlights: Ghana 0-2 Uruguay – Al Janoub Stadium, Al Wakrah


World Cup yellow card rules 2022: Do cards carry over after group stage?

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At the 2022 World Cup in Qatar, we’ve already seen games majorly impacted by yellow cards and red cards – most notably the Wales group stage meeting with Iran where goalkeeper Wayne Hennessey came off the line and took out Iranian striker Mehdi Taremi. Hennessey was sent off with a red card and Wales, down to ten men, saw Iran score two stunning stoppage time goals for the unexpected win. It was the first red card of the tournament and one that unquestionably changed the course of the game.

RELATED: World Cup 2022 schedule – how to watch, groups, calendar, match schedule, brackets, dates

Less impactfully but still of note, four U.S. players received yellow cards in the Americans’ opening match against Wales – (Kellyn Acosta, Tim Ream, Weston McKennie, Sergiño Dest). While yellow cards are a omnipresent part of soccer, players run the risk of acquiring two cautions and being unavailable when their team needs them most. Here’s the breakdown on how yellow cards turn into player suspensions and what happens to cards in between rounds of the tournament.

How many yellow cards equal a player suspension?

If players receive two yellow cards at the 2022 World Cup, it will result in a one-game suspension. If the player receives both cautions in the same game, they will be sent off and serve the suspension in the subsequent match. But players can also receive a suspension after accumulating two yellow cards across separate matches. So once a player has a yellow card to their name, they’ll likely be thinking carefully about how they approach situations to ensure they’re not out of commission at a key moment in the tournament.

RELATED: What are the group stage tiebreaker rules at the 2022 World Cup?

Do yellow cards carry over from the group stage?

At the 2022 World Cup, yellow cards do carry over from the group stage into the Round of 16. If a player receives one yellow card in the group stage and another in the Round of 16, they are ineligible for their team’s quarterfinal matchup. However, there is a “clean slate” from the quarterfinals into the semifinals where all previous cautions are wiped, so no players in the semifinals will be at risk of missing the final matches due to accumulated yellow cards from earlier in the tournament.

Per FIFA, if a suspension can’t be served during the World Cup, it will be carried over to the team’s next official national match.

RELATED: World Cup 2022 odds: Favorites, underdogs, group stage winners

What do yellow cards mean at the World Cup?

Yellow cards are essentially cautions (also called “bookings”) given to players by match officials for a variety of infractions – these can include poor sportsmanship, delay of game, intentional injury to another player, not maintaining mandated distance from the ball on penalty kicks, impermissible language or other situations as determined by the referee on the pitch and the Video Assistant Referee. If a player receives multiple yellow cards, either in the same game or across multiple games, they receive an “indirect red,” which results in a one-match suspension.

Yellow cards can be a big problem for a team when it comes to missing key players, but they can also impact a squad’s chance of making it through the tournament. The final tiebreaker to determine which teams advance out of the group stages is the team conduct score, or “fair play” tiebreaker based on the number of yellow and red cards a team has accumulated. In a situation where teams are equal on all other tiebreakers, the side with the higher team conduct score will advance to the round of 16.

RELATED: Ranking the 2022 World Cup kits

World Cup 2022 schedule, start time, dates, how to watch live

  • When: November 20, 2022 to December 18, 2022
  • Group stage game kick-off times: 5am, 8am, 10am, 11am, 2pm (all ET)
  • Location: Qatar
  • TV channels en Español: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock
  • Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Follow along with ProSoccerTalk for the latest news, scores, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 World Cup, and be sure to subscribe to NBC Sports on YouTube!

World Cup 2022 rankings: Who are the favorites?

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With the tournament in full flow and the knockout rounds now here, it is time to update and release the latest 2022 World Cup rankings.

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There are a few favorites to win the trophy in Qatar but some of the giants have struggled in the group stage and there have been some big shocks to impact the chances of some powerhouses lifting the famous trophy.

There remains no real frontrunner to win the tournament. That is great news for neutrals.

[ LIVE: World Cup 2022 schedule, how to watch, scores, hub

Keep an eye out on a few underdogs too, as there are some real opportunities which have opened up depending on what side of the bracket you’re on.

We will updates these rankings during the tournament in Qatar as the final takes place on December 18, 2022.

Let us know what you think of the rankings below.


World Cup 2022 schedule, start time, dates, how to watch live

  • When: November 20, 2022 to December 18, 2022
  • Knockout round game kick-off times: 10am, 2pm (both ET)
  • Location: Qatar
  • TV channels en Español: Telemundo, Universo, Peacock
  • Streaming en Español: Peacock (all 64 matches)

Follow along with ProSoccerTalk for the latest news, scores, storylines, and updates surrounding the 2022 World Cup, and be sure to subscribe to NBC Sports on YouTube!


World Cup Rankings – December 4, 2022

Teams knocked out on the group stage

32. Qatar – Even
31. Wales – Even
30. Canada – Down 2
29. Tunisia – Up 1
28. Costa Rica – Up 1


27. Belgium – Down 17
26. Denmark – Down 10
25. Saudi Arabia – Down 6
24. Ghana – Even
23. Serbia – Down 6


22. Cameroon – Up 4
21. Iran – Down 3
20. Mexico – Up 5
19. Germany – Down 10
18. Uruguay – Down 7
17. Ecuador – Down 4


Teams who made it to the last 16

16. Poland – Up 5
15. Australia – Up 12
14. Senegal –  Up 6
13. USA – Up 2


12. South Korea – Up 10
11. Morocco – Up 12
10. Switzerland – Up 2
9. Japan – Up 5
8. Croatia – Even
7. Spain – Up 3


6. Netherlands – Up 1
5. England – Up 1
4. Portugal – Down1
3. Argentina – Up 4 
2. France – Even
1. Brazil – Even