Monday, June 11, 2012

Euro 2012 - Day 3

Spain vs Italy 1-1 :
Spain came out in their customary red with yellow stripes, while Italians were in their Azure blue. The game was fast paced in the 1st half......both team realizing the need for an early lead. Italy was more enterprising with Cassano & Balotolli testing the Spanish defense along with Motta & Chielini running hard down the flanks, which looked tentative at times.....surely Carlos Puyol's presence missed. Italy is known to up the ante every time they look down & out, & today's 1st half was no exception. Keeper Casillas had to stretch & make two excellent saves to keep Italy at bay. On the other end, Iniesta missed an easy chance & Fabregas made a mess inside the Italian box....while the scoreline remained blank, the men in blue were certainly dominating the game at half time.
The 2nd half started in whirlwind fashion, as the Spaniards pressed hard...Fabregas came close to scoring for Spain, but Bufon was quick to fist out the shot....minutes later Iniesta & Fabregas stitched another beautiful pass, but the final push by Iniesta beat everyone including the was a close shave for the Italians. Balotelli went for a counter attack almost immediately & had Casillas at his mercy, but delayed the shot & Ramos cleared the ball. The match picked up steam & speed, as both teams looked purposeful for a goal.
Against the run of play Italian broke the deadlock in the 61st minute, as Di Natale, substituting for Balotelli went in between the defensive screen of Pique & Sergie Ramos & slotted the ball past Casillas. Italy were ecstatic.....but their joy was shortlived. Spain responded by pounding the Italian goal & Fabregas, who looked very impressive through the evening scored the equaliser in the 63rd minute from a David Silva pass, which initiated from Iniesta. Spain -1, Italy-1. The game became a bit tensed as both the teams earned yellow cards for foul play....
Spain looked the better side & created more chances, as Italy defended grimly. In the 73rd minute, Fernando Torres came in place of Fabregas, clearly D Bosque bringing in the tall striker to put pressure Th the move almost paid immediate dividend, as Torres got a clear ball & hurtled towards the Italian goal, but keeper Bufon showed amazing presence of mind to shorten the angle & snatch the ball away for the striker before any damage. Meanwhile, at the other end, Di Natale got another clear chance to score, but made a hash of a simple was Spain's time to feel lucky. Iniesta was brought down just outside the Italian box, earning a dangerous free kick, but Xavi could not make good use of it. Torres missed two more absolute sitters, as the crowd roared in anticipation....did Spain make the mistake of bringing him in place of a more enterprising Fabregas??? the end of the game, that is what evolved. Italians got another chance as Motta raced along with Marcisio into the Spanish box, but Casillas was resolute with a brilliant save. Iniesta kept creating opportunities for Spain, but the final kill was missing.
In terms of statistics, Spain had the better share of possession & also shots at goal, but Italians were excellent as a unit to deny the defending Champions a was a certainly a hard fought match, with both teams matching skills for skills & keeping their fans well entertained.
The final outcome was most appropriate.....a 1-1 draw, between the two glorious teams, though it should have been a Spanish victory, had Torres not muffed absolute sitters.
Unless any major upsets happen, both these teams should cross over to the next round.

Croatia vs Ireland 3-1 :
Ireland in their customary green & Croatia in blue started the game, as rains opened up in a slight drizzle. Within 3 minutes of the start, Croatia pushed for a corner & Mandzukic headed in for an early lead, while the keeper Given, & whole of Irish defence watched, stunned. The men in blue were all over the park, taking advantage of the early goal, as Ireland did their best to recover & gain control. Duff & Doyal & Keane pressed hard for Ireland, & managed to earn a foul at the top of the box, but could not capitalize. The pressure however got dividends as in the 19th minute, Ledger, Irish back headed in from a free kick to equalize. The match was now building big, as both teams, having scored now, were looking to press for a lead. Croatia kept coming hard & Given, the Irish keeper had to make a couple of spectacular saves to hold the Croats at bay.. the  light drizzle had made the turf slippery & heavy, & both sides committed fouls regularly...... both the teams resorted to long clearances as the game drifted. Croatia, the more inventive of the two teams, showed more pluck in attack & once again, from a corner, scored in the 43rd minute, as Jelavic, arguably in a offside position tapped the ball past the outstretched hands of the Irish keeper to go up 2-1. In the injury time, again Croatia came close to scoring, but the header went tantalizingly close over the bar, as half time score remained at 2-1 in Croatia's favour.
2nd half started with Croatia more determined to extend the lead, & not surprisingly, the scored the 3rd goal, once again from a header in the 48th minute, as Mandzukic beat the Irish keeper & the ball deflected in after hitting the bar.....his 2nd goal of the night. As the match proceeded, the Croats tightened the & controlled the midfield as the Irish players kept struggling for possession.
In the end, it was Croatia dominating & winning comfortably....Ireland would have a lot of questions to ask....including gaps in the defence....
Croatia has started well with a win, but will have to play out of their skin to get another win in the group..... the tournament is surely getting interesting.....