Croatia Euro 2012 Match Previews

  • Croatia kick off their European campaign against the Republic of Ireland on Sunday in Pozna, Poland, before facing Italy in the same city on the 14th of June, they then wrap up their group proceedings against giants Spain in Gdask on the 18th of June. Theyll be hoping to grab two wins, which would more or le s guarantee their continuation at the tournament, but where can they hope to get these six points? Will they be able to reverse previous face-offs against Ireland and gain a crucial win against their old enemies, do they have enough to pile more pre sure on Italian football by securing a victory against the once great footballing nation, or will they upset all the pundits, pull of the shock of the tournament, and upset world champions Spain?Croatia vs. Republic of IrelandThe Irish team has been written off by many, as it is only their second appearance in the prestigious European tournament, however I believe this is unfair, and if Italy perform as they did in the last world cup it could be Ireland that grab the second qualifying from Group C. They have quality players throughout the park, with OShea and Dunne in defence, protecting Given, who has been given the all clear to face Croatia. In the middle of the park they boast the likes of Duff, McGeady and Sunderlands James McClean, who put in some impre sive performances for his club towards the end of the season. Up front they have a wealth of talent, with the ever reliable Robbie Keane captaining the team, who could be paired with either Kevin Doyle or Shane Long both of which have had decent seasons with Premiership rivals Wolves and West Brom respectively. The fact that Croatia have only beaten Republic of Ireland once in six times of trying does weigh heavy in the air, and when Slaven Bili went to scout out his opening opponents in their final warm up game against Hungary last week the Irish fans were keen to tell him youll never beat the Irish. They may have drawn that game 0-0 and spent most of the game on the backfoot but the Republic of Ireland squad will go into the competition with confidence as they havent lost in 14 matches. I think the game may come down to the battle in the middle of the park as thats where I think both teams are strongest, and comparing the teams I think Croatia do have the stronger side, and that creative spark that I have mentioned in previous posts might just be too much for Ireland to handle, however I do think they will make it hard for Croatia and both teams believe they have a chance to qualify from the group, and the coaches will be key to expre s to their sides that this could be the key game in the battle for second. All in all I believe Croatia will have more of the play, but Republic Ireland will stand strong and I can see the teams sharing the spoils in Pozna.Croatia vs. ItalyAs crucial as the match up with the Republic of Ireland will be in the race for second a lot also lies in the game against Italy in Pozna on the 14th. Italy are one of the most succe sful teams in the world, and it was only back in 2006 that the country celebrated being crowned world champions. Since then however Italy have seemed to struggle to make the transition from old to young, and ultimately it was this, along with the early lo s of Buffon, that doomed them to suffer embarra sment at the last world cup, being dumped out without a win. A lot in group C falls down to whether Italy perform like this again or whether they can rediscover their winning streak, which has eluded them in their warm up games as they were run ragged by Ru sia, who beat them 3-0 at the beginning of June. Once again the Italian national game is being dogged by corruption claims and there are two members of the Italian squad at the Euros who are involved with the corruption scandal, defenders Domenico Criscito and Leonardo Bonucci, and Criscito has been pulled from the squad due to the match fixing allegations, which has seen 17 people, including 11 players arrested. It is important to note however that the last bout of Italian corruption on a national level come out as they prepared for the 2006 world cup, which they went on to win, which does suggest that the players will be able to put the investigation of many of their clubs behind them when they step out together at the championships. Now despite their failures at the last international tournament and the controversy over the national game Italys squad reminds us that you can never ignore them as a footballing force. They have typically strong centre backs in Chilleni and Barzagli who will be strong in the air, they will give the Croatian forwards a tough time, and even if Jelavi or Mandzuki manage to work their way past the back four they will have to beat one of the best goalkeepers of our time, Gionluigi Buffon. The midfield is strong,and viewers can expect to see the likes of De Ro si, Pirlo and Montolivo bo sing the midfield for Italy, and this strong three man midfield may make it difficult for Croatia to get going. Up front they have one of the most controversial men in football, Mario Balotelli, love him or hate him he is a talent that can not be ignored, his impre sive scoring record for Premiership champions Man City will have cemented his place in the starting line up, however it remains to be seen how he will react to the tough crowds in Poland and Ukraine, which if the Holland training ground incident is anything to go on, will act in a disgraceful manner and threaten to ruin the tournament. Alongside Balotelli we may see Antonio Ca sano, who is a capable striker and a cool finisher. All in all the Italy game is probably the hardest to call in the group, as it is just impo sible to say what sort of Italy team is going to turn up, all pre tournament signs point to them performing below expectations once again, however it is impo sible to write of a giant like Italy, and if they pick up their game and perform to the level the are capable of they could kill off the hopes of the smaller nations of Croatia and Ireland. Personally I dont believe Italy will reach the levels that have come to be expected of them, and I can see Croatia grabbing all three points against the giants of Italy.Croatia vs. SpainUndoubtedly Croatia face their toughest test against world champions Spain. Spanish football has dominated the world game since their succe s at the 2008 European Championships, as sides in the national game stepped up after the succe s of the national team on an international level. Barcelona has been hailed time and again as the best side in the world, and they were beaten to the La Liga title this year by Real Madrid, which has maintained its title as international powerhouse for many decades now. The style of play that has become synonymous with Spanish football, quick short pa sing and playing the po se sion game will once again set Europe alight, and I can

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