Today’s Featured Group on the Details’ Euro 2012 Preview: Group C – jokingly referred to as “The Group of Debt”
The Nation’s Predicted Order Of Finish:
Spain, having finally gotten rid of their frustrating perennial underachiever status by winning both Euro 2008 and the World Cup in 2010, come in as one of the favorites to win this tournament. Some would even say they are THE favorites, although the Nation has some questions regarding their defense which will be expanded on in the players to watch section. Furthermore, I think they will miss David Villa more than people realize. Italy, after ages of playing the Catenaccio style are looking to play with a more attacking one, and it’ll be interesting to see if it they revert to their defensive style if going on the offensive doesn’t work out early. Ireland and Croatia really don’t have enough depth or talent to keep Spain and Italy from advancing; however, Italy does tend to get unpredictable in international tournaments lately , while Ireland always seems to be able to pull off a surprise or two, while Croatia has the talent to beat any team in this group on any given day.
Key Players To Watch:
Luka Modrić – MF – Croatia/Tottenham: Croatia’s best player, Modric will be playing deeper in midfield than he usually does for the Spurs, where his passing and long range shooting will be key. He’ll be encouraged to make runs up the field as
Nikica Jelavić – F – Croatia/Everton: With Ivica Olic being ruled out of Euro 2012 yesterday due to injury, Jelavic becomes the unquestioned #1 striker for the Croats and will have to lead the line. He should be up for it, as he scored 9 goals in 13 games for Everton after joining them in Jan. 2012.
Robbie Keane – F – Ireland/Los Angeles Galaxy: Keane is still one of the best “fox in the box” out there, although Ireland allows him to play deep into the midfield to start attacks as well. Ireland’s offense revolves around him.
Gianluigi Buffon – G – Italy/Juventus: After an injury filled 2010-11 season, the Captain came back in sparkling form for club and country in 2011-12.
Giorgio Chiellini – D – Italy/Juventus: Defense has traditionally been Italy’s strong suit, but that is now a question mark in Euro 2012. The biggest burden to hold the Back 4 or Back 3 (depending on the formation Italy goes with) together falls on Chiellini.
Andrea Pirlo – MF – Italy/Juventus: Pirlo remains Italy’s creative fulcrum; his sublilme passing skills will be the key to unlocking defenses for Italy once again.
Antonio Cassano – F – Italy/Milan and Mario Balotelli – F – Italy/Manchester City: Two supremely talented strikers who more often than not let their unique and hotheaded personalities get in the way of true, consistent greatness. There will be a lot of pressure on Balotelli; Italy was expecting a Giuseppe Rossi and Cassano striker tandem in this tournament. Rossi suffered two major knee injuries and will miss Euro 2012, while Cassano just returned to playing in April after missing almost half a year due to minor heart surgery. If these two tempestuous talents can get along on the field, Rossi will not be missed so much.
Iker Casillas – G – Spain/Real Madrid: Captain of both Spain and Madrid, he is probably the best goalie in the world right now.
Xavi – MF – Spain/Barcelona and Andrés Iniesta – MF – Spain/Barcelona: The creative engines who make Spain and Barcelona run. When the discussion turns to who is the best midfielder in the world, invariably the debate turns to who is #1 – Xavi or Iniesta? For the longest time, Xavi was the undisputed #1. Now, not so much, and it’s his Barça teammate who is his main competition for that honor.
Gerard Piqué – D – Spain/Barcelona: Pique lost his starting spot in Barcelona during the final week of the season, a fitting end to a very difficult year for him form wise. With Carlos Puyol missing Euro 2012, Pique will be back in the starting lineup and will probably have Sergio Ramos as his Center Back partner. Can Pique regain his form, and do so without the veteran rock-like presence of Puyol, his Barcelona teammate and captain, and with a CB partner who just moved from RB last season?
Pedro – F – Spain/Barcelona: With David Villa injured and out of the tournament and Fernando Torres having a miserable run in form since his move to Chelsea, Pedro will have to be the man up front for Spain. How well he does his job will be an important factor in how far Spain goes in this tournament.