Football

Euro 2012: Group C preview

On paper, the outcome of Group C in the European Championships looks like a foregone conclusion. In Spain and Italy, two of the best teams in the world have been put together, and the most likely scenario is that these two sides will qualify for the latter stages of the competition.

However, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland will not go down without a fight and should not be underestimated. In fact, both teams could have a big say in the tournament, with the potential to cause an upset very possible.

In the next part of our group-by-group Euro 2012 preview, GiveMeFootball takes a closer look at the sides competing in Group C at this summer's major finals.

Croatia

Star man: Luka Modric

Croatia's stand-out performer is Tottenham midfielder, Luka Modric. Simply put, everything good comes through him.

An array of passing capabilities enables Modric to dictate the flow of play, so it's little wonder that the Croatian team has been built around the 26-year-old playmaker. The endlessly subtle and imaginative director of midfield will be an integral part to any Croatian success at this summer's championships.

Such talent does not go unnoticed, with the Spurs midfielder attracting a number of admiring glances from a whole host of Europe's elite.

Modric has been continuously linked with a move away from White Hart Lane, and the north London club will do well to retain the services of their key man, especially if he performs on one of the world's biggest stages.

Manager: Slaven Bilic

Intelligent. Astute. Passionate. Three words that best describe the outgoing Croatia manager, Slaven Bilic. The former Croatia international is coming to the end of his six-year tenure in charge of the national side, after agreeing to become the boss at Russian outfit Lokomotiv Moscow after Euro 2012.

This competition provides Bilic with one final opportunity to achieve something great, having reinvigorated the fortunes of Croatia since taking the reigns back in 2006.

World ranking: 8

Best ever Euro performance: Quarter-finalists (1996, 2008)

Fixtures:

Vs Republic of Ireland - June 10, Poznan.

Vs Italy - June 14, Poznan.

Vs Spain - June 18, Gdansk.

Italy

Star man: Gianluigi Buffon

Gianluigi Buffon has seen it all. The Juventus shot-stopper has been through the mill with the Italian national team, from experiencing the highs of a World Cup win in 2006 to the failure to progress from the group stages back in 2010. Despite all this, Buffon has remained a reliable constant for the Italians.

With Italy renowned for their defensive football and their ability to shut-out the opposition, the Italy captain will have to be at his very best to assure any success for the Azzurri at Euro 2012.

Manager: Cesare Prandelli

Since taking the reigns in 2010, Cesare Prandelli has gone about his business with minimal fuss under difficult circumstances.

Following yet another corruption investigation into Italian football, you could forgive Prandelli for wishing he'd remained in the relatively mundane environment of Fiorentina, where he enjoyed a successful five-year spell as manager.

However, the opportunity to manage the national side, replacing Marcelo Lippi as Azzurri manager, proved to be too much, and the 56-year-old has attempted to transform the team to his own attractive, progressive approach.

Having qualified for this summer's competition in a relatively straightforward manner, winning 8 and drawing 2, Prandelli's side will inevitably prove to be stubborn opponents for those in Group C, and as has been seen in years gone by, anything is possible with the Italians.

World ranking: 12

Best ever Euro performance: Winners (1968)

Fixtures:

Vs Spain - June 10, Gdansk.

Vs Croatia - June 14, Poznan.

Vs Ireland - June 18, Poznan.

Republic of Ireland

Star man: Robbie Keane

It's not an exaggeration to say that the hopes of a nation will rest firmly on the shoulders of Republic of Ireland captain, Robbie Keane.

As the countries top scorer, Keane will need to be at the top of his game as he looks to fire Ireland to the latter stages of the competition.

Capped 116 times, scoring 53 goals in the process, Keane is the most successful Irish player in history, and the LA Galaxy frontman will need to improve on his impressive international strike rate even further if Ireland are to have any chance of qualifying from Group C into the knockout stages.

Manager: Giovanni Trapattoni

Italian tactician Giovanni Trapattoni is one of the most experienced managers at this summer's European Championships.

Euro 2012 marks the first appearance in a major tournament under the tutelage of the well-travelled Trapattoni, and although the Irish are considered long outsiders in the competition, they should not be written off completely.

Trapattoni has assembled a solid, if unspectacular side and whilst Ireland may not have as many big-names as their counterparts, they are capable of springing a surprise or two.

World ranking: 18

Best ever Euro performance: Group stage (1988)

Fixtures:

Vs Croatia - June 10, Poznan.

Vs Spain - June 14, Gdansk.

Vs Italy - June 18, Poznan.

Spain

Star man: Xavi

Spain are hardly short of talent, and in truth you could identify four or five players as their 'star man', such is the strength in depth at the disposal of boss Vicente Del Bosque.

But for me, Xavi stands out above the rest. In my opinion, he is one of, if not the best playmaker in the world, and is a fundamental reason why Spain have enjoyed such success in recent tournaments.

Despite approaching the last few years of his career, at 32, Xavi is still a world-class player and will once again play an integral role as Spain look to defend their title.

If they are successful, Spain will become the first team in history to win three successive major international tournaments, a feat befitting of one of the most successful national teams of all time.

Manager: Vicente Del Bosque

With such a talented group of players available, you need a manager that is confident, head-strong and successful. Vicente Del Bosque fits that criteria.

At the helm during the triumphant World Cup success of 2010, Del Bosque will be expected to guide his team to further glory in Poland and Ukraine this summer.

And, as defending champions of the European Championship title, the pressure to reproduce performances similar to those of the last two tournaments will be overwhelming.

Having played a style of football that is the envy of nations across the world, Spain will be sure-fire favourites to reclaim their title as Europe's best team, and it will take something special to stop them.

World ranking: 1

Best ever Euro performance: Winners (1964, 2008)

Fixtures:

Vs Italy - June 10, Gdansk.

Vs Ireland - June 14, Gdansk.

Vs Croatia - June 18, Gdansk.

Topics:
Internationals
Football

Article Comments

Trending

Read more