maandag 18 juni 2012

Euro 2012 Report - Monday - 18 Juni

Croatia 0-1 Spain
Navas sends holders through in top spot
The substitute from Sevilla struck near the end of regulation to decide a tepid contest and send La Roja through to the last eight as group winners

Spain has qualified for the Euro 2012 quarterfinals after an uninspiring 1-0 win against Croatia at the PGE Arena Gdansk on Monday. 

Neither side seemed in any hurry to snatch the initiative throughout, with La Roja's famed tiki-taka football failing to break down a determined defensive barrier set up by Slaven Bilic's men. 

The match seemed destined to end in a stalemate, but with two minutes remaining, substitute Jesus Navas walked the ball into the net to confirm Croatia's exit from the tournament.

The defending champion now progresses to the last eight as the winners of Group C alongside runner-up Italy, where it will face either France, England or Ukraine. 
It was a cagey opening to the match, with Croatia content to sit back and soak up the pressure from Spain– whose possession figures reached 78 percent during the first 20 minutes.

Eventually La Roja would manage a sight on goal through Torres, who managed to squeeze in a shot while being forced to the byline by Gordon Schildenfeld, though Stipe Pletikosa was able to save.

Spain’s next offensive threat would come from their center-back pairing, with both Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique peppering the Croatia goal from long range.

Ramos would almost blunder moments later, with a meaty challenge inside the area on Mario Mandzukic deemed legitimate by referee Wolfgang Stark, despite the incredulity of Vedran Corluka, who was booked for his protests.

Croatia was looking the part defensively, but with news of Italy’s lead over Ireland filtering through at the interval, knew that a breakthrough would be needed at the other end of the pitch.

And it would nearly get it just before the hour mark. Luka Modric was the architect, skipping free on the right, before bending a cross with the outside of his boot onto the head of Ivan Rakitic, who was thwarted by Iker Casillas from point blank range.

Spain’s tiki-taka football was getting them nowhere, and Del Bosque responded by hauling off Torres for Navas, hoping to use the Sevilla man to introduce more width. Bilic responded in kind, bringing on Jelavic and Perisic in a bid to find the goal that would salvage their participation in the tournament.

The Dortmund midfielder snatched at a chance moments after his arrival, sending a half-volley over the bar after a good delivery from Darjo Srna.

With Italy still ahead in Poznan, matters remained finely poised in Gdansk, with a goal from one side enough to eliminate the other.

Perisic had another opportunity with 10 minutes to go, but his volley was parried by Casillas as the near post, moments after Cesc Fabregas’ dallying on the ball cost him a gilt-edged shooting opportunity.

Iniesta broke free down the left and fired away at goal, but once more, the opening was nothing but a half-chance and easily saved by Pletikosa.

However in the 88th minute, a swift attack saw Iniesta break free, where he squared to Navas for the simplest of goals. 

Croatia rushed to respond, but with news of Italy's late second against Ireland rippling throughout the stadium, Bilic's men simply ran out of time.

Italy 2-0 Ireland
Cassano and Balotelli seal qualification
Cesare Prandelli's side professionally get the job done against the Irish and will now face the winners of Group D in the quarterfinals

Antonio Cassano

Italy has qualified for the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 as the Group C runners-up thanks to a narrow 2-0 victory over Republic of Ireland in Poznan on Monday evening.

Cesare Prandelli’s men were on top for the majority of the first half, and a header from Antonio Cassano 10 minutes before halftime gave the Azzurri a lead to hold on to for a long period of time. Mario Balotelli then stepped up to seal the victory moments before the final whistle with a typically dramatic finish from just outside the six-yard box.

Italy came extremely close to taking the lead on the half-hour mark when Federico Balzaretti went on a marauding run down the left-hand side and reversed a pass into the area for Di Natale. The Udinese forward then swivelled sharply and hooked a strike at goal, but Sean St Ledger was on hand to make a brave block with his chest from six yards.

This was a period of real dominance for Prandelli’s side in the match, and it nearly took the lead again moments later when Di Natale took the ball beyond Shay Given and attempted to twist a shot over the line from a tight angle, but Richard Dunne sprinted back to make a terrific clearance off the line.

Ireland failed to weather the storm, however, and went behind in the 38th minute thanks to a headed goal from Cassano. Andrea Pirlo whipped in a dangerous cross to the near post from a corner kick and his former Milan teammate bulleted a header at goal that just squeezed over the line, with Given and Damien Duff’s attempts to clear off the line proving to be futile.

Italy came bursting out of the blocks after the break, and should have doubled its lead just four minutes into the half when Balzaretti again showed impressive skill down the left to cut a pass back into the danger area, but Cassano’s eventual strike at goal from 10 yards lacked conviction, and Dunne managed to clear the ball up the park.

The introduction of Shane Long midway through the second half gave Ireland the kick that it needed to up the tempo of its play, with the strength and movement and of West Brom striker causing real problems for the nervy Italian defense. A succession of corner kicks in a five minute period from Trapattoni’s men had the Azzurri looking shaky, but their best chance in this period of dominance came when Keith Andrews powered a strike at goal from long range, but Buffon was equal to it and managed to palm the ball to safety.

It all unraveled for Ireland towards the end of the match as in the space of a couple of minutes, Keith Andrews was given a second yellow card for kicking the ball away in frustration, and then substitute  Balotelli stepped up to score Italy’s second goal with a fantastic bicycle kick just outside the six-yard box.

This victory sees Italy move on to the quarterfinals of Euro 2012 to face the winners of Group of D. Republic of Ireland is heading home from Poland and Ukraine without have registered a point in the group.


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