The Dexy Longshot Euro 2012 Preview PT 3 – Group C

by Mystical Mike

Saturday, June 9th, 2012
 

Group C
Spain
If my predictions are anything to go by last time around, get involved. I predicted a Spain win and Senna player of the tournament as well as having Villa e/w as top scorer. Not so sure on La Furia Rosa this time mind. Spain are the bookies faves and I think a repeat of the final from 2008 could well be on the cards but despite that win and the other funny looking gold cup, they still have that pony midfield: Fab, Biscuits, Mata, Silva, Alonso, Iniesta, Xavi, Carzorla and Speedy Jesus Of Navas, that doesn’t bode well. Neither does the front line contenders in Llorente & Torres. Not to mention Pique & Ramos plus the underrated Arbeloa (It all went a bit pear-shaped defensively for Liverpool when he departed, check the stats). Then we have converted midfield mustard merchant in Javi Martinez now playing in defence for Athletic Bilbao. What are Spain to do? Oh, I forgot, Baby faced Casillas looking good in goal (not as good looking as his missus!) and a couple of no marks in Valdes & Reina.

OK, let’s be serious, on paper this team brings a tear to the eye. It is unbelievable but is it unbeatable?…..no way Jose. This Spain team has been head & shoulders above anything else in the world for the past half decade but I believe The Golden Age of the Spaniards is on the wane. It has taken a while but the tiki taka style of play that bought a goldmine of trophies for Spain & Barcelona is not invincible. Two examples are England’s victory over Spain last autumn & Chelsea’s recent semi finals. Spain can have all the possession in the world but if you press them back, stone wall defend and play them on the break, you might, just might nick a goal, maybe two because Spain are vulnerable on the break. Puyol is missing and there is talk of Real’s roaming Ramos may move into the middle next to Pique with Alba & Arbeloa filling in the fullback spots. Now, they all like to attack, who wouldn’t when you spend 3/4s of the game in the oppositions half? Teams are beginning to take advantage of this, look at Barca, overruled by Jose’s Madrid at last & that is with Messi in the side.

Dexy’s Diamond – Fernando Llorente. With the loss of Villa to injury, Spain are missing that small tiki taka type terrier up front. Torres on form would have slotted in and may still get some game time but I believe this could be Fernando’s time. He has run defences ragged this season and is a decent each way 16-1 bet for top goal scorer if Spain reach the finals. It may take him to the quarters until he can really put his foot down, especially with the stingy defences of Ireland & Italy to negotiate in the early stages. I foresee a minor wobble in group C for La Furia Rosa, but enough to get through to the semis at least.

Ireland
Don Giovanni Trapattoni, the much loved silver haired old fox has turned Ireland into one of the most organised well drilled teams in the competition. All the players know their roles and the stats speak for themselves. 14 games undefeated, 11 clean sheets and get – this only 2 defeats in two whole qualifying campaigns, this is a strong unit who are very hard to break down. Big Shay will hopefully be fit for the Croatia clash and he will need to be, Ireland park the bus and they do it very well but with Spain bombarding Dunne & Co, the team will be kept on their toes. The midfield duties will be crucial for Whelan & the excellent Andrews (who I fancy to nab a sneaky goal). These two will have to work their knackers off in the deep lying defensive positions with Robbie Keane coming back to help, especially against the might of Spain. They should look to get it out the flanks when on the break to McGeady who has looked very nippy in the last few games. Duff who was one of the stars of Irelands last trip abroad in 2002 will take the right hand slot and both can be utilised to catch teams on the hop. Sunderland’s McClean whom I think will be used alternatively with the other 2 as an impact player will have a say, I really rate him. Big Doyley boy will provide the Paddy point of attack with Keane roaming behind. I had concerns about Keano after a season in the US League but he looked sharp in the run up matches and will be pivotal in linking defence and attack. They have decent back up as well with big Jon Walters & little Shane Long both looking the part. I’ve got a felling that shorty Long could get more than a few sub appearances if the Paddy’s progress which I think they will. I can see them getting at least a point against Croatia and beating Italy (in their last 3 meetings with Italy, the Irish have won once & and drawn twice). Don Trap knows all about the old country and I think this could be one of the so-called shocks of the first round, their never say die spirit will be like a 12th man and their travelling support will be like a 13th man. I have a lucky feeling in my 3/8s of Plastic Paddy bones that they could get through and possibly set up a revenge job on France or even a game against England, now that would be a spectacle. Ollaaayyyy, Ollaayy, Ollaayy, Ollaaaayyyy!!!

Dexy’s Diamond – James McClean. It would have been easy to say Keano but we know what he can do, for me, I’d like to see McClean on the green green grass of Eastern Europe. Him and McGeady are fighting over the same place and there is nothing like a bit of healthy competition. I predict Aiden will start the Croatia clash but I fancy McClean for the Spanish tie. The young Mackem is full of running and is excellent at tracking back to help out the defenders.

Italy
Italy are the kings of the big occasion and more times than not defy the odds and work wonders when all around is crumbling. This time, the Azzurri are again under investigation for match fixing in the Italian Leagues and it has left the squad with a few players being pulled out and overlooked. Add to that the injuries to the front line and it looks like this may not be a repeat of past glories…except they were in similar shape in Germany in 2006 and look what happened there. Prandelli has started to transform the usual disciplined defend and counter attack that used to work wonders to a new style. Based on the re-juvenated Juventus system that they employed this season, Italy will mirror this with their version of the 3-5-2 formation while Bazagli is out of the running injured. The no nonsense battering ram that is Chillieni will line up with Ogbonna and get this….Roma’s De Rossi. Si, that’s not a mistake, my Paddy connections have been having a sly gander at the Azurri training camp and the midfielder is actually going to be part of a back 3 in a sort of Italian Sweeping Stallion role. Two wingbacks will then operate up & down the flanks, probably 2 of Maggio, Abate & Balzarattie. Pirlo will be pinging the ball from his deep lying midfield role threading balls to the forwards via the pace on the wings and Motta. Hopefully for Ireland, the maverick unpredictability of Cassano & Balotelli will have them on at least a yellow apiece or even red carded. Add to that the 3-0 hiding they took at the hands of those sneaky Russians last week just leaves me a bit wary of backing them. The loss of Barzagli at the back has messed up their preparation and tinkering this late is dangerous.

Dexy’s Diamond – Danny De Rossi. The Roma midfielder is one of the games finest and became the highest paid player in Serie A last season. If he is to become a makeshift centre half come sweeper, his ability to defend and then play the ball out to set up attacks with quarterback Pirlo will be vital. Personally, anyone who plays for Roma is a wrongun in my biased book because I’m a Lazio fan. I hope Trappotoni’s Green Machine shows those Italians how to defend the old fashioned way….like mama used to make with a sprinkling of Irish charm.

Croatia
I’m still not sure if Croatia will turn up or not. They are definitely worse than they were when they could have won it last time around before going out to Turkish Pens in one of the best games I have ever witnessed. Super Slav has been in the Croatia hot seat for a couple of Tournaments now and knows his onions but a lot of this team are now past their sell by dates and I see a fortuneless fortnight awaiting them. The creaky squad lacks pace in the centre of the back line and I expect the aerial ability of Kevin Doyle to do some damage on Sunday night. In the midfield, it will be a case of get it to Modric as soon as poss and then let the little magician weave some magic with the front men. Srna alongside will aid him as well as chip in with a goal. Kranjcar could feature too but I’m not sure if his slow laidback style will win him a starting berth, despite his skill. Like a lot of teams, Croatia seem to have all their best talent in the front half of the pitch with their backline being one of the slowest on show this summer. Talisman Olic is out injured so the front two will more than likely be Jelavic and Mandzukic of Wolfsberg although ex Arsenal hit man Eduardo will be on the bench itching to get minutes on the playing field, he played 11 games on his way to the Finals.

Dexy’s Diamond – Nikica Jelavic wasn’t exactly on my rader a year ago but he certainly is one to keep a beady on if he can get the ball. He was a revelation when he arrived at Rangers banging in 30 goals in 45 games for the Jocks. The toffees made a move for him mid season and it was a bargain as he went on an impressive run towards the end of the season. He’s bang in form and should get a couple of shots under his belt although I think he’ll only get 3 games to take them.

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  • MM

    I can’t see Spain winning a 3rd successive tournament, they are beatable, as Chelsea proved in the CL. Defend as a team and take your chances. No Villa, and no captain caveman will be massive loses. Plus most of their players have played over 60 games for Real & Barca.

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