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Follow Me on TwitterRob Soria is the Edmonton Oilers' correspondent for OurHometown.ca. Rob was born and raised in Edmonton and is the author of the Edmonton Oilers blog - OilDrop.ca. He has been a dedicated follower of the game and its history for years but his focus remains on his hometown Edmonton Oilers. If you have questions or wish to contact Rob, you can email him at rsoria@ourhometown.ca
Euro 2012 Preview - Group C
Rob Soria
OurHometown.ca

Euro 2012 Preview - Group C
With Euro 2012 set to kick off on Friday, June 8th, we will be previewing all four groups and schedules, leading up to the opening match between Poland and Greece. Today we take a look at Group C. With the likes of defending champions from Spain and the sideshow that has become the Italian national program, this group will not lack any sort of media coverage…be it good or bad. The other teams joining Italy and Spain, are Croatia and Ireland. You can catch every second of every match over on TSN and TSN2 for the entire tournament.
PHOTO CREDIT - GettyImages.ca

Edmonton - June 6, 2012 - Croatia is a side which will be hard pressed to progress through the group stages, mainly because of a lack of quality on the backend. Though they have shown the ability to put the ball in the back of the net. With the superb Luka Modric leading the way down the middle along with Darijo Srna and gifted youngster Ivan Perisic on the flanks, the Croatians will bring an added scoring dimension from the midfield, on top of the finishing abilities of Nikica Jelavic, Eduardo and Mario Mandzukic.

The Irish qualified for the Euros for the first time since 1988 and look to be the unlikeliest of the four teams to have a shot legitimate shot of moving on but with former Italian manager Giovanni Trapattoni leading the way and his preference for playing a defensive style, Ireland could prove to be difficult for both Croatia and the Italians to handle.

While they do have some quality upfront in veteran Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle, it will be their less then spectacular but hardworking midfield and backend that will carry the Irish. Not to mention the shot stopping abilities of goalkeeper Shay Given. With the 73 year old master tactician at the helm, don't be surprised to see Ireland take a real run at the second spot in Group C.

As far as Italy goes, no one knows what to expect. While not their deepest lineup, they remain strong at the back with the Juventus tandem of Andrea Barzagli and Giorgio Chiellini anchoring their defence and a healthy Gianluigi Buffon will make scoring goals on the Italians no easy task. Italy has always taken great pride in the strength of their midfield and this edition is no different. Veteran Andrea Pirlo remains the straw that stirs the drink for the Italians but the play of central midfielder Claudio Marchisio and the physical presence of Daniele De Rossi, will make the Azzurri very difficult to deal with.

While the 2006 World Cup champions can defend with anyone in the world, scoring goals has become a challenge in recent years. They head into the tournament with nothing but uncertainty upfront and will look to the trio of Antonio Di Natale, Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli. Many feel Balotelli's act has no place on the national team but he is the exact type of player Italy has been missing from their lineup for what seems to be decades. There is definitely a risk in going with the youngster up front but it is a decision that could be pay off for head coach Cesare Prandelli.

Which brings us to the defending World Cup or Euro champions from Spain. While no country has ever managed to won three of these titles in succession, the Spaniards have a real shot at accomplishing just that. They will undoubtedly miss the presence and goal scoring prowess of striker David Villa but with a midfield featuring the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Xabi Alonso, Sergio Busquets they should be able to cope nicely. The forwards are not nearly as strong but selecting from David Silva, Pedro, Fernando Llorente and Fernando Torres isn't too shabby. Add to that, the presence of Cesc Fabregas as a substitut, be it in the mid or upfront and Spain looks to have more than enough firepower.

Like Villa, defender Carles Puyo will miss the tournament due to injury but his loss will not be felt so much on the field of play. With Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique holding down the fort on the back and Iker Casillas taking his regular spot in front of the Spain goal, they will survive the loss of the former captain. That being said, the leadership that Puyo brings to his side should not be easily dismissed.


Group C – Croatia, Ireland, Italy, Spain


Schedule
06/10/12 – Spain vs Italy
06/10/12 – Ireland vs Croatia
06/14/12 – Italy vs Croatia
06/14/12 – Spain vs Ireland
06/18/12 – Croatia vs Spain
06/18/12 – Italy vs Ireland


Croatia

Goalkeepers:
Stipe Pletikosa (Rostov), Danijel Subasic (Monaco), Ivan Kelava (Dinamo Zagreb

Defenders: Domogoj Vida (Dinamo Zagreb), Vedran Corluka (Bayer Leverkusen), Josip Simunic (Dinamo Zagreb), Gordon Schildenfeld (Eintracht Frankfurt), Ivan Strinic (Dnipro), Danijel Pranjic (Bayern Munich), Jurica Buljat (Maccabi Haifa)

Midfielders: Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), Tomislav Dujmovic (Real Zaragoza), Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kyiv), Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), Luka Modric (Tottenham), Ivan Perisic (Borussia Dortmund), Niko Kranjcar (Tottenham), Milan Badelj (Dinamo Zagreb), Ivo Ilicevic (Hamburg)

Forwards: Ivica Olic (Bayern Munich), Nikica Jelavic (Everton), Mario Mandzukic (Wolfsburg), Eduardo da Silva (Shakhtar Donetsk)


Ireland

Goalkeepers:
Shay Given (Aston Villa), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland), David Forde (Millwall)

Defenders: Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), John O'Shea (Sunderland), Sean St. Ledger (Leicester), Darren O'Dea (Celtic), Stephen Ward (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Stephen Kelly (Fulham), Paul McShane (Hull)

Midfielders: Glenn Whelan (Stoke), Darron Gibson (Everton), Keith Andrews (West Bromwich Albion), Paul Green (no club), Damien Duff (Fulham), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow), Stephen Hunt (Wolverhampton Wanderers), James McClean (Sunderland)

Forwards: Robbie Keane (Los Angeles Galaxy), Kevin Doyle (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Shane Long (West Bromwich Albion), Simon Cox (West Bromwich Albion), Jon Walters (Stoke)


Italy

Goalkeepers:
Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), Salvatore Sirigu (Paris Saint-Germain), Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli)

Defenders: Cristian Maggio (Napoli), Ignazio Abate (AC Milan), Federico Balzaretti (Palermo), Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), Angelo Ogbonna (Torino)

Midfielders: Andrea Pirlo (Juventus), Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus), Daniele De Rossi (Roma), Thiago Motta (Paris Saint-Germain), Antonio Nocerino (AC Milan), Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), Alessandro Diamanti (Bologna)

Forwards: Antonio Cassano (AC Milan), Mario Balotelli (Manchester City), Sebastian Giovinco (Parma), Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), Fabio Borini (Roma)


Spain

Goalkeepers:
Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), Pepe Reina (Liverpool), Victor Valdes (Barcelona)

Defenders: Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid), Raul Albiol (Real Madrid), Gerard Pique (Barcelona), Jordi Alba (Valencia), Juanfran Torres (Atletico Madrid)

Midfielders: Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), Xavi Hernandez (Barcelona), Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), Javi Martinez (Athletic Bilbao), Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), Juan Mata (Chelsea), Santi Cazorla (Malaga)

Forwards: David Silva (Manchester City), Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao), Fernando Torres (Chelsea), Jesus Navas (Sevilla), Pedro Rodriguez (Barcelona), Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla)


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