MM’s Sean-Paul Doran takes a look at the teams in Group C and assesses the Republic of Ireland’s chances of progressing.
It’s easy to see why Spain have been installed as the bookmaker’s favourites for the European Championship. With a squad that puts most others to shame, it’s going to take a lot to derail the Spanish machine looking to hold on to their title. With all eyes on Fernando Torres, Silva will be expected to provide the ammunition to get El Nino firing once again.
The Italians are renowned for thriving under controversy, but this tournament could be a step too far for a team in transition. Might scrape out a tough group but are unlikely to proceed much further with the enigmatic Balotelli providing their only real fire power. Veteran midfielder Andrea Pirlo will be needed to keep things tight defensively and win the Italian way in what could be the 33-year-old’s last major tournament.
IRISH THREAT: Striker Robbie Keane could fire the Republic through
Republic of Ireland
A solid team unit rather than a collection of sparkling individuals. Unbeaten in 14 games, the stubborn Irish will prove difficult to break down for their more illustrious opponents. Led by master tactician Giovanni Trapattoni, organisation will be key for an aging team who will hope to upset the Azzurri. The Republic’s record goalscorer Robbie Keane will be carry the burden of goalscoring expectation for a country who don’t tend to score many goals in major competitions.
Very much the unknown quantity in the toughest group in Euro 2012. Without the star names of competitions past, the loss of talisman Ivica Olic could disrupt their tactical game plan. Coach Slaven Bilic will have to be at the top of his game to outwit his more experienced counterparts. While many will be concentrating on the creative influence of Luka Modric, Nikica Jelavic comes into the tournament on a high following a strong end to the Premier League season.
Another tough group but on paper you would think that Spain and Italy are to the two strongest sides. But with the Irish unbeaten in 14 games, luck could smile on them.