Welcome Back Italy to the Championship Stage (Euro 2012)

Recap Spain vs. Portugal:

This game didn’t get played out how I originally thought but Spain did take care of business. Holy freaking cow, the lack of depth for Portugal played a factor in this contest (didn’t see that one coming 😉 ). Christian Ronaldo is like LeBron James with the Cavaliers, need to get other playmakers coach. Portugal defense did a pretty good job in this game. Portugal should have taken more chances because Spain hasn’t given up a goal in knockout stages in the last 6 years. Spain’s lack of urgency in the game got frustrating at times because a stronger team would of punished them for being so nonchalant with possession.

Ultimately the Portuguese held onto a thread and had a huge opportunity to beat Spain in the shootout. Like the Italy/England game, the veteran goalkeeper came out on top. This time the Portugal keeper set the tone by saving an early shot but Casillas was unfazed and returned the favor. Soccer is a cruel sport, if don’t make the best of your chances during the game it can come back and haunt you and in a shootout. The difference in this shootout was a post.

Recap Germany vs. Italy

Man! I’m on fire. The Italians came out and scored first in this game and came with a 2-1 victory. The Italians came out and won this battle in the midfield. They had no problem letting the Germans take long crosses to make things happen in the attacking third. Super Mario of Italy (Mario Balotelli), finally finished off a header and a breakaway chance.

Amazing what happens when you take advantage of two terrible mental lapses. The second half, the Italians really impressed me by matching Germany’s physical play and generated some more chances by playing through some challenges. The young German keeper played okay but ended up not being be a factor in this game. The 1st goal on him was not his fault but with his height and wingspan, he should get at least a hand on the ball. The breakaway wasn’t on German Keeper (Manuel Neuer) but his tragic angle play and inability to square up with the shooter gave “Super Mario” an easy look in the top corner.

Congratulations to both teams making this far in the tournament. I hope this fall for Germany gives them the necessary lessons and skills to challenge for the World Cup in Brazil.

Spain vs. Italy Championship Preview

Well, here is the rematch in this tournament that everybody has been waiting for to watch. In the group stage these two teams played to a 1-1 draw. Both sides felt little disappointed but here is the rubber match to solve this intriguing battle. The game plan for the offensive sides of these teams is very very simple: don’t change a thing. The offensive chances will be there for both teams. They both have the chemistry down to an art form.

The defensive roles of the teams are different stories. The Italians need to make decisions quicker because the Spanish side has aggressive forwards up top. They can’t afford to dink with the ball to long (when in doubt clear the ball 50+ yards down the field).  The Italians need to make sure they mark people not space. The Spanish forwards are illusive and can lose you in anytime. Last thing is having solid communication with the midfielders (in case of switching marks) and the goalkeeper Buffon. He needs to play a little higher than usual due to Spain balls over the top.

The Spanish side defensive tactics need to be know where number “9” is at all times. Spain can’t lose “Super Mario” at all, as demonstrated by Germany’s defense. Discipline, Discipline and well Discipline some more, the Spanish defense need to “play the ball not the player.” Italians have connected plenty of back heel passes and look-off plays. Next on the list are the X-factors for these two squads. Unfortunately in this contest the keepers wont play a key role. These two guys have been around the game long enough and understand game management (even though both are exciting to watch).

Italy’s X-factor is there midfield. Italy’s creative midfield plays have devastated their opponents in the last two games and will cause many problems for Spain. Strange as it sounds but Spain’s X-Factor is their patience with the ball. Their “Sandman” approach baits defenses into stabbing for the ball. This creates 2 on 1’s in dangerous parts on the field and more opportune chances.

Spain understands this game is a marathon, “not a sprint.” The demons that these two teams will have to face and maybe have to conquer are quite the twist to this battle. The biggest demon that Spain has to fight is there overall approach and attitude toward this game. There all mighty and high horse attitude will be there undoing if they try to toy the Italian side. Italy’s demon comes from a culture that doesn’t revere physical play but attempts to take “tactical falls” to get an advantage (or in simple terms Diving). This will become an issue because after some suspect plays in the 2006 world cup and recent years the Italian side is under extreme scrutiny from the world of soccer.  The Italians have been labeled as the, “ boy who cried wolf.”

The Italians learned in the Germany game that physicality could get you more opportunities. Italy conquers this factor and will knock the Spaniards off that might horse. When all said and done, both of these teams are here for a reason. I can’t help my self……. Go Azzurri J

Prediction: Italy Wins 1-1 ,  6-5 on PK’s

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