I will start with Spain taking Croatia with both teams starting the game on four points, they knew that Italy would be huge favorites to beat the Republic of Ireland and that would take them to five points. The match played out as expected with Croatia sitting back as Spain kept possession, the news of a Italian goal meant that Croatia had to find a goal or they would be out.
Despite their best efforts, Croatia struggled to cause the Spanish any real panic and were left heartbroken as Jesus Navas tapped in the 88th minute, to take his side through top and send the Croats home. Croatia have performed admirably in this tournament and have no shame in failing to qualify from this group, despite finishing top Spain have been far from impressive and will have to up their game in the latter rounds.
As I hinted at earlier, Italy secured their needed victory over the Irish to qualify for the quarter finals. It was not straight forward for the Italians as the Republic of Ireland put in by far their best performance of the tournament and more than held their own in the match. They were still shaky at the back though as Antonio Cassano headed in from a corner 36 minutes in.
The Irish were arguably the better side in the second half, but got no reward for their efforts and even lost Keith Andrews as he was sent off for a second bookable offence. Mario Balotelli capped off the win for the Italians as they secured their place as the second placed team in the group. Italy will have expected to go through so anything else from now on will be a bonus, the Republic of Ireland performed admirable in this game but will be disappointed with the their first two matches.
|Al Arabiya News|