Interesting day with the first two Group C matches. Italy took the lead against defending champions Spain in the 2nd half, but Silva slipped Cesc through for an equalizer just a few minutes later; it ended 1-1, though both sides had win. Later, Croatia unlocked Trappatoni’s Irish catenaccio, winning 3-1. Curtains for Ireland?
We finally get to Group D today. Two fairly interesting matches, with France and England building on their 1,000 years of cross-channel rivalry in the early match, and co-host Ukraine (Україна ) taking on Sweden (and hence they face the strikingly compelling and prolific Slavic Swede: he, Zlatan—WWZD?) in the capital city of Kyiv, site of the July 1 final match:
|Referee: Nicola Rizzoli (ITA) – Stadium: Donbass Arena, Donetsk (UKR)|
|Referee: Cüneyt Çakır (TUR) – Stadium: NSC Olimpiyskiy, Kyiv (UKR)|
Some notes on the Spain selección: odd, and controversial, that manager Vicente del Bosque went essentially 4-6 with his starting lineup. Ostensibly a 4-3-3 I suppose, but the middle 3 were all deep-lying midfielders (Xabi Alonso, Xavi, Sergio Busquets), and the 3 in front of them all attacking/creative midfielders (David Silva, Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta).
As ESPN commentator Steve McManaman said, not a whole lot of pace in that selection. Perhaps that was the motivation for bringing on first Jesus Navas and Fernando Torres in the second half (who came in for Silva & Cesc, respectively). I would still like to see Llorente play–hopefully against Ireland and/or Croatia.
Ditto for the other Athletic Bilbao player on the roster, Javi Martinez. He’s a young rising star who started out as a deep-lying midfielder–similar to Busquets, and just about as good–that Marcelo Bielsa turned into a center back in Bilbao this past year. (Sort of like Prandelli had Daniele De Rossi step back into central defense for Italy yesterday, and Pep Guardiola did with Javier Macherano after buying him from Liverpool.)
Though a potential issue with playing Llorente would be service. There were no real wingers in yesterday’s starting XI. Perhaps balls over the top from Xavi or Xabi (or Javi Martinez, if he returns to midfield, in place of Xabi Alonso say)? Little chips from Cesc, Silva Iniesta? Hopefully we’ll see at some point here in the group stage.