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Euro 2012 Preview: Spain is Group C favorite
by Paul Kennedy, June 8th, 2012 6:41PM

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TAGS:  european championship, italy, spain

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PREDICTION. 1. Spain, 2. Italy, 3. Croatia, 4. Ireland.

NAME YOU KNOW. You probably know him by the name of Mario Balotelli, born in Sicily to Ghanaian immigrants and raised by an Italian family. At 21, he is already one of the world best players and surely one of the most controversial.

But UEFA has registered him as “Barwuah Balotelli,” the name he'll wear on the back of his jersey. Balotelli was born as Mario Barwuah and took the name Balotelli from his foster parents in Brescia.

Balotelli helped Manchester City win its first English league title in 44 years but not before receiving three red cards that prompted Man. City manager Roberto Mancini to say how he could not think how he could keep him around next season if his antics continued.

Italy coach Cesare Prandelli also expressed reluctance to include a player as unstable as Balotelli in his squad, but he'll make the Azzurri instant contenders.

Balotelli made headlines last week when he said he'd walk off the field if he was racially abused at Euro 2012.

NAME YOU'LL KNOW. Ivan Perisic is the latest in a long line of talented players that Croatia has produced. Only 23, he immediately stepped into the first team at Borussia Dortmund and scored seven goals to help it repeat as German Bundesliga champion.

Perisic usually plays on the outside but he likes to drift into the middle, where he will help take the pressure off Croatia star Luka Modric.

He was only 18 when he left Hajduk Split for French club Sochaux where he spent a year and a half. After three seasons in Belgium, he left Club Brugge for Dortmund in a $6 million transfer. Already, there is talk of another move -- and a bigger transfer fee -- to a club in the English Premier League.

TABLOID FODDER. Barcelona-Real Madrid is the most celebrated rivalry in soccer, so how do they get along when they're playing on the Spanish national team? Just fine, one would imagine, given Spain's back-to-back titles at Euro 2008 and the 2010 World Cup.

But asked how it felt for Real Madrid to come out on top in La Liga after three straight Barca titles, midfield star Xavi re-opened old wounds when he said, “We congratulated them when they won. This is a sport after all. We have been very respectful of them -- and I haven’t noticed them doing the same the other way around."

The remark made a big stir in the Spanish tabloid sports press, which is divided into pro-Barca and pro-Real Madrid papers, but Real Madrid defender Alvaro Arbeloa tried to cool things down. “We know the difference between being with our clubs and being with the national team," he said.

For the record, Barca gets the edge on the national team with seven Spanish players at Euro 2012 vs. five for Real Madrid.

M*A*S*H REPORT. Ireland goalkeeper Shay Given, whose fitness has been a major story since he damaged his right knee on the second day of training for Euro 2012, should be ready to go against Croatia on Sunday.

He only played the first half of Ireland’s final warm-up match against Hungary on Monday but took part in training with the Irish on Friday.

“I had no doubt that he would play,” Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni said. “When the team and the squad is complete, we have good options.”

Given is looking to make his 123rd international appearance for Ireland in Poznan.

TWITTER, YES OR NO? Spain coach Vicente del Bosque first imposed and then lifted a ban on players using social media at Euro 2012.

One of the first tweets came from Sergio Ramos to show off his new hair style. Gone were the shoulder-length locks that have accompanied him since his Spanish league debut for Sevilla at 17.
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GROUP C SCHEDULE:
June 10 in Gdansk
Spain vs. Italy, ESPN, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, 12 p.m. ET
June 10 in Poznan
Ireland vs. Croatia, ESPN, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, 2:45 p.m. ET
June 14 in Poznan
Italy vs. Croatia, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, 12 p.m. ET
June 14 in Gdansk
Spain vs. Ireland, ESPN2, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, 2:45 p.m. ET
June 18 in Gdansk
Croatia vs. Spain, ESPN, ESPN3, ESPN Deportes, 2:45 p.m. ET
June 18 in Poznan
Italy vs. Ireland, ESPN2, ESPN3, 2:30 p.m. ET (ESPN Deportes, 5:30 pm ET)
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GROUP C ROSTERS:
Croatia
Goalkeepers: 1-Stipe Pletikosa (FC Rostov), 23-Danijel Subasic (Monaco), 12-Ivan Kelava (Dinamo Zagreb)
Defenders: 5-Vedran Corluka (Tottenham), 3-Josip Simunic (Dinamo Zagreb), 2-Ivan Strinic (Dnipro), 13-Gordon Schildenfeld (Ein. Frankfurt), 21-Domagoj Vida (Dinamo Zagreb), 4-Jurica Buljat (Maccabi Haifa)
Midfielders: 6-Danijel Pranjic (Bayern Munich), 11-Darijo Srna (Shakhtar Donetsk), 8-Ognjen Vukojevic (Dynamo Kiev), 7-Ivan Rakitic (Sevilla), 16-Tomislav Dujmovic (Dynamo Moscow), 10-Luka Modric (Tottenham), 14-Milan Badelj (Dinamo Zagreb), 19-Niko Kranjcar (Tottenham), 20-Ivan Perisic (Bor. Dortmund), 15-Sime Vrsaljko (Dinamo Zagreb)
Forwards: 17-Mario Mandzukic (Wolfsburg), 22-Eduardo Da Silva (Shakhtar Donetsk), 9-Nikica Jelavic (Everton), 18-Nikola Kalinic (Dnipro)

Ireland
Goalkeepers: 1-Shay Given (Aston Villa), 16-Keiren Westwood (Sunderland), 23-David Forde (Millwall)
Defenders: 4-John O'Shea (Sunderland), 5-Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), 2-Sean St. Ledger (Leicester City), 3-Stephen Ward (Wolves), 13-Paul McShane (Hull City), 12-Stephen Kelly (Fulham), 18-Darren O'Dea (Celtic)
Midfielders: 8-Keith Andrews (West Bromwich), 6-Glenn Whelan (Stoke City), 15-Darron Gibson (Everton), 11-Damien Duff (Fulham), 7-Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow), 17-Stephen Hunt (Wolves), 21-Paul Green (unattached), 22-James McClean (Sunderland)
Forwards: 10-Robbie Keane (Los Angeles Galaxy), 9-Kevin Doyle (Wolves), 20-Simon Cox (West Bromwich), 14-Jonathan Walters (Stoke City), 19-Shane Long (West Bromwich)

Italy
Goalkeepers: 1-Gianluigi Buffon (Juventus), 14-Morgan De Sanctis (Napoli), 12-Salvatore Sirigu (Paris SG)
Defenders: 7-Ignazio Abate (AC Milan), 6-Federico Balzaretti (Palermo), 15-Andrea Barzagli (Juventus), 19-Leonardo Bonucci (Juventus), 3-Giorgio Chiellini (Juventus), 2-Christian Maggio (Napoli), 4-Angelo Ogbonna (Torino)
Midfielders: 16-Daniele De Rossi (Roma), 22-Alessandro Diamanti (Bologna), 13-Emanuele Giaccherini (Juventus), 8-Claudio Marchisio (Juventus), 18-Riccardo Montolivo (Fiorentina), 5-Thiago Motta (Paris SG), 23-Antonio Nocerino (AC Milan), 21-Andrea Pirlo (Juventus)
Forwards: 9-Mario Balotelli (Manchester City), 17-Fabio Borini (Roma), 10-Antonio Cassano (AC Milan), 11-Antonio Di Natale (Udinese), 20-Sebastian Giovinco (Parma)

Spain
Goalkeepers: 1-Iker Casillas (Real Madrid), 23-Pepe Reina (Liverpool), 12-Victor Valdes (Barcelona)
Defenders: 17-Alvaro Arbeloa (Real Madrid), 15-Sergio Ramos (Real Madrid), 5-Juanfran (Atletico Madrid), 18-Jordi Alba (Valencia), 2-Raul Albiol (Real Madrid), 3-Gerard Pique (Barcelona), 4-Javi Martinez (Athletic Bilbao)
Midfielders: 8-Xavi (Barcelona), 16-Sergio Busquets (Barcelona), 6-Andres Iniesta (Barcelona), 14-Xabi Alonso (Real Madrid), 21-David Silva (Manchester City), 20-Santi Cazorla (Malaga), 10-Cesc Fabregas (Barcelona), 13-Juan Mata (Chelsea)
Forwards: 22-Jesus Navas (Sevilla), 7-Pedro (Barcelona), 19-Fernando Llorente (Athletic Bilbao), 9-Fernando Torres (Chelsea), 11-Alvaro Negredo (Sevilla)



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