Spain wins late; Italy through; Croatia done

[EURO 2012 WRAP] Italy scored in the first half, while beating Ireland 2-0. Its lead made for a tense second half between Spain and Croatia. Spain -- in a performance similar to its World Cup final victory -- won 1-0, taking the group with Italy second and Croatia third.
For the first time since July 11, 2010, the date of the World Cup final in South Africa, defending Euro champ Spain was at risk of being eliminated. This game ended in similar fashion, as Spain kept its chase for history alive.
Once Italy took the lead in the 37th minute over Ireland things got serious. The 1-0 lead for Italy, and no goals in this game, would see Spain finishing second in the group, and Croatia out. But a win by Italy meant Spain would be eliminated with a loss -- and Spanish fans had reason to be nervous for nearly 90 minutes.
Croatia looked more dangerous with their limited chances and Luka Modric’s outstanding run, and cross, found Ivan Rakitic yards away from the face of goal in the 59th minute. Iker Casillas stopped Rakitic’s powerful header, in the 79th Croatia put Spain in danger again on a well hit volley from Ivan Perisic. Casillas did his job, and Spain’s famous patience was finally rewarded, yet again.

Meeting a chip from Cesc Fabregas, Andres Iniesta’s calm first touch in the box, an unselfish pass, was finished by Jesus Navas in the 88th minute, guaranteeing Spain’s passage into the quarterfinals. It also left it just three wins away from winning three straight major tournaments. 

Spain finished top of the group, meaning it can't meet Germany until the final. Croatia is headed out. A cruel fate for a team that played so well and for most of the game was a goal away from advancing.

Ireland allowed fewer than three goals for the first time at Euro 2012, but couldn’t find a way to score against Italy in Posnan, losing 2-0 to Italy.

There was much talk about the possibility of a 2-2 final score in the other game that would eliminate Italy no matter what they did. Andrea Pirlo dismissed it saying quality players like Xavi and Iniesta wouldn’t do such a thing. Pirlo knows a thing or two about midfield excellence, the 33-year-old assisted in Italy’s crucial first goal, and has been its best player thus far. Antonio Cassano opened the scoring off a corner from Pirlo that barely crossed the line, and Mario Balotelli's superb volley removed all doubt at the end of regular time.

Ireland heads home having allowed nine goals in their three matches while scoring only one. Italy will await the winner of Group D.

Looking back on the winner in South Africa from 2010:
Iniesta’s poised finish in the 116th minute against the Netherlands gave Spain its first World Cup title. Fabregas played in the final ball; Navas was critical in the buildup. Navas and Fabregas both came off the bench on Monday, as they did in the World Cup Final
Watch the whole play HERE.

17 comments about "Spain wins late; Italy through; Croatia done".
  1. Carlos Thys, June 19, 2012 at 5:30 a.m.

    Just a question -- unless I misunderstand what the author of this article is writing. Just how did Pirlo have a role in the second Italian goal (the Balotelli goal)? Spain is stuttering; that was hardly a very solid performance versus the Croatians. This article clearly points out how Ivan Rakitic and Perisic could have put the Croats 1 - 0 up and left the Spaniards wondering why they are on early summer holiday. And let's hear / have the discussion: Is Andreas Iniesta offside as Cesc Fabregas lifts the pass to him? I am of the "old school." Though I really like ole Jesus Navas as a player, he is in an offside position -- clearly. I don't care that he is not the one for whom Cesc directs that pass. I'm a believer that the linesman's flag must come up and the Croatians get their indirect free kick. And then the Spaniards have to craft a new attack to seal their desired status as Group C first place finishers. No, this was not at all a good display from Vincente del Bosque's side. Maybe the French or English fancy their chances against them for a showdown in Donesk on June 23d? It is almost as if someone was scripting that it had to all just be decided in about the 83-85th minute period for these two games -- as Navas' goal and the Italians' clincher 2d goal came at about the very same time - 85th, 86th minutes. Someone is scripting for more suspense? (In other words: Making sure folks don't already tune out at halftime with Spain comfortably leading 2 - 0 and Italy doing the same versus Ireland. Sort of how the NFL now arranges the annual Super Bowl showdown to have the game be suspenseful to the fourth quarter.) I just cannot believe that the Spaniards did not want to put the issue to rest with at least a goal lead by halftime. Yet -- What offense did we see from the Iberians in the first half?

  2. Jack vrankovic, June 19, 2012 at 6:58 a.m.

    I am biased towards Croatia, however I watched the game twice to remove as much bias as possible. The officials won that game for Spain. All of Spain's chances were from half chances, weak angles, from distance or offside. They dominated possession, but not the game. The goal was clearly offside and two clear cut penalties were ignored. Corluka could not have been infringed on anymore in the Spanish 16m box. Ramos' lunging stiff legged, studs up challenge on Mandzukic was clearly a yellow card. Life and football are unfair, but I am most disappointed that the pundits did not mention/downplayed these occurrences.

  3. ROBERT BOND, June 19, 2012 at 9:45 a.m.

    And folks were griping about Badstuber, when Neuer had to make a great save in an ad-on situation? I know passive is almost never called(they called it on my kid once, & he did not even get the ball!), but when the offside player scores? Still, Ramon, the refs are ther primarily to prevent bloodshed, differentiating modern sports from such as, say, First Nations lacrosse & Roman gladiators. Like the vagaries of pitch & weather(remember Timmy's long, wind blown goal for Everton?), as long as they are not biased(no way Manny's weird decision was a fix, even tho' it was in Vegas) ref calls are part of it.....

  4. Kent James, June 19, 2012 at 9:50 a.m.

    I like Spain, but was disappointed that they could not generate more goal-scoring chances. The Spanish goal was exceptionally close, but the AR got it right. In real time, I thought that both Iniesta and Navas were offside, but the replays showed the AR was correct. Additionally, if it is close, the benefit of the doubt is supposed to go to the attacking side. And Carlos, why should Navas be called offside on Fabregas' pass? He did not affect play (until he scored, but he had gotten back onside by then). On the other hand, on the Croatian corner kick just prior to the Spanish goal, the big Croatian forward was absolutely mugged by the Spanish defender (I think it was Busquets); the Spaniard was holding his jersey and his arm as he attempted to jump and head the ball, and as a result, although the Croat won the ball the header was not strong. I wish the referees would clamp down on fouls in the box (they seem willing to call fouls against forwards in such situations, but NEVER against a defender, since that would be a PK). While Euro might not be the best place to clamp down, it needs to be done.

  5. Ramon Creager, June 19, 2012 at 10:35 a.m.

    Robert, no doubt about it. They are a part of it. And I did groan inwardly that Spain Croatia had drawn Wolfgang Stark. Never really liked him, or Howard Webb. That said, on the offsides, none of you gentlemen understand the rule or its current interpretation. That was not an offsides, not even close. In fact this *exact* play is diagrammed (#13) on page 110 of the Laws, in the interpretation section. ( I encourage you to consult this.) In the diagram, Cesc is player A, Iniesta is player B, and Navas is player C. Iniesta was comfortably not in an offsides position at the moment the pass was made to him; you can double-check that by reviewing the play on On the second pass, to Navas, Navas was even with his compatriot, hence no offsides there either. Now, one may quibble that Navas was in an offside position when the first pass was made, but he was not the recipient, not even close to where the pass was made; and as the diagram and explanation in the interpretations shows, this is not relevant. Like it or not, that is just the way the rules are currently interpreted, for everybody, not just for Spain (Denmark scored a goal under similar circumstances against Portugal). Good call, perfectly within the Laws and interpretations of Law 11 on in this one.

  6. Ramon Creager, June 19, 2012 at 10:37 a.m.

    "...none of you gentlement" didn't mean you, Kent. :)

  7. Ramon Creager, June 19, 2012 at 11:16 a.m.

    One more thing. I'd like to apologize to "all of you gentlemen" for including this needlessly confrontational phrase. My bad. In my defense I do get frustrated that people diminish the merit of a particular play without really understanding the rules in question; and especially when, as in Robert's example, a referee steps on the field without understanding the rules. We all love this game, and the rules and how they are interpreted are an integral part of this, and that alone speaks for itself without requiring confrontational language. Sorry.

  8. ROBERT BOND, June 19, 2012 at 11:46 a.m.

    Passive offsides called if offender influences keepers positioning, i.e., between both Spaniards instead of attacking 1st player......stupid rule, generally ignored, let the refs let them play-the Dane took a shot that was a tough save......

  9. David Sirias, June 19, 2012 at 12:19 p.m.

    Just one more thought on the passive off sides. zonal marking has a great page with lots of clips of goals within the passive offside context. It's really difficult for the ref because the goalscorer who is offisides can not be involved in the through ball play nor be distracting the GK. Was that the case here? You could argue that Navas was too close to the play... But I have way way less problem with this rule than NOT having the daylight rule and goal line technology. Not having the daylight rule costs every league around the world dozens of goals each year. A tie (attacker and defender shoulder to shoulder) is supposed to go to the attacker but it rarely does. And as for goalline technology, see Fire v Red Bull this past weekend. Those are the really bigger fish that must be fried by FIFA.

  10. ROBERT BOND, June 19, 2012 at 1:54 p.m.

    Our league, kids have played with keepers since U-6; i have alawys told them, if they get by the DBs with the ball, attack the ball immediately-the Croat keeper showed more energy yelling at the side ref.......getting a PK by Neuer not a sure thing.thought he could have done better attcking the ball on that last minute Chelsea corner, but he's my fav......fussball is a simple game with simple rules nuanced by a fast paced need to interpret them(indirect,card?)-when i was a kid, any sliding tackle you touched the ball was fair, now, from behind, 1st touch is the dif between a rot oder gelb....

  11. Ramon Creager, June 19, 2012 at 2:04 p.m.

    I dislike the term "passive offside" because it implies that the player is committing an offense (being offside) that is being overlooked. The very first thing Law 11 specifically states is "It is not an offence in itself to be in an offside position." So by rule the player is simply not offside, "passive" or otherwise, unless s/he is the recipient of the pass, or otherwise interfering and gaining advantage (and those are carefully defined in the Interpretations and Guidelines section of the Laws). In this case, it was quite literally called by the book, as I noted above. Navas could not plausibly be accused of distracting the 'keeper, as he was a good 25-30 yards out when the initial pass occurred, and a good 10-15 yards to the right of the recipient of the pass. (By rule he could have been 1 yard from the recipient, so long as he made no move to receive the ball or interfere with a defender.) Navas was able to move in uncontested because the Croats simply stood and watched. Defenders should always keep playing; after establishing their line the AR will have his flag up if it worked, and when the ref blows his whistle, then you stop. I think this is a manufactured controversy, really. I feel bad for the Croats, they played very well, but it is unfair to both the Spanish team and to referee Wolfgang Stark to imply that the goal was somehow achieved by illegal means.

  12. Geren Nichols, June 19, 2012 at 2:33 p.m.

    What about Corluka being pulled off the ball on the immediately preceding corner. If they had had an American referee the bizarre fall away from the ball and the shirt pulled down to his knees by a defender might have been interpreted as a defender ripping him off the ball and denying a goal scoring opportunity. He was standing less than a meter from the goal line and it is only a slight exaggeration to say he was dragged by his defender out to the penalty spot.

  13. Jack vrankovic, June 19, 2012 at 11:02 p.m.

    Spain is going to have a hard time this tournament. Croatia had a makeshift defense consisting of a natural right back playing center back with a Bundesliga II central defender.

  14. Kent James, June 19, 2012 at 11:34 p.m.

    Ramon, no worries. Geren, that was the foul I saw. I wasn't sure the Croatian player's name, but he was absolutely mugged as he was attempting to play the ball, and there is no doubt it was significant because he was being pulled down as he headed the ball, which undoubtedly took power off the shot (which was saved by Cassillas). As a former referee and a defender, I know that sometimes this goes both ways, but in this case, Corluka did nothing wrong. This was not a subtle foul, and it was certainly not trifling. Such calls are not easy calls to make (no referee enjoys calling a pk), but they need to be made.

  15. Jack vrankovic, June 20, 2012 at 6:51 a.m.

  16. Kent James, June 21, 2012 at 11:14 a.m.

    Great picture Jack. The fact that that was not called pretty clearly demonstrates that when the ball is in the air in the penalty box, it's pretty much survival of the fittest. That's not a picture of the way "the beautiful game" should be played.

  17. Jack vrankovic, June 21, 2012 at 7:04 p.m.

    Apparently the new interpretation of the rules allows Spain to use Judo. 16 fouls on Croatia and 6 yellow cards. 16 fouls on Spain and no cards. 2 clear penalty kick/cards ignored. It is either horrific officiating or the match was fixed. I watched the game 3 times,now it has given me a huge soccer hangover. The Euros are over for me. Check out the Croatian clip on World Football Daily.

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