Over the next few nights we will be knocking these out, group by group, like Justin Verlander racks up strikeouts. Tonight we turn to Group C.
Let's chop it up.
For Spain, you can quite simply equate them to the 2002/2004 era New England Patriots. Yes, they are that dominant. Xavi and Inniesta mould into one Spanish version of Tom Brady, whilst Pique and Puyol can play Bruschi and Vrabel. Spain won the last World Cup, and the European Championships is there for them to take, if they want it bad enough. We could be witnessing a period of dominance as good as if not better than the incredible Patriots team of 2002-2004. No side has ever won back to back European Championships whilst being holders of the World Cup, but Spain might be just about to do exactly that.
In direct comparison, Italy may well prove to be the Indianapolis Colts of the 2002/2004 era. If you recall, the Colts were heavy favourites both to beat the Patriots and to win the Superbowl during that timeframe, but instead fell flat on their face. Italy, for some bizarre reason, are still being touted by some as potential tournament winners. Perhaps those who are coming out with this drivel forget the Paper Tiger Italians failed to beat Slovakia and New Zealand in the 2010 World Cup and crashed out at the group stages. Italian football in is turmoil, amid allegations of max fixing at its highest levels. Still, some still think Italy can win this thing. They are in for a shock when Andrea Pirlo breaks out his best Peyton Manning face, upon the occasion of their inevitable demise.
The Butler 2010/2011 NCAA Basketball team. The dark horses of the tournament. They have actually taken the description for ‘Dark Horse; out of the dictionary and just replaced it with a team photo of Croatia. They are the poster boys of the phrase. Well, them and Butler. Much like Butler before them, Croatia are a team low on star-name-power but high on team work and discipline. They are extremely well coached by former Croatian great Slaven Bilić and have plenty of young talent to see them past Ireland and Italy (maybe not the Spanish, though) which would see them qualify from the group. Croatia are the real deal. You just don’t hear much about them. They are, like Butler, a true dark horse.
There are some in Ireland suggesting this Irish team might unite the country much like the Jackie Charlton led teams and indeed the Mick McCarthy World Cup team did in years previous. Largely fuelled by greedy companies trying to cash in on merchandising and such, Ireland is being led down a blind alley of false hope in the inevitably doomed belief it might win a match or two and qualify for the next round. A huge dose of realism is well overdue. Glenn Whelan in midfield? This might be the single worst quality team to qualify for a European Championship in the last decade. Having said all that, Irelands undoubted grit and determination, and wonderful, colourful and positive fans (the single greatest travelling fans, bar none, in all sports) will bring something to the tournament, even if Ireland don’t score in any of the three matches. So, for Ireland, read the Oakland Raiders. A pretty useless team, that isn’t going to win anything, but people will end up talking about their fans.
Tune in tomorrow evening for Group C!
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