Stoppage Time – International Football Blog

Euro 2012 Preview – Group C

Posted in International Football by peterbein on June 4, 2012

Euro 2012 logoIn the third installment of our Euro 2012 build-up, Stoppage Time – International Football Blog previews Group C which contains the defending European champions Spain as well as Italy, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland.

GROUP C

CROATIA: Best Performance = Runner Up 1960, 1968 (as Yugoslavia); Quarter-Finals 1996, 2008 (as Croatia)

Following the break-up of the former Yugoslavia in 1991 the Croatian national team has performed by far the best out of the newly created independent states. As part of the former Yugoslavia, Croats played a part in the Yugoslavia teams who finished runner up on two occasions in the 1960s. Since independence Croatia has only failed to qualify for a major tournament on two out of nine occasions showing that the national team is still one for many teams to fear. In Group F of Euro 2012 qualifying the Croats finished two behind Greece in the standings before a convincing 3-0 aggregate win over Turkey in the play-offs gained them their place in the finals. Croatia’s main focus in the tournament will be Luka Modrić who has been in fine form for his club Tottenham Hotspur and whose distributive and creative qualities will be needed for attacking players such as Ivica Olić and Nikica Jelavić the opportunities to flourish.

COACH: Slaven Bilić

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 8

ITALY: Best Performance = Winners 1968

Even hard core fans of the Azzurri would begrudgingly admit that this is far from the most vintage Italian team that has ever graced an international tournament. For a nation which has been world champions on four occasions it is surprising that Italy has only one European Championship title to its name and not many would expect a second title to be winging its way into the trophy cabinet this time around. Despite the pessimism the Italians still have plenty of individual quality and it would be a fool who would completely write off their chances of performing well in this tournament. Italy qualified from qualifying Group C with an unbeaten record of eight wins and two draws and with experienced players such as Gianluigi Buffon and Andrea Pirlo still playing an active role in the side anything is still possible if the team gets its tactics right during the tournament.

COACH: Cesare Prandelli

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 12

REPUBLIC OF IRELAND: Best Performance = Group Stage 1988

They may be underdogs but the Irish wouldn’t have it any other way. Playing in only their second European Championship finals, the other being when Jack Charlton took them to West Germany in 1988, the Republic of Ireland will be something of an unknown quantity for their group opponents and, thus, they might be able to spring a surprise. Under the guidance of Italian legend Giovanni Trapattoni, the Republic of Ireland finished second behind Russia in qualifying Group B before sweeping aside Estonia 5-1 on aggregate in the play-offs. The Republic’s record goal scorer Robbie Keane will be spearheading the attack and if the likes of Damian Duff and Aiden McGeady can provide him with quality service from the flanks then there’s no reason why the Irish cannot upset some of the favourites.

COACH: Giovanni Trapattoni

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 18

SPAIN: Best Performance = Winners 2008

Victorious over Germany four years ago in this competition, the Spanish national team created history when winning the FIFA World Cup in 2010 to become only the third nation, along with Germany and France, to hold both the world and European titles simultaneously. Many superlatives have been used over the last few years to describe the current crop of talent at Spain’s disposal and they will be hoping to make further history by becoming the first country to win three consecutive major tournaments. The qualifying campaign was a breeze for Spain who finished with a 100% record in Group I and finished eleven points ahead of nearest challengers Czech Republic. Despite the absence of top scorer David Villa there are plenty of names who could win a game at any time for Spain. Names such as Xavi, Andres Iniesta and David Silva have been there and done that but there are also the likes of Álvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente who are hungry and keen to show what they can do at the highest level.

COACH: Vicente del Bosque

FIFA WORLD RANKING = 1

GROUP C FIXTURES

10/06/12 Spain v Italy

10/06/12 Croatia v Rep. of Ireland

14/06/12 Italy v Croatia

14/06/12 Spain v Rep. of Ireland

18/06/12 Croatia v Spain

18/06/12 Italy v Rep. of Ireland

Ireland: Five-way battle in exciting title race

Posted in European Football by peterbein on September 13, 2011
Derry City fans

Will Derry City fans have something to celebrate this season?

The title race in the Airtricity League in the Republic of Ireland is reaching a critical stage and looks set to go down to the wire with up to five teams still holding title ambitions.

Derry City (59 points, 30 games) have experienced many difficulties over the last few years but the club is playing well again following their promotion from the First Division (2nd tier) last season. Their title efforts were thwarted slightly last night however, only managing to pick up a point in a 2-2 draw at home to second bottom side Drogheda United, but the point gained provided a little daylight between themselves and the two immediate chasing teams of Sligo Rovers (3-0 winners at home to Bray Wanderers) and Shamrock Rovers (who drew 1-1 with fourth place St Patrick’s Athletic) both of whom have 58 points. Shamrock Rovers, however, will face a very tough end to the season; not only do they have a game in hand in the domestic league and an Irish Cup quarter-final to look forward to but Rovers will also face a major distraction in the form of UEFA Europa League football which begins this week with a home tie against two-time Russian champions Rubin Kazan.

Saint Patrick’s Athletic’s ability to pick up a point against the title favourites has given them hope of a late push as they lie just four points behind Shamrock Rovers. Bohemians Dublin have given themselves an outside chance having won their last three matches in a row. They lie in fifth position with 51 points from 29 games following their Monday night 3-1 win at home to Dundalk but they have arguably the toughest run-in of all of the top sides as they have to face off against Shamrock Rovers, Sligo Rovers and Derry City in their last three games.

Republic of Ireland: Title race goes down to the wire

Posted in European Football by peterbein on October 9, 2010

 

Airtricity League Logo

The Airtricity League is reaching an exciting climax

 

The Airtricity League in the Republic of Ireland is going down to the wire with just one point separating title chasing Bohemians and Shamrock Rovers with each team having two matches left to play. On another dramatic weekend of action Bohemians overtook Shamrock Rovers into first place with the former’s victory over St Patrick’s Athletic being complimented by a surprise home defeat for the latter at the hands of Sporting Fingal.

Shamrock Rovers went into the weekend as table toppers having enjoyed a two point advantage over their title rivals. The visitors to Tallaght Stadium were Sporting Fingal who were already in a comfortable fifth place in the ten team league and who had drawn all of their three previous league meetings with The Hoops this season. Would there be a fourth stalemate or would something give? When Shamrock Rovers took the lead through Thomas Stewart after 13 minutes it appeared that they would go on from there to gain three crucial points. The home side also received a great chance to double the lead in the 64th minute from the penalty spot but Chris Turner’s kick hit the crossbar and let Sporting off the hook. The home side’s lead lasted until the 87th minute when an equalizing goal from Sporting’s Gary O’Neill looked like the points would be shared between these two clubs yet again. However there was a shock in store when the visitors took the lead two minutes later after Glen Crowe’s effort was deflected into the goal to stun the home support who have now seen their team lose their fourth game in the last five league matches.

Bohemians, Irish champions for each of the last two seasons, took advantage of this unexpected late slip-up but they were made to work hard for it as they could only muster a one goal victory at home to fourth place St Patrick’s Athletic. A Kilian Brennan penalty in the 25th minute was saved by Pats’ keeper Chris Bennion but he was unable to stop the follow up from Raffael Cretaro whose fourth goal of the season proved the difference and ensured that Bohemians’ chances of a third successive league title were preserved.

The win means that the champions are undefeated in their last ten league games and they have hit form at exactly the right time whilst Shamrock Rovers are starting to lose their nerve. Both teams have two matches left to play in the Airtricity League with the new league leaders, who have 64 points after 34 games, facing 8th place Galway United and 6th place Dundalk. Shamrock Rovers, who are now one point behind having enjoyed a seven point lead a month ago, will play the bottom two clubs Drogheda United and Bray Wanderers in their final league matches.