The Essential Guide To Euro 2012 Free Preview Version

The Essential Guide To Euro 2012 Free Preview Version
This is a very much cut down free version of a full version we have on sale.
You will however find many useful facts within this free version.
About the Full Version
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The Essential Guide To Euro 2012 is a joint collaboration between leading journalist and
football scout Greg Gordon ( and,
Goran Trpekvski, the former Malmo midfielder, Swedish U21 international and now leading
professional punter ( ). Greg and Goran are joined by stats guru and
Spanish football expert Leon Pidgeon (
The idea for this Essential Guide To Euro 2012 came about due to some work we
were jointly asked to undertake for a hedge fund proposal based on football betting.
What this guide represents is a version of the kind of notes given to stockmarket
traders to help them make informed decisions in their specialist markets.
In a football sense – as opposed to company data and info or notes on commodities
markets – we’ve drawn together squad lists, player and club biographies, notes on
strengths and weaknesses of players and tactics, scouting reports and video clips
illustrating all the key concepts relating to the 16 competitors at Euro 2012.
Added to that we’ve added in info on the ref’s and their style of officiating, details on
the stadiums and pitches used in Poland and Ukraine, a breakdown of the key games
at this year’s tournament and (specifically for live betting) our view in advance of
how these games will play out.
Remember, not only is the full version a premium commercial guide to the
tournament – probably the only guide of its kind available in terms of the level
of detail and info supplied. It is will also form the basis of our own betting during
the tournament. And it has to be bang on because our own money is riding on the
quality of the research.
Inside the 230 page full version document delivered in two parts (team notes and
tournament notes) we’ll tell you:
• The one striker who could buck the trend in a Euro 2012 tournament where
there is less chance of a hatrick being scored than the available odds imply.
• Why a barrier of language could end Spain’s bid to win a record-breaking
third consecutive international tournament.
• Why one team we expect to make a packet from may not even get out of
their group.
• We’ll show you how you can make money from the match ball and how,
if you are not careful you can lose it backing in the games of one particular
referee whose limelight hogging and poor reading of the game threatens to
make a nonsense of the matches he is officiating in.
The full version is a significant 230 page piece of research work.
Full version contents
The Essential Guide To Euro 2012 Part One: The Teams
About The Contributors
The Teams:
Czech Republic
Republic of Ireland
Team By Team Stats
Euro 2012 Fixtures
The Essential Guide To Euro 2012 Part Two: The Tournament
Euro 2012 Stadiums
Team Travel, Training And Accommodation
Referees and Match Officials
The Match Ball
The Key Matches
The Effect of the Draw
Beware Of The Official Stats
Gorans Antepost Bets
To whet your appetite below you will find several extracts from the main document.
They deo the style of several key sections listed above.
Free Version Contents
1 – Teams
England & Croatia
2 - Accommodation Analysis
3 – Referee Analysis Wolfgang Stark
4 – Key Match Analysis Spain V Italy
PS - We think there is money to be made with Croatia – a team Goran knows
especially well as a Balkan based scout and football consultant. However, the only
way to profit from Slaven Bilić’s side is to see beyond the hype.
Hopefully you can see where we are coming from.....
I hope you enjoy the below
Greg Gordon
England Euro 2012 Squad List And Team Notes
Team Name and Group: England Group D
Coach: Roy Hodgson
Star player: Wayne Rooney (if available), Steven Gerrard
History: 1968 (third place), 1980 (first round), 1988 (first round), 1992 (first round), 1996
(semi-finals), 2000 (first round), 2004 (quarter-finals)
Best Price To Win Euro 2012: 12/1 Bwin
Best Price To Win Group: 9/5 Boylesports
To Qualify From Group: 8/15 Bwin
Not To Qualify From Group: 13/8 Stan James, Blue Square
Fixtures: Monday, June 11, France v England (Donetsk, 1700), Friday, June 15,
Sweden v England (Kiev, 1700), Tuesday, June 19, England v Ukraine (Donetsk), 1945
Coach: It wouldn’t be a major tournament without some major intrigue interrupting
England’s preparations but in this case the curiosity factor has been created not by a
shattered metatarsal or off-field high jinks but rather a distinct lack of hype following the
appointment of the likeable but unloved Roy Hodgson.
That, at least, is what I thought last week as I drafted what I thought would be ‘final’ draft
notes on England.
Since then though Hodgson’s personnel have been dropping like flies: Gareth Barry, Frank
Lampard and, most recently, Gary Cahill have all been ruled out of the tournament, leaving
Roy Hodgson reaching for cover - and his tin helmet. The new Three Lions boss has been
inundated with flak for his continued refusal to pick Rio Ferdinand – the third man in the
triangle as it were, in the racist slur case concerning Rio’s brother Anton Ferdinand and John
One former manager, Steve McLaren has nothing but sympathy for the current England boss
suggesting he’d be criticised for upsetting the equilibrium in his squad whatever decision
he’d taken over the sorry Terry-Ferdinand affair that will finally reach its conclusion in court
on 9th July.
Low-key and sincere, Hodgson, has enjoyed a peripatetic career, managing sixteen different
teams in eight different countries.
He guided the Switzerland national team to the last 16 of the 1994 World Cup and
qualification for Euro 1996 at a point where the Swiss had not qualified for a major
tournament since the 1960s.
From 2006 to 2007, he managed the Finland national team, guiding them to their highest
ever FIFA ranking of 33rd place, and he departed Finland after his efficient side were a
whisker away from qualifying for a major tournament for the first time in their history.
Hodgson has been the beaten finalist in the UEFA Cup and the Europa League and his CV
includes stints at the likes of Internazionale of Milan, Blackburn Rovers, Grasshoppers Zurich,
FC Copenhagen, Udinese, Fulham and an ill-fated half season at Liverpool where depending
on who you ask, he became the fall guy for the behind the scenes politicking of fans’
favourite Kenny Dalglish or he was simply on a sticky wicket from day one due to his ties
to the former owners, the lack of transfer funds made available to him and the pragmatic
style of football Hodgson is associated with. It was definitely a case of the wrong club for the
wrong man at the wrong time.
Either way, Hodgson’s Merseyside results stand fair comparison with those of Kenny Dalglish
yet Hodgson (as a native of Croydon, Surrey) was always on borrowed time with Kopites who
will always express a marked preference for ‘one of their own’.
Roy Hodgson has served several times – and with distinction - as a member of UEFA's
technical study group at previous European Championships, and he was also a member
of the FIFA technical study group at the 2006 World Cup with Andy Roxburgh and Gerard
Houllier. Hodgson speaks five languages and has worked as a television pundit in several of
the countries in which he has coached.
The 64-year-old Roy Hodgson was left with little over a month to appoint his backroom staff,
put together a squad, install a new captain, make plans for Wayne Rooney's two-match
suspension and sort out a long and extensive list of other issues, including the divisions in
the squad created by the breakdown in relations between Rio Ferdinand and John Terry.
The press are already on his tail, in a period of financial austerity England’s underwhelmed,
normally loyal travelling legions have voted with their feet taking up just half of their ticket
allocation for the tournament. Hype and expectation is at an all-time low for normally overhyped and over-bet England.
Hodgson has also been warned that he faces an uphill struggle to make a success of
the England job, with the former manager Fabio Capello questioning the timing of his
appointment, while senior German figures cast doubt over his standing in the game.
Capello, who resigned in February after the FA went against his wishes by stripping John
Terry of the England captaincy, expressed misgivings about whether his successor will
have enough time to repair the damage left by his own departure and create a team
spirit to make England formidable opponents in Euro 2012. The Italian backed Hodgson's
appointment but said it would be difficult for him to have an immediate impact.
"As a club manager, you are a manager. As a national team manager, you are a selector.
You cannot work with and get the best out of the players all of the time because some are
injured, some are not in a top moment, some are unhappy with their club's position, some
have a problem with their manager," he told The Times.
"It's not a normal job. It's difficult to create something. You can't do something in a short
space of time. The idea is to create the team spirit and winning mentality in a really short
time. This is very difficult. It will be hard. And the other thing is that you don't play a lot of
games. In nearly every game you are either in or out.”
Capello, who also insisted his reputation had not been damaged by his England reign, was
speaking on the day Hodgson's credentials to oversee the England team were called into
question by the veteran Bayern Munich manager Jupp Heynckes, who suggested he was
largely unaware of the Englishman's work.
Heynckes, a World Cup and European Championship winner in the 1970s as a player and a
European Cup-winning manager with Real Madrid in 1998, admitted the pair's paths had
rarely crossed over a 33-year coaching career.
"I don't know him that well, so I can't say whether it's a good or a bad appointment," said
Heynckes, whose Bayern team lost to Chelsea in May’s Champions League final. "He was
with Internazionale, and with the Switzerland side, so he has some international experience.
But to be the manager of the English national team is not that easy."
More worrying for Heynckes, in keeping with Capello's comments, was the reality that there
will be under five weeks between Hodgson's appointment – almost three months after Fabio
Capello's resignation – to the start of Euro 2012. The England manager named his 23-man
squad after the last round of Premier League fixtures before taking his players on a training
camp in Spain, with friendlies against Norway and Belgium to follow. The team are due to
depart for their summer base in Krakow on 6 June.
"This situation would never happen in Germany — I cannot imagine that at all, absolutely
not — because we have a totally different mentality. I don't think it would be possible here.
They would have sorted it out way, way before. Whether it's with a club or a national team,
when one manager finishes, the very next day the new manager is presented."
Of the Germany players who could confront England in Poland and Ukraine, Bastian
Schweinsteiger expressed surprise that Harry Redknapp, who had been considered
favourite, had not ended up as the FA's first choice. "I have heard of [Hodgson], but I can't
tell you anything about what he's like with the players, or how he trains them," said the
Bayern midfielder, who has 90 caps. "I've heard more about Harry Redknapp at Tottenham."
"I don't know him well," added the Germany captain Philipp Lahm. "But I think it was very,
very important that they made a decision and that there is a manager in place now."
Hodgson wants to bring in some of his own staff to help the workload. Ray Lewington, who
worked with him at Fulham, is under consideration but is not the only possible appointment.
Stuart Pearce may not be involved.
Capello said: "I've known Roy since he was coaching in Italy and I have met him often in
these last few years. I believe he is a very good and experienced manager. I wish him all the
best for the future and Euro 2012."
Fabio Capello had his detractors as England coach, but there was a shift towards youth in the
final year of his reign as he looked to phase out the so-called Golden Generation of the David
Beckham era.
In the likes of Joe Hart, Phil Jones, Chris Smalling, Jordan Henderson, the injured Jack
Wilshere, Theo Walcott, Ashley Young and Danny Welbeck there is hope for the future but
for a variety of reasons (inexperience, injury, loss of form) this group cannot be expected
to shoulder the hopes of a nation on their own. This tournament will probably come too
soon for the collective subset of talented youngsters within the squad. Others such as Jack
Butland, Martin Kelly and Phil Jagielka probably only enjoy their inclusion as a result of
others’ misfortune
The biggest challenge for Roy Hodgson is to manage both the personnel at his disposal and
also the national media as he looks to navigate a period of transition.
And a quick look at the age profile of his squad suggests there is a dearth of English players
in their peak years at Euro 2012. Of those aged between 25 and 30 in Hodgson’s likely squad
only Wayne Rooney who misses the first two games of the tournament through suspension
boasts over 35 international caps.
Of the others in this 25-30 age bracket Joe Hart has 17 caps and is playing in his first
tournament as England’s No. 1. Leighton Baines is a decent back-up player but with seven
caps to his name he remains an unknown quantity in tournaments.
At 27 and with exactly 35 caps Glen Johnson has a better profile. However, when I last spoke
to his agent (at a Scottish Football Writers Dinner) he really didn’t disagree (too much, if at
all) when I suggested that the £17.75m paid by Liverpool to Portsmouth for his services was
a phenomenal sum to pay for an attacking full-back who can’t defend consistently well due
to poor concentration. There is also a suggestion that, in his short tenure as Liverpool boss,
Hodgson formed a negative impression of Glen Johnson and was prepared to sell him as part
of his rebuilding plans. Johnson is also carrying an injury This surely have kicked open the
door for young Kyle Walker at Euro 2012. But again, an injury in the final days of the season
robs him of his chance and it is very much his and England’s loss.
James Milner (26 years-old and 26 caps) is increasingly a peripheral figure for England and
Man City (albeit he rarely lets either club or country down when selected). However, his role
may now be more pivotal with the news that Scott Parker is struggling for form and that
Frank Lampard has joined Gareth Barry on the injured list, with both Barry and Lampard
being withdrawn.
Phil Jagielka only makes it due to the withdrawal of the injured Gareth Barry. The Everton
man is 29 with just 11 caps.
Of the front men only Wayne Rooney has the required profile of established quality and
international experience (age 27, 73 caps and 28 goals). Unfortunately though, Rooney
won’t feature until the final group game due to suspension.
So, now let’s look at the men who have been over the course before in terms of tournament
Robert Green (age 32, 11 caps) has proven himself to be unreliable after failing to hold Clint
Dempsey’s speculative shot for USA in South Africa 2010. Safe hands he is not. He also has
been playing his club football with West Ham in The Championship this season.
Ashley Cole definitely passes muster. Even at 31 (93 caps) his pace remains undiminished
and he is one of the few unequivocally and reliably world class players in the squad. Cole
would probably make any squad in the world based on his form ahead of Euro 2012.
John Terry (Age 31, 72 caps) cannot be relied upon in big games for club or country. And
anyone who doubts that should revisit the footage of Germany v England at the 2010 World
Cup .
In midfield Gareth Barry has been forced to withdraw ensuring a place in the squad for
versatile Everton man Phil Jagielka who is most likely providing cover only.
Barry’s pal Steven Gerrard has nothing to prove (age 31, 90 caps, 19 goals) but can he really
play Captain Fantastic for England nowadays?
Injuries have also taken their toll on Gerrard and (now the missing Frank Lampard (age 33,
90 caps, 23 goals)) it is hard to see Gerrard rolling back the years to perform that box to box
role in the style of his best years.
Recent skipper Scott Parker is another on the wrong side of 30 given a key England role
relatively late in life. He is 31 with just 11 caps so experience counts against the Spurs’ man
here, albeit he is a better option than Barry as a defensive midfield holder and in Barry’s
absence it is imperative for England that the Spurs man wins his race to be fit for The Euros –
and also recovers his form, absent in the tournament build-up.
Taken as a central midfield core, there is much to like about Scott Parker and Steven
Gerrard. Their talent is not in question. However there doesn’t look to be too much legs in
the centre of midfield for England, if they play in a (4-3-2-1) with Phil Jones, or James Milner coming in for Lampard and Theo Walcott and Ashley Young supporting a lone striker from
an advanced midfield position on either side of Steven Gerrard.
And there is even less running in midfield for England if they revert to a 4-4-2, which in any
case, never seems to quite work out for them but you can’t rule out that Hodgson might cut
his losses in the absence of Barry and Lampard and look to revert to ‘the English formation’
he is on record as preferring.
You’d certainly fear for this England midfield (in a 4-4-2) if they come up against a dynamic,
quick ball rotation side, such as Germany (again see the above linked highlights ) later in
the competition. And that of course, assumes that England will make their mark beyond the
group phase, which is no foregone conclusion.
The lack of hype surrounding England’s potential Euro 2012 challenge will only be a boon in
the short-term: results in Poland will quickly alter the status quo.
If England excel early on then the expectations will hit fever pitch, potentially strangling
good early progress. If they are poor, then Hodgson, a likeable manager but with relatively
few high profile friends in the media, will be crucified and so will his team.
The imbalance in this squad between age, experience and energy on the back of a hard
Premiership season (and European cup campaigns too) is a clear worry.
Only Kyle Walker, the newly crowned Professional Footballers' Association Young Player of
the Year, looks to have the necessary credentials in terms of quality, energy and self belief
to really make an impact from leftfield in this tournament as a breakthrough international.
However, as he misses out it is hard to see where that unexpected shaft of light might come
But then, if the unexpected was so evident it wouldn’t be unexpected, would it? And
tournaments, especially those involving England can swim to their own crazy inner logic,
creating heroes and villains at every turn of the drama. Less could literally be more for The
Three Lions.
Otherwise, England’s strengths and weaknesses, that are largely a product of a Premiership
that’s quality is derived from its foreign stars, are well established and predictable.
I ask myself the question: “If England’s current squad were a club side, which of the top
world leagues would they be capable of winning?” It is a difficult one to answer, and a
slightly frivolous question in one sense, but I am sure The Premiership, La Liga and possibly
even The Bundesliga would be beyond this England squad at this juncture. Perhaps they’d be
capable of winning a very poor Serie A in Italy?
If we were to pose the same question of the likes of Spain, Germany or The Netherlands, I
expect they would fair significantly better. Maybe only La Liga would be beyond these top
international sides and that is no given.
Regardless, I am sure few would argue that in terms of form and available talent and
experience England (without the fairy dust sprinkling of a few top stars to help out Wayne
Rooney) would probably be placed somewhere back within the chasing pack, just behind the
betting market principles – and on a bad day, they would be a long way down the field.
That said, tournament football is an equation where tactics and team spirit (Germany
2010), one stellar ‘hot hand’ performer (a Schillaci, a Gascoigne or a Maradona) or most
importantly the galvanising force of seeming ‘destiny’ or momentum (think France in 1998,
Argentina in 1986 or Greece in Euro 2004) can generally triumph over a perceived deficit of
talent or big match experience in any squad.
At this stage, England under the new broom of Roy Hodgson could be anything but my sense
is that this is an unbalanced squad that is now even less well equipped for the battle, than it
was seven days ago. Especially so as their are two ranks of settled, established rivals in the
front rank of the betting markets ahead of England.
But even if he had time at his disposal Goran Trpevski believes that Hodgson will prove to be
another poor appointment from The FA. He says: “Roy Hodgson isn’t the man to teach these
English players how to play effective tournament football and that is what they need.”
Click Here For Current England Squad Details
Goalkeepers: Joe Hart, Robert Green, Jack Butland
Defenders: Ashley Cole, Joleon Lescott, Glen Johnson, Phil Jagielka, John Terry, Leighton
Baines, Martin Kelly
Midfielders: Phil Jones, Phil Jagielka, James Milner, Stewart Downing, Scott Parker, Theo
Walcott, Ashley Young, Steven Gerrard(c), Alex Oxlade-Chamberlain, Jordan Henderson,
Adam Johnson
Forwards: Danny Welbeck, Jermain Defoe, Wayne Rooney, Andy Carroll
Full Strength Team and Formation: 4-2-3-1: Hart; Johnson, Jones, Terry, Cole; Parker,
Milner; Walcott, Gerrard, Young, Welbeck/Rooney
Style of Play: It goes without saying that a new manager brings with him new (often
contradictory) ideas and, most importantly, different opinions on players whose
involvement may have been taken for granted (or even barred) by the previous regime.
Personal, historic preference in terms of formations, shape and tactics dictate team
selection also and Hodgson brings his own specific history in terms of his coaching CV as a
boss who has made most of mediocre players in his most successful assignments.
Hodgson has a mixed reputation in his time as manager in terms of his tactics and style of
play. He is seen as a progressive coach and shrewd analyst at UEFA, where he has served
with distinction, a wily operator in football’s backwaters in other places and no more than
a ‘steady hand on the tiller’ at middle of the road Premiership clubs. At Liverpool he was a
The reason why there has been so much media negativity surrounding his appointment as
England boss relates to his reputation as a defensive coach. The same charge is also levelled
at the albeit far more successful Irish boss Giovanni Trapattoni, but, like the Italian, Hodgson
is a pragmatic coach rather than a defensive coach. He is best seen as a boss who can make
much out of very little or certainly one who can find a system that makes the best of what
he has at his disposal.
The ill-informed British press (both broadsheet and tabloid) love nothing more than a broadbrush stereotype or an anecdote they can use to condemn a man in pole position that is
not (like Harry Redknapp) ‘one of their own’. They have been lapping up tittle-tattle tales
from equally unsophisticated Premiership footballers that Hodgson’s training is boring and
repetitive – which, for footballers is the number one cardinal sin for a coach.
The key for Hodgson is winning the battle for hearts and minds before he can then impose
his own ideas on the England squad. That, in a nutshell, is the challenge that will make or
break his reign, defining whether he ends Euro 2012 as a ‘Bobby Robson’ or a ‘Graham
Cited by Zonal Marking and the England football blog That Tackle By Moore, a 2010
interview with Fulham’s Simon Davies in The Independent in 2010, provides a decent insight
into Hodgson’s methods.
Davies said: “I don’t want to give any secrets away, but he gets the 11 that he wants on a
match day and he drills everything in that he wants. It’s certain drills defensive, certain drills
attacking, and we work very hard at it. There are no diagrams. It’s all on the pitch with the
ball, nothing unopposed.”
Boring it may be for players, especially high maintenance players on Premiership salaries,
but Hodgson’s managerial record shows, he can get results when the parts are prepared to
work on their deficiencies for the good of the whole.
As That Tackle By Moore article confirms, in Hodgson’s first season at Fulham (2006-2007)
he took The Cottagers to seventh place earning a spot in the then newly established Europa
League – where they were beaten finalists v Athletico Madrid.
Fulham also conceded a mere 34 goals, which is a defensive record for the West London club
and a number more akin to the performance of a title winning side.
The critics demur that Hodgson’s defensive record had to be good because Fulham scored
just 39 goals in 38 matches. It was a triumph of make do and mend: an appropriate
solution for a team with limited attacking options. And it depends which camp you sit in
as to whether you see Hodgson’s challenge with an unbalanced midtable Fulham side as
analogous with England and their current status within international football, or whether
you reckon that the challenge Hodgson subsequently faced when his chances were
sabotaged at Anfield by King Kenny Dalglish and his Liverpool fan club, is closer to what he
is taking on at Euro 2012. This, of course, is a question that won’t be answered definitively
until the summer but there are clearly parallels for those who choose to see England in May
2012 as a either a ‘Fulham’ or a ‘Liverpool’.
Unquestionably, Hodgson can clearly get the best out of receptive, self-motivated
professionals but can he get anything out of players whose egos eclipse their talents?
There is a widespread view that England’s pampered senior internationals are simply
unmanageable but Hodgson is probably stuck with at least some of them for the time
being. The problem is that the likes of Lampard, Terry and Gerrard appear most receptive
to personal charisma rather than personal substance formed of experience. And charisma,
at least in the sense that Mourinho, Ferguson or Redknapp boast charisma, isn’t something
that Hodgson can call upon. His qualities, many of them excellent, admirable qualities are
out of time and out of fashion. And that is both a pity and a problem. In this respect, it
could actually help Hodgson that he has been forced to fill-in the gaps in his squad with
inexperienced internationals who are perhaps more malleable than those of England’s socalled Golden Generation.
The current England side has already been labelled as the ‘worst yet’ according to That
Tackle By Moore, although I can find no reference to the original quote anywhere.
Regardless, any such suggestion will definitely raise the eyebrows of anyone who
remembers Graham Taylor’s truly primitive squads of the early 1990s without fondness. It
isn’t good though.
This England squad could more reasonably be described as certainly the least talented on
paper of the last decade and Hodgson has less collective quality to work with than either
Fabio Capello or Sven Goran Eriksson had at their disposal. Right now, England are a team
stuck between two eras: an unfulfilled past and an unknown future. There squad is top
heavy with players that are too old (past it) or too young (inexperienced at this level).
In advance, it is hard to pin down just how England might set-up for their opener with
France. Of the likely squad men, Joe Hart, Ashley Cole, Scott Parker, Steven Gerrard and
probably Danny Welbeck (in the absence of Rooney) should start. That means six starting
berths are likely up for grabs and therefore, a number of set-ups and formations look likely.
However with Hodgson claiming he needed 2 ½ years at club level with Fulham to set his
foundations it is difficult to imagine what he can possibly achieve in a month with England.
We know that Hodgson favours a back four and a 4-4-2 on this basis of This UEFA video
presentation. The problem is that a 4-4-2 makes no sense at all as a system that can work
effectively with some combination of Parker and/or Milner/Jones and/or Gerrard in central
midfield. The only option would be to sacrifice Milner or Jones in favour of playing Parker
with Gerrard playing in a supporting role behind Welbeck or Rooney. The ‘best’ option that
would allow some additional legs to feature with Parker and Gerard is a 4-2-3-1 or 4-3-3. It
may be that the absence of Frank Lampard will hold the key to Roy Hodgson’s tactical vision
for England at Euro 2012.
My guess and it is a real guess-up, is on a compromise 4-3-2-1 in the following notation:
Hart; Johnson, Jones, Terry, Ashley Cole; Parker, Milner; Walcott, Gerrard, Young, Welbeck/
All eyes were glued on the friendlies (especially v Belgium) ahead of the tournament proper
but the pace of change within the squad brought about by injuries means that only Hodgson
and his closest confidantes will have a good idea of how England will line up in their first
game v France.
If things go to plan: England will muddle through the group phase qualifying with a
win over Ukraine and a series of results where the scorelines are under 2.5 goals. New
heroes will emerge from the depths of the squad and the remaining old timers will use all
their experience to pace themselves and roll back the years. Hodgson will prove himself
a wily operator (as he did with the Swiss) and by the time the Quarter Finals comes
around everything will be up for grabs and England will be in a state of mass hysteria and
expectation – ahead of games against the big three in the betting.
If things go badly: England will be home before the postcards, possibly with just a facesaving win v Ukraine to console them.
Team Overview:
Key Players Within System (Defence): Ashley Cole is the one England defender whose
world class stature would make him a welcome addition to any side in the tournament.
Key Players Within System (Attack): Wayne Rooney looks like the whey-faced Liverpool
streetboy he would undoubtedly be if he wasn’t blessed with a sublime football ability and
the unbreakable will to win he was seemingly born with. Rooney’s looks and persona ensure
he is always compared unfavourably to the glamourous likes of Messi and Ronaldo but there
is no doubt he belongs in similarly exalted company. His suspension for the games against
France and Sweden is a major, perhaps fatal, blow to England’s chances in Euro 2012.
Weak Links Within System (Defence): Glen Johnson is a fine attacking full-back and a
defender prone to loss of concentration. In a new back four at Euro 2012, with Kyle Walker
absent, right back has suddenly become a problem position for England. The loss of Gary
Cahill (due to the lack of a compelling replacement) greatly undermines England’s back four.
Weak Links Within System (Attack): Danny Welbeck will be handed an onerous
responsibility if he is chosen to fill the not insubstantial boots of the suspended Wayne
Rooney for the games v France and Sweden. Four caps and 0 goals after a season where his
club side (Man Utd) threw away the title having been six points clear doesn’t look like the
right profile for a striker asked to shoulder the hopes of a nation (at least for two games).
Goran Trpevski says: Danny Welbeck is not an attacker of England quality - and will never
“The problem England will have in attack is that they have never had a player that
anticipates situations before they happen in the midfield. Modric, Iniesta and these types
of players in the Euro qualifiers all have that ability. The midfielders are way too predictable
and that’s the problem England have always had.”
He says: “England will never be able to dominate and control the better teams and they will
always have trouble breaking down the poor but organised teams because they lack truly
creative players.”
“The fact is, winning second balls, the one skill that England are good at, is out of date in
almost the entire football world today. It only exists in the UK and Scandinavia as a primary
objective for coaches. Everywhere else the priority is ball retention, possession and quick
ball circulation.”
Goran believes that England’s problems are fundamental and profound: “When England will
need to play football they will struggle because Roy Hodgson can’t teach them how they
need to play and they also lack the players to do so. Wellbeck or whoever is chosen will
struggle. Not because they are especially poor but because they won’t get service.”
Note on Goalkeeper: Joe Hart appears to have been around for ages since making his debut
in 2008. After 17 caps, 25-year-old Hart is either the best of a mediocre bunch or a brave,
agile young keeper with excellent handling, instinctive reflexes and reliable decision-making.
Manager Note: The biggest challenge for Roy Hodgson is to manage both the (increasingly
inexperienced) personnel at his disposal and also the national media as he looks to navigate
a period of transition. He will emerge from Euro 2012 either as a national hero or the
ultimate fall-guy – if only because these are the two dualities that England’s savage press
understands – and sadly, they are the only editorial positions that sell newspapers.
Over all Team Strengths: The most obvious strength is that England will enter the
tournament with less pressure than usual due to low expectations and the element of
surprise thanks to an unexposed manager at the helm.
Over all Team Weaknesses: There is a massive problem in the squad relating to the age and
experience profile of the personnel. There just aren’t enough quality 25-30 year old England
players capable of displacing the talented youngsters or the fading elder statesmen right
now. The loss of Rooney to suspension and Wilshire to injury is another major blow. Cahill,
Lampard and Barry are big losses too if only because their replacements lack credibility and
experience. Added to that, the meticulous Roy Hodgson simply doesn’t have enough time
to get his tactics established and he seems ill-equipped to make things work off the cuff by
charismatic means.
No discussion of England would be complete without referencing the perception gap that
exists between these players profile in the world of football and the relatively meagre reality
of their
Goran says: “Status is one thing in football - quality is another thing. We must understand
that people follow English football passionately. There are endless websites on English
football, we watch EPL highlights all over the world and we see a great goal from 30 meters
from Gerrard and it is favourably compared him with Messi etc. People still believe Beckham
was a great player, in Asia they think he is a god. The status of the English players has always
been huge and that has not helped them in general. With this hype you inevitably get false
Goran says that an objective look at the squad clearly shows the disparity between myth and
“Wellbeck is a Man U player and with that there is great, great status attached for sure.
But is he a better player than Soldado of Valencia? Is he a better player than Reus from
Borussia Monchengladbach? How many people watching The Premiership each week will
go “Reus who?”
Does Wellbeck have more quality than the Croatian Mandjukic of Wolfsburg?”
“Again, Andy Carroll: look at his status and look at his quality. He has great status with
limited football qualities. But he is English which means his value rises exponentially with
each goal he scores – why? Is it just because he is English? Now compare Carroll with
Athletico Madrid’s Falcao. There is no comparison. But people generally will not know Falcao
they will know about Carroll though because he plays for Liverpool and cost £35m.”
Goran says: “There is not another team in the world that have this level of distortion – a
massive gulf between status to the reality of quality. England’s status is 10+ but in terms of
quality they are 6-6.5 and this can’t be.....”
How do they concede their goals most often: An unfamiliar back four and new manager
could cause England problems with so little time to prepare.
How do they score their goals most often: Hodgson will have to prioritise defending in the
three weeks or so at his disposal and goals, as a consequence, could be hard to come by –
especially without Rooney’s inspirational contribution for the opening two games.
Keys to Victory:
1. Hodgson will have to win hearts and minds.
2. This new team will need some luck to build confidence and
3. It seems likely a new star (or two) will have to emerge from the
shadows – or Rooney will have to arrive like the cavalry from over
the brow of the hill just in time to save England’s tournament.
Mood In The Camp: It is difficult to see Hodgson as a popular choice as manager amongst
England’s Premiership elite. He will presumably be given the benefit of the doubt until the
end of the first game. Thereafter he will be a hero or villain and the squad will take their
cues from the press reaction. If the under-performing players need a scapegoat Hodgson will
be perfect for the role.
Recent form/Qualification progress assessment: England topped a weak-looking
group containing Switzerland, Montenegro, Wales and Bulgaria by six points under Fabio
Capello (before the Italian resigned over the (latest) John Terry affair.
Any Specific Player Comments: None
Summary of Their chances at Euro 2012: Getting out of the group and showing some
signs of progress would probably be a decent outcome for England. Goran says: “England
sides can’t pass the ball around like the Southern European teams can. They don’t know
how to rest with the ball. They lack technical ability. They play football in one tempo and
when they don’t have the ball they pressure for the sake of pressuring. This is not the way to
play successful tournament football.”
Betting Summary: Roy Hodgson will be forced to prioritise defending through a simple
lack of available time. That, and the suspension of Rooney, may mean England will score few
That defensive emphasis may also mean that England’s wide men don’t play too
progressively (and they may struggle for possession v France and Sweden). That means they
may not be in a position to win too many corners. Hodgson likes wide players and attacking
full backs generally but caution may overcome adventure if push comes to shove and that
may mean few corners attained.
An unfamiliar back four and defensive set-up could concede more corners than usual and
also free kicks in dangerous areas.
Croatia Euro 2012 Squad List And Team Notes
Team Name and Group: Croatia Group C
Coach: Slaven Bilić
Star player: Luka Modrić
History: 1996 (quarter-finals), 2004 (first round), 2008 (quarter-finals)
Best Price To Win Euro 2012: 50/1 (general)
Best Price To Win Group: 9/1 Coral, BetVictor
To Qualify From Group: 9/5 BetVictor
Not To Qualify From Group: ½ Blue Square
Fixtures: Sunday, June 10, Republic of Ireland v Croatia (Poznan, 1945), Thursday,
June 14, Italy v Croatia (Poznan, 1700), Monday, June 18, Croatia v Spain (Gdansk,
Coach: Win or lose Croatia coach Slaven Bilić will leave his post after the tournament to
pursue a career as club manager.
After announcing that he would be stepping down as Croatia coach following UEFA EURO
2012, Slaven Bilić announced has accepted an offer to take the reins at Russian PremierLeague club FC Lokomotiv Moskva.
The 43-year-old has led his national team since 2006 but will now embark on a new
challenge in Moscow, having signed a three-year contract with Lokomotiv. "There were a
lot of clubs who were interested in me from different countries," Bilić said before explaining
his decision to opt for Lokomotiv. "I met the president [Olga Smorodskaya]; she 'bought' me
with her plan, with her energy and her ambition for me to be in charge.
"Her plan is to get big results within three years," Bilić added. "It's a league where you have
seven or eight clubs with equal chances of winning the championship. It's a big challenge for
me and with my team I can do big things with Lokomotiv." It will be Bilić’s first experience in
club management aside from a short spell in charge of HNK Hajduk Split in 2001/02.
Bilić, who replaced Zlatko Kranjčar as Croatia coach in July 2006, is hopeful of achieving
something big with his country first. "Some people will say that I should or shouldn't say this
before the EURO. But I think it will be a plus for my players. We will have a great atmosphere
and with hard work I am expecting big things at the EURO."
And whatever happens to a Croatia side who face the Republic of Ireland, Italy and Spain in
Group C in Poland, he believes the future is bright. Croatia have been in the top ten in FIFA's
world ranking since June 2007 and Bilić said: "Whoever comes after me will inherit a good
team from me, a team who were in the top ten for the last five years. They have a balance of
youth and experience, and there's an excellent spirit. I am leaving my successor a top team."
Croatia have been drawn in the so-called ‘group of death’ with Spain, Italy and the Republic
of Ireland but Bilic is confident of progressing.
Bilic is relishing the challenge in typically robust, straight-from-the-heart fashion. “It’s the
cruellest tournament you can imagine,” he says, reflecting of the pedigree of the countries
“But I know we will prepare well and let’s just say I would be very disappointed if we didn’t
get through the group stage.”
The former defender took charge of the Balkan nation in 2006, following a two-year spell at
the helm of the Under-21 side.
Since then Bilic has established Croatia as one of the top international sides in the world
game, and in his first qualifying campaign the trainer sensationally masterminded two
victories against England to leave Steve McClaren's men out of Euro 2008.
Three wins from three in a group consisting of Germany, Poland and Austria, ensured the
Balkan side topped Group B and many had them as dark horses to go all the way to claim
their first major international title.
It was not to be, however. After a 1-1 draw with Turkey in the quarter-finals, the Eurasian
nation advanced to the last four, following a 3-1 penalty shoot-out victory.
Since then Croatia narrowly missed out on qualification for World Cup 2010. Still, Bilic
remains one of the most respected coaches on the international scene, which is hardly
surprising, considering his 67.8 per cent winning record, making him one of the most
successful bosses around.
After revenging their defeat to Turkey four years ago with a 3-0 aggregate victory in the
Euro 2012 qualifying playoffs, Bilic and his men will be heading to Ukraine and Poland this
summer and are faced with the unenviable task of trying to get the better of Spain, Italy and
the Republic of Ireland.
However, the coach is realistic and despite the difficulty his team face to reach the knockout
stages of the competition, he knows there is no such thing as an easy route to the latter
"I'm not saying it's more difficult to win than the World Cup, but at least in the World Cup
you can have a mixed standard of group. It's really hard this time around because apart
from the hosts Poland and Ukraine, the other teams really are the best 15 sides in the FIFA
rankings [in Europe]. You can't get an easy group."
Bilic admits his biggest challenge during the group stages will be against Spain, the reigning
World and European champions, but he believes there is hope for his team.
"I am quite optimistic. People talk about Spain but if you look at it, in Euro 2008 they
only beat Italy in the quarters on penalties and in the World Cup [in 2010], they lost to
Switzerland in the group, and struggled against Chile and Paraguay. If they play 20 per cent
below their level, you have a chance even if they will still create chances. But the bottom
line for me is that they're the best, the very best."
Croatia have also been drawn alongside another heavyweight of international football, Italy.
Yet despite their illustrious history, Bilic believes we are currently seeing an Azzurri side who
are different in style to their predecessors.
"Italy for me have made major changes. I didn't really watch them in qualifying but as soon
as I found out we were in the same group as them, I watched all of their games two or three
times, even the friendlies.”
"They're unbelievable. They're different to the sides which competed in 2006, 2008 and
2010. They play high-energy football and it's the same in Serie A with AC Milan, Juventus,
Napoli, Lazio and Udinese. Italy are a great side, not just good, they are great."
Many believe that if Croatia stand any chance of advancing to the last eight, they must bag
the full three points against Republic of Ireland in their opening group game, and the 43year-old is fully aware that Giovanni Trapattoni's side will be a difficult nut to crack.
"When you play against this Ireland side, there is a one per cent chance of a one-on-one
with the keeper. You don't get the chance to create many chances and they are dangerous
without having much of the ball."
When asked to pick out the dangermen for Ireland, there was only one player who sprung to
mind for the Split native.
"If you have to pick just one then you have to say Robbie Keane. He drops in the hole, he's
very clever and a great player in general. Keane is not only quality, he's a leader, he's the
Clearly, the former West Ham United defender was open to talk about a dilemma he faces
heading into this summer's European Championship.
"We have a very strange situation and not many teams have a situation like us. Modric, Srna
and Mandzukic, they have all played a lot of games, but some of the players aren't getting
much game time. Eight or nine have only started five or six matches this season - it's far
from ideal."
"I have my own opinion that formation is not important, what is important is the movement
of the whole team. Sometimes you can change the system during the game itself but usually
it doesn't do much."
So how does the coach think the Euros will go? Can Croatia realistically win the tournament?
Can they even advance past the group stage?
"I've told you before, Italy and Spain are two of the favourites for the tournament but
seriously, if you told me now 'you could get to the quarters but get knocked out' I'd say 'No,
thank you' because we are preparing to win Euro 2012.
"In 2008 we were that close [to winning]. It's tough, no one got to the Euros through the
wildcard. Every group now is very, very difficult. We have to believe. If we can stay fit and
clear of injuries, we have a chance."
Whether Croatia win the Euros or go out at the first hurdle, one thing is for sure: Bilic is off
to Moscow.
Bilic had been heavily linked with future moves to England and Germany as well as Besiktas
in Turkey. Overall though you would have to consider Bilic’s career status as a negative for
Croatia. He can’t but help but allow his mind to wander to his new role at The Euros and
the players too, will know they will likely get a clean slate when the new man comes in after
That is not to say these players want try their best, of course, but the motivation of the elder
(established) players may be less than usual. And that is especially worrying as there has
been much speculation as to whether or not Bilic has the wherewithal to bond a squad for
whom it is said, international football has become less of a priority than playing for their
wealthy clubs in Europe’s elite leagues.
Squad: Although the current side has some very talented individuals, the squad is unlikely
to repeat the success of 1998’s golden generation.
As Goran Trpevski suggests it is especially unfair to compare any Croatian sides to the crop
of 1998.
“That generation we will never see again from a country that has a population of barely five
million people. They could walk on water, in terms of ability, and they should have won the
World Cup in 1998. They only lost against France in the semis because of a stupid, stupid
error from Boban.”
What isn’t in question is the quality of this nation of very technical players – and that can’t
be emphasised enough.
Goran says: “Pranjic has excellent ability and (if he plays) he will be a very attacking left back.
There are not many more creative left backs than Pranjic in the world although the price you
pay with him is that he is a poor defender.”
“Corluka is a good defender. It’s not his fault that his teammate Walker at Spurs is simply
fantastic and it was no surprise when Corluka proved what a good player he is when Spurs
loaned him to Leverkusen. In midfield if they play with Srna, Rakitic and Modric, well that’s
super quality with the ball at their feet. Up front, Mandjukic for a big tall player is still more
than skilful enough too, a very intelligent user of the ball. He is certainly not an Andy Carrolltype targetman – a player that treats the ball like it’s a bomb and offers little to the side
unless he is scoring.
“There is also Krancjar and again, it’s not his fault that Van Der Vaart, is ahead of him in
Spurs’ pecking order and has had such a great season. Everytime he plays Krancjar shows us
the quality he has. With the ball he is very, very good he has a super touch and but for the
fact that he is slow he would be world class.”
Predictably, when Croatia coach Slaven Bilic announced his provisional 27-man squad for
Euro 2012 in May there are no major surprises ahead of the summer tournament.
The only real concern for the 43-year-old is the fitness of Dejan Lovren, who injured his foot
playing for Olympique Lyonnais in the club's 1-0 Coupe de France final win over Quevilly in
However, despite the knock, Bilic has opted to include the defender in his selection in the
hope he will recover in time to play in Poland and Ukraine.
Elsewhere, there is room for Nikola Kalinić and Ivo Iličević with the trainer toying with the
idea of selecting one additional forward in his eventual 23-man squad alongside his usual
frontline options of Ivica Olic, Eduardo, Mario Mandzukic and Nikica Jelavic.
Croatia have a warm-up friendly versus Estonia on May 25 before travelling to Oslo eight
days later to face Norway in their final fixture ahead of the tournament.
A tough group means that we are unlikely to see Croatia advance beyond the group stage
at this year’s championship. Unless Italy or Spain really under-perform, boss Slaven Bilic will
see his side battling it out with Ireland for the third place spot.
Croatia managed to upset Germany four years ago and top their group with three wins
but since then they have lost key leaders such as the Kovac brothers and former AC Milan
defender Dario Simic. Although Bilic has a side that appears competent going forward, it is
hard to see that a squad so similar to one that failed to qualify for the 2010 World Cup will
create any real dent in this summer’s tournament.
Croatia should provide the fans with glimpses of quality but they do not have enough star
names to trouble the bigger sides in the competition.
Bilic may be confident of his side’s progress but a side that play too slowly in their build-up
(create too much passive possession) are unpopular with the critics back home.
Tomislav Zidak of Jutarnji List is typical of the local Croatian journalists who have grown
bored of Bilic and his side.
“It will be a success if we get the third place in our group. Let’s face it we have no team, our
defence is powerless, we have an ineffective attack – unless Nikica Jelavic transforms himself
into Davor Suker. Otherwise, I think it is time to say goodbye to Slaven Bilic.”
Zidak is a controversial figure and our experts (and native Balkans) Goran and Skeeve. While
Goran broadly agrees with the sentiment expressed by the Croatian journalist ZIdak. Skeeve
suggests that what we have here is an old quote which is no longer relevant to the situation
Croatia find themselves in, not least, because he sees Nikica Jelavic in a far better light than
either Zidak or Goran does, rating him a decent prospect at international level.
Croatia as usual will go into the tournament as some people’s potential darkhorses and
others’ also rans. Of all the teams going into the Euros Croatia are a the one side least likely
to be middle of the road. As always with the Balkan nations, the combination of politics
(both internal and external), forceful personalities and a style of football that wears its heart
(and its strengths and weaknesses) on its sleeve creates a pretty volatile cocktail. How it all
plays out, you’d have to feel, is hard to say. However, there is no doubt that the opening
game v The Republic of Ireland will go a long way to setting the tone for the rest of the
Goran says: “Croatia certainly have nothing to fear from Italy and they won’t fear them. The
fact is, Croatia have never feared Italy. That’s why Bilic is unbeaten against Italy and why
Croatia have hammered them in the past. Even a look at the FIFA Rankings shows that Italy
don’t necessarily need to under-perform to be vulnerable to Croatia. And remember this is a
transitional Italy side under Prandelli.”
If Croatia turn their domination of possession into three points against Ireland then they will
have every reason to feel confident of progressing.
Click For Croatia Current Squad Details
Goalkeepers: Stipe Pletikosa, Danijel Subašić, Ivan Kelava, Goran Blažević
Defenders: Josip Šimunić, Vedran Ćorluka, Danijel Pranjić, Gordon Schildenfeld, Domagoj
Vida, Šime Vrsaljko, Dejan Lovren, Jurica Buljat, Ivan Strinić
Midfielders: Darijo Srna (c), Niko Kranjčar, Luka Modrić, Ivan Rakitić, Ognjen Vukojević,
Tomislav Dujmović, Ivan Perišić, Milan Badelj, Ivo Iličević
Forwards: Eduardo, Mario Mandžukić, Nikica Jelavić, Nikola Kalinić
Full Strength Team and Formation: 4-4-2: Pletikosa; Corluka, Lovren/Simunic, Vida,
Pranjic; Rakitic, Modric, Dujmovic (sitting), Srna; Olic, Mandzukic
System of Play: Croatia are set up as a front foot side (although they will be a counterattacking side against Spain). In both systems, Modric’s role is key in the transition from
defence into attack.
However, while the European critics repeatedly repeat the line that Modric is the only player
in the Croatia side with the composure to control the tempo of play for his side and that if
Modric is stopped then Croatia won’t play. Goran Trpevski takes a different view.
The former Malmo and Sweden U21 international says: “This isn’t a one man team. There
are a bunch of them in the Croatian midfield capable of dictating the play. Rakitic, Krancjar
and Modric can all impose themselves in midfield – and that will come as a surprise to many
– in Croatia and elsewhere. In this respect, Croatia’s creativity is being under-estimated.”
Against Italy and Spain, defence will be the name of the game. Srna (a right back for his
club Shakhtar Donetsk) is a right sided midfielder for Croatia, Dujmovic (Dynamo Moscow)
shields the back four, while Rakitic is a reliable creative midfielder he isn’t so effective when
asked to track back to defend. Under this system, other than through Modric, the attacking
impetus comes through the full-backs Corluka and Pranjic.
Against The Republic of Ireland, a game Croatia will seek three points from, the system will
switch to a 4-2-3-1. The back four will be as before with, Dujmovic and Vukojevic shielding
behind an attacking midfield trident of Srna, Modric and Mandzukic. Jelavic will be asked to
operate as a lone striker. Otherwise Eduardo can replace Mandzukic, either from the start or
from the bench to supply more attacking impetus.
Style of Play: Croatia’s critics see the side’s ponderous build-up and over-reliance on a
potentially exhausted Modric as a potential problem. Croatia’s transition play may not be
sharp enough to punish the likes of Spain and Italy on the break and they will need to move
the ball quickly (forward and side to side) to exploit any uncertainty in the Ireland defence.
Ahead of the tournament, Croatia look very pedestrian and potentially very predictable.
The squad may have grown stale after six years with Bilic at the helm, who may have lost his
authority within the squad.
If things go to plan: Croatia will outplay Ireland and avoid defeat against Italy and Spain to
qualify undefeated with five points.
If things go wrong: Croatia will get hustled against Ireland and the squad will implode in
the usual Croatian fashion. Modric has already spoken about the pressure associated with
playing Ireland first up and also the uncertainty arising from Bilic’s future plans. So much
depends on Modric’s condition and mindset and the quality of Croatia’s opening game
performance v Ireland.
Team Overview:
Key Players Within System (Defence) The vack four could stand or fall by the
availability of Olympique Lyonnais’ Dejan Lovren. You can see here why the former
Dinamo Zagreb defender has been on the radar of Liverpool for years. In a weakish back
four Lovren has more than a bit of Alan Hansen in his style of play. He is a rugged but stylish
defender: an important piece of the jigsaw for a Croatia side where the emphasis is too
much in favour of what these players do in possession rather than without the ball.
If Lovren doesn’t make it then his replacement is established but suspect. With 93 caps,
Josip Šimunić is by far the most experienced player in a back four where Pranjic is asked to
play out of position at left back.
Having started his career with Melbourne Knights in his native Australia, Šimunić moved
to Hertha BSC in 2000 after having fallen out with Hamburg coach Frank Pagelsdorf and
thereafter become an integral member of a team enjoyed occasional forays in the UEFA
Cup. At the end of the 2008–09 season, Šimunić was named the best central defender in the
Bundesliga by Kicker magazine.Hertha finished in fourth place that season, with a defence
that conceded only 41 goals, tied for third in the league with VfL Wolfsburg.
After nine years with Hertha, he left the club on 30 June 2009 to sign with TSG Hoffenheim
on a season-long contract. On 31 August 2011, the board of Dinamo Zagreb confirmed
signing of Šimunić on a free transfer in a contract that expires on 30 June 2013. Šimunić
boasts great experience but it remains to be seen whether or not this is a tournament too
far for the 34-year-old.
Key Players Within System (Attack): The success (or not) of Croatia’s challenge at the
Euros seems almost wholly contingent on the performance of Luka Modrić, for whom a
slight physical appearance belies an iron will and genuine resilience. All Croatia’s play will
go through the Tottenham No. 10 and the playmaker is using this stage as the platform
to evaluate his options in the transfer market, ahead of the new season. Modric was
apparently subject to a £40m Chelsea bid at the start of the season but perhaps Modric will
fancy the challenge of La Liga after Euro 2012. Bilic has said he will use a specially formulated
rehabilitation program to ensure that his talisman is fresh and fit for battle after a long hard
season at White Hart Lane.
Weak Links Within System (Defence): 23-year old Domagoj Vida is back at Dinamo Zagreb
after failing to make the grade in The Bundesliga (with Bayer Leverkusen). With just 8 caps
Vida is the most inexperienced player within the back four. Vida is strong and physically
determined but occasional lapses of concentration, especially marking opponents could let
him down.
Weak Links Within System (Attack): Nikica Jelavić may have played himself into contention
for a lone role against The Republic of Ireland but despite a good start to his Everton career
with eight goals in 12 games but the suspicion remains that Jelavic lacks the quality required
for international football. The ex-Rangers frontman is a good all-rounder (in the air, finishing,
with his back to goal) but there is no one area of his game which is completely top class. A
record of two goals in 18 games for Croatia does not inspire great confidence.
Note on Goalkeeper: The 33-year old has been capped 90 times for Croatia. It is a haul
that as much reflects a lack of competition for the goalkeeper role. Profoundly religious,
Pletikosa wears a virgin Mary t-shirt beneath his goalkeeper’s shirt and regularly holidays
in a monastery. There are some notable failures in his club career (at Shakhtar Donetsk and
in trials at Celtic and Wolves) but he rarely, if ever, lets Croatia down. That said, Pletikosa
doesn’t quite inspire confidence either....
Manager Note: As a towering, uncompromising central defender, Slaven Bilic began his
career with hometown club Hajduk Split, winning the Croatian domestic double in 1992
before moving abroad to German club Karlsruhe.
Having joined West Ham for a club-record fee in January 1996, he represented Croatia at
EURO '96 and helped the team to the quarter-finals; two years later, as an Everton player, he
won a FIFA World Cup bronze medal as Croatia finished third in France.
After ending his playing career at Hajduk, he briefly took charge of the team before
launching his coaching career in earnest with the Croatian U21 side.
Slaven Bilic stepped up from the U21s to become the senior national side's coach in July
2006 and masterminded the team's successful qualification for UEFA EURO 2008, where, as
the youngest coach in the tournament, his team's progress was halted only at the quarterfinal stage with a penalty shoot-out defeat by Turkey.
Despite Croatia's position as seeds in their 2010 FIFA World Cup qualifying group, he could
only lead them to third place and elimination. Announced he would stay on for the UEFA
EURO 2012 qualifiers and guided them to the finals with a notable play-off win against
Bilic showed how to play away from home with a 4-4-2 in the 3-0 play-off defeat of Turkey
and he will employ similar tactics at the Euros. Bilic ordered his players to sit deep, then
break quickly down the flanks through the wide players (Srna and Rakitic). Bilic also paid
close attention to Turkey’s spare midfielder, Inan, and dropped one or both strikers close to
him whenever Croatia lost possession. The work rate of the front two (Olic and Mandzukic),
the directness of Srna and the discipline of Dujmovic were also vital in a game where Turkey
were admittedly very poor and failed to create a single chance.
Over all Team Strengths: A team of imaginative players that are expressive in possession
will make themselves tricky opponents and they will gain an extra edge if Srna (pinpoint
setpieces and willing running on the right) and Modric (the side’s inspirational No. 10), hit
Over all Team Weaknesses: A weak back four – especially if Lovren misses out could be
Croatia’s Achilles Heel.
How do they concede their goals most often: Croatia and have been solid in qualification
but they showed a weakness clearing their lines, and marking at corner kicks in a 2-0 defeat
by Greece last October. Against, Israel (see below) they also failed to close down a shot from
the edge of the area.
How do they score their goals most often: Croatia’s goals are likely to come from the
exquisite boot of Luka Modric (shooting from distance) or supplying the ammunition for his
strikers on the counter attack as you can see from these typical highlights: Croatia 3 Israel
1 6th Septemeber 2011. Srna and Rakitic also fire in excellent, accurate free kicks from
anywhere around 20-25 metres out. Don’t be surprised to see either of these players scoring
from a direct free kick.
Keys to Victory:
1. Modric must be fresh and fit.
2. Croatia need to concentrate and react quicker in defensive
situations (especially setpieces).
Mood In The Camp: So far so good within the squad but the Croatian media are keen
to see the back of Bilic. Boredom has set-in with Bilic’s reign lasting six years but as usual
with the press, the calls for change (which the press will now get) are motivated by a
desire for new personalities to write about rather than any sense that the manager is
underperforming. Croatia are 10th in the FIFA rankings and have been in the top ten for a
number of years. That is a phenomenal achievement for a country with a population of 4.5m
people. The Croatian press and fans should be careful what they wish for....One possible
split in the camp could emerge between ambitious Dinamo Zagreb players looking to use the
tournament as a springboard to a transfer abroad and those already at foreign clubs who
have allegedly lost interest in representing Croatia. Bilic must motivate this latter group by
reminding this older generation that this is their last chance of international success but will
the players’ lesson if, as suggested they have grown bored of Bilic’s message?
Recent form/Qualification progress assessment: Rather bizarrely, Croatia finished
second to Greece in Group F. The group also contained Latvia, Malta, Georgia and
Israel. A 3-0 aggregate play-off win over Turkey suggested that Croatia can do what
is required, when needed.
Any Specific Player Comments: Slaven Bilic says: "I will wait for both (Tottenham
midfielder) Niko Kranjčar and (Lyon defender) Dejan Lovren until the last day.
"If Euro 2012 was to start in a week Lovren would not make it," Bilic said stressing
the 22-year-old was "extremely important" to Croatia.
"Kranjcar is recovering extremely well and I'm a big optimist," the coach added.
Ivica Olić has been ruled out of the tournament and replaced by Nikola Kalinić. Slaven
Bilic had earlier placed Kalinic on alert as a first-choice reserve if any of his forwards
suffered an injury and the former Blackburn Rovers striker should have litte trouble
fitting in after scoring in Croatia's 3-1 friendly win over Estonia on May 25.
Summary of Their chances at Euro 2012: Croatia qualified to play in Poland with a
very slick 3-0 away defeat of Turkey in the second game a two-legged play-off that
followed a 0-0 in the home leg. Croatia finished two points behind Greece in Group F
(a group that also included Israel, Latvia, Georgia and Malta).
Betting Summary:
Croatia could struggle against quick attackers due to a lack of pace at the back.
Setpieces may also cause problems for Croatia through weak concentration and marking.
Expect most of the action to come after the first half hour. Croatia like to build up the play at
an often plodding pace. They will likely not make many chances early on.
Croatia’s lack of pace and the back, lack of solidity at setpieces and quality on the break
themselves could lead to open games with a decent likelihood of two goals or more.
Croatia could be vulnerable to conceding corner kicks if they are leading against Spain at any
stage or drawing against the same opponents late on.
Accommodation Analysis - Holland
The Dutch will base themselves at the Sheraton Krakow Hotel in Poland and train at Wisla
Krakow’s modern Reymana Stadion. So far so good, but three round trips of 1,446 miles at
time to their three games in Kharkiv, Ukraine (Denmark, Germany, Portugal), seems like a
needless hurdle for notoriously tetchy Dutch players to overcome. The travelling equates
to six flights from London to Stuttgart over the course of three group games in eight days. A
punishing schedule for seasoned business travellers, never mind footballers carrying knocks,
scrapes and pulls around a pressurised cabin.
Note: The travel miles sacrificed for excellent training facilities in Krakow (4,338 miles) looks
like a price that maybe won’t be worth paying in terms of the stress it will place on tired
Dutch limbs at the end of a hard season.
Referee Analysis - Wolfgang Stark
In January 2011, the German football magazine Kicker asked 286 professional Bundesliga
players which referee was the worst of the first half of the season (2010-2011) and most
answered Wolfgang Stark.
The 42-year-old, motorbike loving, bank employee from Erdoling, is like a lightning rod
attracting conflict.
After the Champions League match Valencia - Internazionale (0 - 0, March 8th 2007) a fight
broke out among the players. Stark, who had already had to deal with a set-to between
Ibrahimovic and Valencia's keeper Cañizares couldn't do much more than stand-by timidly as
the players – and also the substitutes and staff sat on the benches formed a mass free-forall, pulling and pushing each other, some of them throwing punches. The penalties handed
down by FIFA after the match were severe and ranked from short suspensions to a seven
month's ban for Navarro.
After a play-off match for relegation in 2012 between Hertha and Dusseldorf, Hertha players
entered Stark’s dressing room and assaulted him. Hertha player Levan Kobiasjvili tried to hit
Stark who ducked and got a fist in his back.
Perhaps as a result of all the fuss he generates, Wolfgang Stark has been taking charge of
Champions league group stage matches since 2001 but did not seem to ever get the biggest
games. He was: “Almost-top elite for a long time, always one step behind county men like
Merk and Fandel.” But in 2009 with Merk retired and Fandel injured he finally got his chance
and was assigned a semi-final (only for Jose Mourinho to impugn his impartiality as ‘a Messi
Wolfgang Stark took charge of three matches in the 2010 World Cup and he was one of the
most experienced referees selected for the Olympic Games in Beijing 2008.
Still going strong in 2012, Stark was selected for the European Championships over his fellow
country man upcoming ref Felix Brych.
Stark is renowned as a charmless ref with a blank but nonetheless angry expression. He will
insist a freekick is retaken when a ball moves slightly yet he will equally miss the fact that the
ball has been moved 10 yards from the spot where an infringement initially took place.
Stark can’t be all bad though. He earned perfect 10s for his handling of a 2011 Champions
League Semi between Real Madrid v Barcelona .
It seems fair to suggest that Wolfgang Stark probably becomes a better referee the bigger
the occasion – which is good news for the Euros.
Totals: Home Away Total
9 21
15 27
175 238 413
Averages: Home Away Total
0.11 0.08 0.19
0.11 0.14 0.25
1.61 2.18 3.79
based on 109 international matches
Key Match Analysis - Spain v Italy
In the past these games, between two giant football nations, would have been seen as 50-50
games – too hard to call. At certain times Italy were even seen as favourites in the betting.
How times have changed. Even 10 years on this is not even close to a big game between two
well-matched sides.
The balance of power has shifted massively to the point where one team is wholly superior
to the other. One team will only look simply to limit their opponents and feed of any scraps
themselves while the other team will dominate for 90 minutes, start to finish.
Make no mistake, on a football level, Spain are in a totally different galaxy to Italy.
One ray of hope for the Italians is that Spain come into this tournament with their best
attacker out (as well as their captain Puyol).
Having been out since breaking his leg in the World Club Cup in December, David Villa of
Barcelona won’t make it and that’s a massive blow for Spain.
With all respect to Soldado of Valencia and Negredo of Sevilla they are simply not even
close to Villa.
As an alternative, Bilbao’s, and maybe soon to be Man City’s, Llorente is a player I like but he
brings different things, namely, 1.95cm in height and a lot of muscle. Villa is 1.75cm in height
and built for speed – you simply can’t compare these two.
Fernando Torres if he is selected to play will be a mistake as he comes from nine disaster
months and as they say one swallow (in his case a breakaway goal v Barcelona for Chelsea)
doesn’t make a summer. Torres is definitely not back to anything like the form that could
justify his inclusion.
The fact is this though, when you have the Iniestas, Xavis,Silvas, Matas, Munians and so on,
then it becomes easy.
But wait, what about Italy. Surely they also have these types of players and these types of
characteristics in their squad?
The answer is an emphatic: ‘no’.
So, why do the midfielders in Italy all have different and inferior characteristics to the ones
that Spain have?
Well, consider De Rossi? Motta? Marchisio? Nocerino? There isn’t one Spanish player with
these characteristics.
The reason is cultural. It’s because in Spain they want above all things to dominate with the
ball while in Italy they will say “We want to win: whatever it takes”. As philosophies these
two are poles apart.
Of course, that makes Italy dangerous opponents in one sense – but Spain would have to
drop their levels a massive amount to be anywhere near a level playing field situation with
Italy in this game.
Football though, is the game it is because there are so many ways to win: many of them
You can dominate, control the game, counter attack, play poorly and win yet still win due
to a moment of inspiration. Or, you can just be flat-out super-lucky (like Chelsea v Bayern
Munich and Barcelona in the Champions League). There is not one way to win in football
there are many ways. So Italy are not without a chance. A deflection, a slip, a red card and
penalty award, sometimes that is all it takes to decide a game.
But let’s dial that thought back for a minute.
In this game we will have one team dictating the tempo of the ball and the tempo of the
game. Whether it will be fast or slow will be wholly down to Spain and what they decide.
Italy, regardless, will play deep and try to hit on the break. This would not be a problem if
Italy were Moldova or Luxembourg. But if you are Italy, with everything that goes with that
in terms of trophies, history and status it’s kind of embarrassing to play this way – even if
you have to.
Here is Italy’s gameplan in a nutshell: they will just sit and wait and hope for the best. Maybe
a break will come their way, maybe not. If not then it is damage limitation time.
I see Spain having some 60-65% of the ball (as long as Spain don’t score early).
Shots on goal and corners will also be in favour of Spain. Probably heavily so.
Both team use zonal marking with Spain setting the back line higher up the field. One worry
is that Spain miss a push up and Di Natale (if he is selected) sails through them (and you aint
catching Di Natale if he slips away from you).
Other than that the situation comes down to the physical qualities of the respective
midfields. Pirlo, De Rossi and Motta will face simply much better and creative players in
Iniesta, Silva, Xavi and Munian (or whoever else plays in Spain’s midfield). The speed of
many of the Spanish midfielders (both physically and mentally) will be too much for the
slow-motion midfielders that Italy have. Pirlo, De Rossi and Motta can all pass the ball five
or 25 yards, can hit a decent shot from distance but they don’t have the legs in their side
to play modern football. Italy’s midfield won’t be able to express themselves because they
won’t see enough of the ball. Apart from Di Natale slipping the net, to break against the high
Spanish defensive line, the best chance of a goal for Italy could come from a setpiece with
Puyol out injured (and Pique seemingly out of sorts), or a speculative shot from distance –
especially from Pirlo or De Rossi.
For the sake of football
When these sides play, I will always say, for the sake of football let’s hope Spain win.
Italian football and Serie A in particular is in denial. Their league football is horrible (so much
so that their top teams would struggle to get into the top four in the Premiership). Half
empty stadiums, crowd trouble, grim, calculating football. In a recession, no wonder Italian
fans stay away.
However, even so why can’t a country with a 60 million football-mad population not bring
up more and better creative midfielders than in this Italy squad? Croatia, in the same group
have a talent pool of 4.5m-5m people yet they have Modric a world class playmaker and a
conveyor belt of serious players in each successive generation. Croatia also have a higher
FIFA Ranking than the Italians who were World Cup winners in 2006. Slaven Bilic, Croatia’s
boss, also never tires of telling anyone that he has never lost to the Italians as a manager.
How can that be the case? Make no mistake, Italy are serious under-achievers.
Surely, Nocerino and Marchisio are not the best Italy can do when they have that population
advantage? With so many potential players to choose from it is incredible if that is the case?
As I say, the dominant culture has created the cancer in Italian football. In Italy they will do
anything to win, but this beautiful game is about much more than just winning or losing.
A country like Italy, with Italy’s football history, should lead the way. They should show us
new stuff, dominate (or at least try). They should not hang on the ropes like an exhausted
bum fighter and play for time once they are ahead.
In this game I see a scared and very calculating Italian team and that will have implications
for the game.
Italy will have few corners and few attempts on goal (probably around five corners
maximum and the same number of shots on goal).
Spain will have 60% of possession or more.
The tempo of the game will be conditioned by the score. Spain will dominate at a high
tempo as long as the score is tied. If they go ahead I would expect them to drop off the pace
a bit – especially so as this is the first group game and they will want to pace themselves and
ease themselves into the tournament.
That said, Spain could still be good value to win by more than one goal (2-0, 3-1) as their
players are far superior. However, unless Italy score in this match I would say the chance of
over 2.5 goals is not that high. Spain might be content to rest in possession, especially with a
two goal lead.
Italy will look to a well-drilled defence and world class keeper in Buffon to frustrate Spain
and keep Italy in the game right up until the 90th minute. In this context, it might be
preferable to back Spain in running after 25 minutes once they have drifted a little from the
current price of around 5/6. That will also give you a chance to view the set-ups of both sides
and note the tempo of the game before making your (hopefully better informed) decision in
Alternatively, consider backing the first goal in the game to come after 25-30 minutes, there
should be a decent spread of prices and times on offer around the 10/11 mark. However, if
Spain start like a train they could easily surprise Italy and score early – and this is a bet you
would have to place prematch. As such, there is a bit of additional risk assessment required
although the team line-ups should give a clue as to how tight the first 25 minutes will likely
If Spain fall behind in the game expect them to rack up a series of corners as they chase
an equaliser and then another goal to take them ahead in the game. Bet 365, Sportingbet,
BetVictor will all be running multiple corner markets (such as the first team to five corners
etc). Sportingbet, BetVictor and others will also run lines on the number of Spanish and
Italian corners in the game. If Italy go ahead, Spain will massively dominate the corners
totals as they attack to get back on top in the game.
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