Aycliffe Today Sports Editor and Newton Aycliffe FC reporter Glen Robertson continues his daily Euro 2012 blog…
DAY SEVEN REVIEW
Italy 1-1 Croatia
Croatia kept up their unbeaten record against the Italians as Mario Mandzukic’s second-half equaliser earned a deserved point. The brilliant Andrea Pirlo had opened the scoring for the Italians, curling in a first-half free-kick from 25 yards out.
Pirlo had ran the show in the first half, but Slaven Bilic moved Luka Modric further forward into the second, moving him closer to the Italian playmaker and therefore reducing his influence.
It now leaves Italy needing to beat Ireland in their final game – and hoping Spain versus Croatia doesn’t end as a 2-2 draw – if they are to reach the knockout stages.
Spain 4-0 Ireland
Ireland become the first side to be knocked out of the tournament, as they were tore apart by Spain. In truth, it was to be expected.
The Irish rely on the likes of Robbie Keane, Shay Given and Richard Dunne – players who have all seen better days. They were up against a side who could afford the luxury of bringing on the subs Cesc Fabregas, Javi Martinez and Santi Cazorla.
Fernando Torres re-found his mojo, clinically taking his two chances and further goals from David Silva and Fabregas consigned the Irish to a heavy defeat. Ireland came into the tournament with one of the meanest defences in Europe. They have now conceded seven goals in two games.
DAY EIGHT PREVIEW
It’s a Friday night and the pubs will be even more rammed than usual as England take on Sweden at 7.45pm, in a game that will make or break the tournament for Roy Hodgson’s boys. But before then it’s France against Ukraine (5pm).
The French need a win after a draw against England in their opener. Should they lose, Ukraine will be in the quarter-finals. If they win, they’ll have one foot there themselves.
Andriy Shevchenko will aim to replicate his heroics from Monday to carry on Ukraine’s fairytale, but France should get their first win of the tournament and create an intriguing last round of fixtures in the group.
Game of the Day – England vs Sweden
England need to win. If they draw again, they could face the scenario of having to beat the host nation, on their own turf, in a winner-takes-all affair. Lose, and they may as well ask the Irish to save a few seats on their flight home.
Sweden were very poor against Ukraine in their opener. The defence looked like statues, which should suit the direct running of Danny Welbeck and Ashley Young. But in Zlatan Ibrahimovic, they possess a player of the highest class, capable of winning a game by himself.
Key Battle: Zlatan Ibrahimovic versus Scott Parker
England should be able to score against the Swedes. What will decide the game is whether they can keep Ibra out. The AC Milan striker plays a different role for his country than he does for his club. He will be playing just off the striker and pulling the strings. John Terry or Joleon Lescott will be needed to compete with Ibrahimovic in the air, but as he drops deep in open play, Scott Parker will need to get close.
Parker is a very limited footballer, but what he does well is hassling and harrying the opposition. He will have to be at his very best to prevent Ibrahimovic taking charge of the game.
Bets of the Day: Danny Welbeck first goalscorer versus Sweden 7/1
France to beat Ukraine 2-0 7/1