Italia 1 - Spain 1
Thanks to Cesare Prandelli for making everyone (including me) look stupid. And thanks to Vicente Del Bosque for cooperating. Prandelli's unorthodox 3-5-2 formation crowded Spain's midfield, and clogged up their tic-tac-toe passing game for most of the 90 minutes. Also helped that Spain added to the crowded midfield by playing NO forward strikers and SIX midfielders. Weird. I'm pretty dumb when it comes to such tactical thingies, but common sense told me that was a really strange move.
Really proud effort from the Azzurri, for the most part (sans Mario Balotelli). While the clampdown defence was prototype Italy, they also had a good share of the ball, and created a few quality chances of their own. Andrea Pirlo's leading ball that set up Antonio DiNatale's goal was a beauty, and the finish was just as nice. Daniele DeRossi was a beast in his new "sweeper" role, and Chiellini and Bonucci were solid on the 3-man back line as well. I gotta think DiNatale gets the start ahead of Balotelli against Croatia after that woeful "effort."
Spain had a beauty of a goal as well, with David Silva setting up Fabregas shortly after Italy went ahead. The lead was fun while it lasted. Oh, well. 3 points woulda been huge. I'll take the tie. I gotta think Croatia and Ireland won't fair as well.
Great game for objective footie viewers, I imagine. A couple of mini dramas as one would expect (Thiaggo Motta, Sergio Busquets), but not nearly as much of that gamesmanship as you woulda expected going in. Fernando Torres came on late, and sucked. Fabregas whined about the pitch after the game.
Croatia 3 - Ireland 1
As well as Italy played, Croatia had the best day of the Group. Sure...it was against the worst team of the group, but ask the Netherlands how that went for them in Group B. With Italy and Spain on deck, it was a must 3 for Croatia and they took care of business.
Another great game for viewers, sans the dickhead in the stands with fake ref whistle. Lots of chances, and another great atmosphere from the crowd. Mario Mandžukić was the man up front for the Cro with 2 headers that hit the back of the net. He'll be the force up front that Italy didn't have to contend with against Spain. The fan in me wants to say Gigi Buffon stands a better chance against both of those goals than Shay Given.
Stick the fork in Ireland.