Aston Villa Keeper Given Should Retire And Other Things We Learnt From Day Eleven

Another defeat for Ireland, another disappointing performance from Given. Meanwhile Croatia and Mandzukic impress in their narrow defeat to Spain.
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Another defeat for Ireland, another disappointing performance from Given. Meanwhile Croatia and Mandzukic impress in their narrow defeat to Spain.

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Euro 2012: Aston Villa Keeper Given Should Retire And Other Things We Learnt From Day Eleven

Spain Aren’t Good Enough To Win It

Going to go out on a limb here and say that for all the fawning over the embarrassment of riches this team has, especially in midfield, they are lacking in some key areas and have been made to work a lot harder than they should this tournament. Forget the 4-0 against the Republic of Ireland who have looked like an amateur pub team in comparison to the other teams in attendance. The facts are Italy, had they started with Di Natale, would have beaten them and Croatia had all the better chances tonight.

Whether it’s the fact they are lacking a truly clinical striker, or whether after long seasons some of the greats in midfield have gone off the boil a bit, but in reality it’s only Iniesta and Fabregas that have looked like delivering what they can. The cloud of gloom and media attention surrounding Torres hardly gives him the confidence he sorely needs and Del Bosque seems happy to knock him down whenever he gets chances, preferring midfielders to him.

Certainly this does not look like the same team that cruised to a World Cup two years ago and had Croatia buried one or two of their gilt-edged chances they’d already be out of the tournament. I don’t know who it is that will knock them out but someone will. They simply don’t look strong enough on the pitch to go all the way.

Certainly this does not look like the same team that cruised to a World Cup two years ago ... I don’t know who it is that will knock them out but someone will.

Croatia Are A Much Better Side Than People Suspected

When drew in their group people looked at the twin giants of Italy and Spain and didn’t really think about much else. The opening game between Republic of Ireland and the Croatians was dubbed as the battle of the wooden spoon but in reality they showed there was a huge gulf between the two sides. A draw, which could have been a lot more, against Italy reinforced that they were a force to be reckoned with and in an alternate universe – one where refereeing decisions weren’t presided over by Howard Webb and their strikers finished from chances inside the 6 yards box – they went through as top of the group.

Certainly they didn’t give Spain an easy ride and in their resolute defending and energetic counter-attacking style they have probably given the next team to play them – potentially England – the blueprint of how to win. They shut out almost everything they threw at them, limiting them to half chances at best, and it was only at the death when it went wrong, the defender’s tired legs and over-reaching attack giving Spain the space they needed to finally walk it into the net with a goal that will likely spark more debate about the offside ruling.

Slaven Bilic will no doubt feel aggrieved about the nature of the exit and he has a good case. However no one from Croatia, or indeed the neutral, will hold him or his players accountable. They were good, just not quite good enough and just needed that dash of “luck”, an non-existent quality that can ultimately be summed up as people doing their jobs properly, both inside and out of the Croatian camp.

He simply never wanted to give up possession and his strength on the ball and ability to play in those around him were a key asset in the Croatian campaign.

Mario Mandzukic Is Tailor Made For Premiership Football

You could probably say that about any player coming from the Bundesliga these days but Mario has looked like he would be a great fit for whichever Premier League side lands him in the Summer. Against Spain he played through the pain barrier, being clattered by Ramos on a recovering injured foot, to really give his side a chance of a great upset.

To say he was the best player on the park in terms of quality would be an out and out lie. He wasn’t. However, there were few who worked harder and if Spain had an equivalent they would likely have carved out more chances from their superior possession. Take for example his acrobatic, stretching volley just to keep a ball from going out for a throw in. He simply never wanted to give up possession and his strength on the ball and ability to play in those around him were a key asset in the Croatian campaign.

He signs off with three goals in three games played, a decent return, but more impressive than his strike rate will be the manner in which he worked hard for his team. Players with such an ethic go on to be fan favourites and at just 25 it could well be that some Premiership team lands themselves a future hero.

Players with such an ethic go on to be fan favourites and at just 25 it could well be that some Premiership team lands themselves a future hero.

Mick McCarthy’s Should Stay Out The Commentary Booth

Mick McCarthy’s commentary is like a big meal on a hot day – hard to stomach and almost guaranteed to make you drowsy. His sombre monotone drones on in the background like the shipping forecast read by Paul Whitehouse doing his best impression of someone who is proper Yorkshire and that.

Of course, this might be forgiveable if he could bring some insight to the proceedings. Instead he simply takes every opportunity to point out how soft foreign players are, talking about how they make a meal of everything, or stating the obvious – “he would have wanted to do better there” he says as a player misses an open goal from three yards out.

Here’s to hoping that he is given a job sometime again soon.

Please Shay let us remember you as we should without two or three years in some terminal decline before you decide to call it a day.

Shay Given Should Retire

As a Newcastle fan I’ve nothing but fond memories of Shay, one of football’s great characters. No-one begrudged him his move to Man City when he left. We all wanted him to win something, even if it had to be elsewhere, because he deserved it and was one of the best keepers in the league. Then injury and the emergence of younger talent conspired to turn his title chasing dream into a horrific slog at the bottom end of the table with Aston Villa.

After a season playing football under Alex McLeish you would forgive anyone for taking some backward steps in their career but to see Shay Given struggling like this for the Republic of Ireland has been nothing short of tragic. Flapping at balls he would usually first away with confidence, not quite able to get down as quick as he used to, he was never the biggest and without his agility he is becoming a liability.

He has talked about retiring from international duty but on this showing he might want to extend it to club level as well. At 36 he should still have miles on the clock but the mistakes he’s making now, with increasing frequency, are only going to tarnish a name that should be synonymous with excellence. Take up punditry, take up the horses… Whatever it has to be but please Shay let us remember you as we should without two or three years in some terminal decline before you decide to call it a day.

Italy Are A Good Outside Bet

Somewhere between the talk about haggard genius Pirlo and the petulant huffing of Ballotelli, the press seem to have overlooked that the Italian side are actually looking a lot better than many thought they would when they came into the tournament.

Understandable really. A transitional squad that looked a bit ropey in qualification and a manager, in the form of Cesare Prandelli, who seemed just a bit too nice to have what it takes to juggle all those massive egos. Yet since getting to the tournament their performances have suggested a lot more than the scorelines have, brilliant in patches but seemingly incapable of sustaining it for a full ninety minutes.

This might be a fitness issue, it might simply be a matter of reacquainting themselves with serious international football but they have already shown against two good teams they have what it takes to beat anyone… Even if they did that without actually beating anyone. Regardless they have a squad that on paper could be in the final and with players starting to raise their game at the right time there’s something about them that suggests they might be the team that upsets the odds this time around.

Funny how it happens too because with the match-fixing allegations and corruption scandals plaguing their national game, what better way to alleviate their collective woes than with a surprise tournament win? Don’t say it couldn’t happen…

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