Euro 2012 TV Schedule: Predicting Quarterfinal Tilts Between Groups C and D

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Euro 2012 TV Schedule: Predicting Quarterfinal Tilts Between Groups C and D
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Now that we got group play out of the way, we get to enjoy the ultra-competitive, nail-biting matches that come in the knockout stages of the 2012 European Championship.

Groups C and D have two of the most intriguing tilts in the quarterfinals between longtime European powers both on the pitch and in world affairs.

Here you'll find evaluations and predictions for both quarterfinal matches between the top two teams from Groups C and D.

 

Spain vs. France

When and Where to Watch: June 23 at 2:45 p.m. on ESPN 2

Spain and France meet in a battle of two of the oldest European football powers.

The French will be coming off a tough 2-0 loss to Sweden in their final match of group play. Laurent Blanc and company backed into the quarterfinals, and had to rely on an England win to reach this point. After 23 matches without suffering defeat, Les Bleus suffered a potentially momentum-killing loss to the lifeless blue and yellow on Tuesday.

Spain seems to have hit its stride at the perfect time. After a disappointing draw against Italy in the opener, La Roja trounced the Irish by a 4-0 score. Vicente Del Bosque's side notched a bit less convincing 1-0 win over Croatia to clinch the Group C crown, as Jesus Navas scored the only goal of the match with two minutes remaining.

Player to Watch for France: Franck Ribery

Ribery has been adequate for the French side through most of this 2012 European Championship, but adequate is not what Les Bleus faithful have come to expect from the 29-year-old Bayern Munich star.

He was denied from close range on two separate occasions against Sweden on Tuesday. He was shut down by Andreas Isaksson first, and couldn't get France on the board. Later on, he went on a break with Karim Benzema but had his shot deflected wide.

If Ribery is unable to turn his play up against Spain and work cohesively with Banzema and Samir Nasri, there's no way that the French are going to see the semifinals of this tournament.

Player to Watch for Spain: Fernando Torres

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Spain knows what it is going to get out of Andres Iniesta, Xavi Hernandez, Xabi Alonso, David Silva and Sergio Ramos, but Fernando Torres has been his usual unpredictable self in this tournament so far.

Torres hardly played in the team's opener against Italy, coming on as a substitute in the 74th minute before being booked 10 minutes later. He was brilliant against Ireland, though, scoring in the fourth and 70th minutes to lead Spain's rout. Torres was largely invisible against the Croatians in Spain's final match of group play and was taken out in the 61st minute.

We've seen two versions of Torres in this competition. If Spain can get the goal-scoring version, they'll have no problem in their quest to repeat at the Euro.

Prediction: 2-0 Spain

France's loss to Sweden won't bode well for Les Bleus as they head into their match against the Spanish juggernaut. Spain has figured out their game plan after pundits were claiming that other teams had devised a blueprint to defeat La Roja.

No quarterfinal matches will be easy, but Spain has the mismatch in this one.

 

England vs. Italy

When and Where to Watch: June 24 at 2:45 p.m. on ESPN

England heads into this matchup rejuvenated after winning the final two matches of group play against Sweden and Ukraine. After playing to a draw in the opening game against France, the English didn't have a problem advancing against lesser opponents.

A win against Italy would be a step in the right direction toward making the fans at home forget about their team's recent failures in major tournaments.

Italy did exactly what it had to do to make it to this point, and nothing more. Cesare Prandelli's side scored a draw against Spain in its first match of the tournament, which was a real confidence booster for the Azzurri. The second-match draw against Croatia was disheartening, but the Italians bounced back with a convincing 2-0 win over Ireland to send themselves into the knockout stage.

They didn't win the group, but find themselves with a very fortunate matchup against England.

Player to Watch for England: Wayne Rooney

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In his first game back from suspension, Rooney found the back of the net on a header just three minutes after the break to give the Three Lions a 1-0 lead that they wouldn't relinquish.

He didn't play especially well in this matchup, nor did England as a whole, but well enough to win is well enough to win. 

Rooney needs to be more involved against Italy if the English want to move on the the semifinals, and can do so by getting the ball at his feet more often. If England is out-possessed against Italy as badly as they were against Ukraine, Rooney and company are going to have a hard time coming away with a win.

Player to Watch for Italy: Mario Balotelli

The enigma that is Mario Balotelli has become that much more confusing in the 2012 European Championship. 

He was simply awful against Spain in the opener. After being slapped with a yellow card 37 minutes in, he was removed in the 56th for Antonio Di Natale, who scored the equalizer. It was more of the same against Croatia, playing 69 minutes before being lifted by Prandelli for Di Natale again.

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Against Ireland, he played just 16 minutes, but scored possibly the goal of the tournament in the 90th minute to stretch his team's lead to 2-0. If he can do anything like what he did in the closing minutes against the Irish, we're going to see a completely different Italy.

Prediction: England 2-1

This one is definitely going to be close, with the deciding goal most likely coming at the back end of the second half, but England will find a way to pull it out.

Rooney's return definitely gave the Three Lions some much needed confidence, and they will be able to start the Roy Hodgson era off on the right foot with a semifinal birth in the 2012 European Championship.

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