Player of the day- Jordi Alba

Spain and Italy are the next two teams to qualify for the knockout stages and eliminated Croatia and Ireland in the process.

Ireland were already out of the competition but they were still looking to win their final game however they were beaten 2-0 by Italy which put a lot on the other game as both Spain and Croatia could have went out. Antonio Cassano and Mario Balotelli scored the goals and sent them through in second place.

Spain as expected had most of the ball in their game but Croatia easily had the best chances and should have had a penalty. Ivan Rakitic should have scored with a header from a wonderful cross from Luka Modric but he sent it straight at Iker Casillas in the Spain goal. The Spanish did not look confident when defending crosses and Vedran Corluka was clearly being fouled as he jumped up for a header late on but the referee missed. However, Corluka should have scored anyway but it hit his shoulder and went agonisingly over the bar. In the last few minutes substitute Cesc Fabregas chipped a lovely ball through to Andres Iniesta who squared for Jesus Navas to tap in. But, this wasn’t the end of Croatia because if they had scored they would have went through knocking out Spain in the process but they couldn’t really create a clear chance.

Man of the match- Jordi Alba- It was difficult to choose a man of the match because of how well Croatia played and if they had managed to find an equaliser then Luka Modric and Gordon Schildenfeld would have been in contention. But I am giving it to the Spain left back who made countless attacking runs and looked more like a winger than a fullback. Spain weren’t at their best with their main players such as David Silva and Andres Iniesta only being on the edge of the game for the most part and with Xabi Alonso and Xavi not being able to find a killer pass. For me the left back looked most likely from the players that started the game to create something and even though his defending at times wasn’t the best, he managed to make a few important interceptions. As said, it was his attacking intent that impressed me and it just shows in the stats, he made 19 successful passes in the attacking third.

Alba has been linked with a number of clubs this summer including Barcelona and Manchester United

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Players of the day- Luka Modric and Fernando Torres

Ireland were the first team to be knocked out of Euro 2012 after they were beaten by Spain which leaves the rest of the group wide open.

The first game of the day saw Italy take on Croatia and the game was very interesting as in my opinion it was the most tactical game so far. Both teams lined up the same way they did in their first group matches and they were very evenly matched for most of the game with nobody taking real control. However, Italy were slightly more dominant in the first half and took the lead through a fantastic free kick from the very impressive Andrea Pirlo. The midfielder controlled the half and mad Italy tick and is at the moment my pick for player of the tournament. The second half was different as Croatia came back into it and managed to get more dangerous crosses into the box and it was Mario Mandzukic who profited from one of these balls as he scored his third of the tournament. The game finished 1-1 and both teams know that a victory is needed to make sure they qualify for the next round.

Man of the match-Luka Modric- The Tottenham Hotspur midfielder was clearly not put off by the news that Harry Redknapp had left his club side as he dictated play and when he was needed most by Croatia he answered the call. In the second half in particular he grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck and made sure his team got an equaliser. He is a remarkable player that can find space anywhere on the pitch and he was the only one that looked like creating anything. It seemed that he realised that the threat was coming from the left and he made sure left back Ivan Strinic had the ball as often as possible to put a cross in so it was fantastic awareness from him.

Modric has been at Spurs since 2008

Spain destroyed Ireland 4-0 and they dominated from the first whistle to the very last. Ireland conceded early yet again which basically ruined any chances they had of coming away with something from the game. Fernando Torres scored his first with a powerful effort that Shay Given possibly could have done better with. David Silva then scored early in the second half with a clever finish and Torres added another with a confident finish. Substitute Cesc Fabregas finished off the scoring but he was helped by the Ireland defence who by this time were out on their feet.

Man of the match- Fernando Torres- He showed today that all teams (except Barcelona) need a central striker to put the ball in the back of the net. Against the Italians, Spain seemed to just want to pass the ball one more time before shooting and this allowed the opposition to get blocks in and last ditch tackles. But in this game within four minutes he showed just how clinical he can be. Simply he adds something different to the side, he wants to run in behind and he isn’t looking for little one twos, he just wants to be given a through ball so he can shoot. This tournament could be where his career gets back on track and now he is off and running it wouldn’t surprise me if he finished top scorer.

Torres with the World Cup in 2010

Close to the end for Shay Given?

Shay Given has been one of the best goalkeepers in Premier League history but now it seems that he is acknowledging the fact that he is about to be overtaken by younger players. In recent interviews he has been showering Tim Krul and Joe Hart with praise which could suggest that he knows his time may be coming to an end or is he just pleased that his former clubs are succeeding especially in the position he played.

He is still a fans favourite at Newcastle and was given a warm reception by the fans when his current club Aston Villa played there recently. But maybe now with Tim Krul emerging as one of the best performers this season the Toon fans will have a new goalkeeping idol. Krul has played a big part in Newcastle’s season pulling off some fantastic saves at vital times, keeping his side in the lead or at least in the game. Rightly so he is getting praised by Given but I think Villa fans should be getting worried as he has started talking to the media more and working with the media and could therefore be looking to end his career soon which I believe would be premature as he is still an outstanding goalkeeper and has a lot to offer the Premier League. Yes, Krul may have had a better season than him so far but that’s not to say he is having a bad season and is still as consistent as ever.

With the European Championships coming up soon, Given will be hopeful for a successful tournament as this may well be his last opportunity to play at a major international tournament. He was number 1 for Ireland at the 2002 World Cup where they performed admirably and were unlucky to get knocked out. He has also captained the side on many occasions and this is a reason why he has been talking about Joe Hart being the England captain for the tournament. The Manchester City goalkeeper would obviously love to play as many games for England as Given has for Ireland and if he does, he should definitely be considered for the role but in my opinion it is too early in his career.

I really like Shay Given and I hope he is going to continue his career for another few years at least and follow the example of Brad Friedel and hopefully play until he is 40. He comes across very well and one day should be a very good goalkeeping coach if he chooses to take that route after he retires but he may be more interested in a career in the media as his recent interviews have suggested. If you ever need a goalkeeper analysed surely there is nobody better than the most consistent player in the Premier League, he never makes a mistake and was at the time harshly frozen by Roberto Mancini at Manchester City but as this season has proven maybe Shay Given is starting to slip down the league table of goalkeepers. However, Aston Villa can count themselves very lucky that he is their player.