thumbnail Hello,
Live

European Championship

  • 14 June 2012
  • • 17:00
  • • INEA stadion, Poznań
  • Referee: H. Webb
  • • Attendance: 37096
1
FT
1

Live Commentary

  • With that, it's time to wrap up. Some excellent comments from you guys - feel free to hit me up on Twitter via @woodstome for more post-match chat. Coming up next on Goal.com - the little matter of Ireland versus Spain. Be sure to join us then.
  • I have to say, I think Howard Webb called the majority of his decisions right today. Couple of soft free-kicks, but those were 50-50 calls in reality. All things considered, it's hard to find too many complaints about that result. But I'm sure both sets of fans can find some.
  • And here's Michal Zachodny from the Municipal Stadium: "It will be a very interesting press conference as Howard Webb is confronted by Croatians at the final whistle. They have several complains to make, especially for the late free kick decisions he made."
  • Here's Goal.com's Mark Doyle at the final whistle: "Desperately disappointing result for the Azzurri. This was a must-win game and the three points were there for the taking after a terrific first-half showing. However, they completely lost control of the game after the break and are now in the rather unenviable position of needing a victory over Ireland to progress. This is not the situation that the Azzurri wanted to find themselves in given they have yet to defeat the Irish since Giovanni Trapattoni took the helm. Once again, though, a lack of concentration has cost them dearly and Prandelli now has some interesting selection dilemmas ahead of their final fixture, most notably up front."
  • Croatia earn a very deserved point after an excellent, aggressive showing in the second half. In the end, it could have got worse for the Italians, who ended the game playing on their nerves. Slaven Bilic's are now in a great position to qualify for the quarter finals, while the Azzurri have it all to do against Ireland. Their fate may now be out of their own hands.
  • That, indeed, is that. Full time here is Poznan. ITALY 1 - 1 CROATIA.
  • 90' + 6'
    Bonucci loses the ball during a charge forward, and suddenly Croatia have a chance! But Eduardo takes too long in releasing the ball, allowing the defence to get back and make a block. That might be that.
  • 90' + 5'
    ...and Pirlo's kick doesn't beat the first man. After all that, Andrea...
  • 90' + 4'
    Substitution Mario Mandzukic Niko Kranjcar
  • 90' + 4'
    Mandzukic is taken off by Bilic as a precaution, and replaced by Niko Kranjcar. Free-kick to come...
  • 90' + 3'
    We're still waiting for the free-kick, as Mandzukic is down nursing his ankle after a heavy, but fair, challenge from Chiellini moments ago.
  • 90' + 2'
    Free-kick to Italy on the left touchline. You never know...
  • 90' + 1'
    Italy might have run out of ideas, as Pirlo runs into two Croatian challenges on the edge of the box. It's all hands to the pump now in the Croatian defence.
  • 90'
    There will be 5 minutes of added time here. Largely due to the flares I think.
  • 90'
    Ivan Strinic has impressed me in the second half. The right back has kept Giaccherini very quiet, and has whipped in a succession of dangerous balls. His latest effort is well held by Buffon.
  • 88'
    Giaccherini fires a long ball forward, and Di Natale is just offside as he looks to run through on goal. The Udinese man is rightly frustrated - there were inches in that.
  • 87'
    Not for the first time today, Ognjen Vukojevic goes down in apparent agony, after being clipped by Giovinco. The discipline of both teams seems to have gone somewhat.
  • 86'
    Yellow Card Gordon Schildenfeld
  • 86'
    The kick comes to nothing, and ends in a free-kick to Croatia as Marchisio jumps unfairly with Modric. Italy are running out of time...
  • 85'
    Gordon Schildenfeld responds to that pace by blatantly fouling Giovinco on the right wing. Italy have a chance to create something here...
  • 83'
    Substitution Antonio Cassano Sebastian Giovinco
  • 83'
    Substitution Nikica Jelavic Eduardo
  • 83'
    The Azzurri respond with a change of their own. Antonio Cassano comes off, and is replaced by Sebastian Giovinco. A lot of pace and creativity in the Italian attack now. Wonder what sort of use they can put it to.
  • 83'
    Croatia make a change, with former Arsenal striker Eduardo replacing Jelavic. Another attacking threat for Italy to think about.
  • 82'
    Croatia really could steal this - Italy seem to be all over the place. If Nikica Jelavic's pass was just a little tighter, then Mandzukic would have had a clear sight of goal. If Croatia win this, remember, they are into the quarter-finals.
  • 81'
    We're inside the last ten minutes. One team will be quite happy with this result. The other will not.
  • 80'
    Yellow Card Riccardo Montolivo
  • 79'
    That's a clear foul, and a booking, for Montolivo, who jumps elbow-first into Mandzukic in a dangerous area. The free-kick builds to a dangerous chance, and Modric floats a cross just beyond two Croatian players that were sneaking it at the back post.
  • 78'
    Slaven Bilic looks pretty pleased with himself, and well he might be. Croatia have carried the game to their opponents in the second half, and what a strong position they will find themselves in if things stay like this.
  • 76'
    That's a worthy attempt from Montolivo, who hits a vicious strike from long distance that Pletikosa saves smartly. Italy will need to go up a gear or two if they are to get the result they so desperately need here.
  • 75'
    Comment from Goal.com's Mark Doyle: "Italy looked to have weather the Croatian storm at the start of the second half but they're now rocking after Mandzukic's equaliser. It has to be said that Italy have paid the price for a rather subdued second-half half showing thus far. They've just not shown the same initiative. In addition, it comes as no surprise that Chiellini is to blame. He's looked a liability all evening. For the second game in successionn, Italy have lost a one-goal lead. This will be another tough test of their character."
  • 74'
    That goal sets the final 15 minutes up very, very nicely. Croatia have grown and grown in the second half, and Italy look to be on the back foot. The introduction of Di Natale may shake things up, but that remains to be seen.
  • 73'
    Croatia attack again, but I can't see what's going on, as the players disappear into the smoke of another flare. Play has to be paused again. Well done fans.
  • 72'
    Assist Ivan Strinic
  • 72'
    Goal Mario Mandzukic
    GOOOALL CROATIA! In the end, it's a mess at the back from Italy. Giorgio Chiellini mis-judges a cross from the left, and the ball drops behind him for Mario Mandzukic, who takes a touch before blasting in off the post. We're back level, and the goal had been coming. ITALY 1-1 CROATIA.
  • 70'
    Substitution Mario Balotelli Antonio Di Natale
  • 68'
    Substitution Ivan Perisic Danijel Pranjic
  • 68'
    Another substitution, and I think a lot of you would have called this. Mario Balotelli is withdrawn, and Antonio Di Natale is on. Let's see if he can have a decisive effect for the second match in a row.
  • 67'
    Croatia make a change, with Bayern Munich's Danijel Pranjic coming on in place of Ivan Perisic, who has been kept quiet by Maggio for the vast majority of this game.
  • 66'
    Croatia are stringing some nice passing moves together, and Luka Modric's presence is certainly growing. Manly defending from Italy at the moment, but they won't want to go much longer surrendering possession like this.
  • 65'
    Juventus fans everywhere hold their breath as Gianluigi Buffon rushes off his line. Thankfully for them, he is able to reach a loose ball just ahead of Mandzukic, and blasts the ball to safety. Nobody mention Lecce...
  • 64'
    Some analysis from Mark Doyle: "Croatia certainly carrying a greater attacking threat now that Modric has been pushed into a more advanced role, just in behind Jelavic. Indeed, the Tottenham Hotspur man has already looked more menacing in the opening 15 minutes of the second half than he did in the entire first half. Italy are still reasonably comfortable but their passing hasn't been as good since the break and they've dropped a tad too deep. They need to reaffirm their superiority and it is no surprise that Prandelli has decided to change things in midfield by bringing on Montolivo in place of Thiago Motta."
  • 63'
    Substitution Thiago Motta Riccardo Montolivo
  • 62'
    Thiago Motta isn't going to continue here. The PSG man is withdrawn by Prandelli, and in his place comes new Milan signing Riccardo Montolivo. Straight swap from the Italians.
  • 61'
    Croatia break, but don't get very far, as Modric mis-controls the ball and ends up handling it. The Spurs man looks less than pleased with himself.
  • 60'
    Close from Balotelli, who hits a swinging shot from long range that zips about a foot over the top. Sooner or later, something is going to go for the Italian no.9...
  • 59'
    It's all happening now. Thiago Motta is lying prone after being absolutely clattered by Srna. There didn't look to be anything malicious in the Shakhtar player's challenge, but an elbow to the head is an elbow to the head. Hopefully he will be able to continue.
  • 57'
    The smoke has cleared from Michal's eyes, so he can now give us an update on that flare incident: "Two flares thrown on to the pitch by Croatian fans from just front rows and there are no actions from stewards. The only ones who rush to calm their own fans down are Srna and Vukojevic."
  • 56'
    Yellow Card Thiago Motta
  • 56'
    We're back underway, and Croatia win a corner. Thiago Motta is engaged in a wrestling match Jelavic, and the PSG man is booked for the offence. Stupid yellow to concede.
  • 55'
    There's a momentary pause in the game, as some genius fans decide to set off a flare on the left hand side. Buffoons.
  • 54'
    It's offside, but that is another GORGEOUS ball from Pirlo, who dinks a first time ball through to Maggio, who had strayed just beyond the last man. In the Pirlo vs Modric debate, there has been only one winner so far today.
  • 53'
    Chance wasted by Croatia, as first Perisic can't connect with his header, and then Ivan Rakitic bends a follow up cross out of play. Sigh.
  • 52'
    Jelavic makes a run down the left and wins a corner off De Rossi. Chance for Croatia...
  • 51'
    From Michal Zachodny inside the stadium: "Huge ovation for Pirlo as he goes to take a corner and you can feel how grateful Italian fans are for his fine performance so far."
  • 50'
    An ambitious effort from Leonardo Bonucci, who hits a strike from 35 yards and sees the ball deflected behind for a corner. One time in a million does that go in. Ivan Strinic easily clears the corner.
  • 49'
    That, however, was a lot better. Jelavic brings the ball forward and Modric is again in space. He has options left and right, but chooses to go for goal, and fires a piledriver just over the top. That's twice as many chances in this half than he had in the entire previous half. Croatia will be hoping for more of the same.
  • 48'
    That is the definition of a daisy cutter from Modric, who works himself a yard of space around 25 yards out but doesn't trouble Buffon with a slow, dribbling strike. It may not be the Tottenham man's day.
  • 47'
    Nice touch by Jelavic on the edge of the Italy box, as the Everton striker brings the ball down before feeding Mandzukic. However, the Wolfsburg man's ball is poor, finds nobody in red and white, and runs through to Buffon.
  • 46'
    3....2....1.... And here we go.
  • The teams are back out for the start of the second half. According to UEFA's official countdown, we still have 30 seconds to wait...
  • OK people, score predictions. How do you think the second half is going to pan out? The next goal could be all important, for my money. But which way is it going to go?
  • Michal Zachodny is perhaps less so: "Schildenfeld looks very, very sloppy today, making easy mistakes and misjudging the ball as well, allowing Cassano and Balotelli to create chances. If he is not going to pick his game up in the second half, surely then Italians will finally take advantage of his nervous decisions."
  • More thoughts from Goal.com's Mark Doyle, who appears pretty satisfied with that first half performance: "The Azzurri have dominated possession and a significant chunk of the game has been played in Croatian territory. Giaccherini still looks slighly suspect, having been caught too far forward just before the break, while Chiellini's is flirting with disaster with his shirt-pulling antics. De Rossi also just needs to be careful he doesn't try to get too clever when in possession. But that was a damn fine half from Italy."
  • Some interesting observations coming in via our chat box. Noticed a lot of you are happier with Balotelli's performance today. Has he justified his team selection?
  • Looking at the stats in our match centre, Italy deserve to be ahead, wouldn't you say? With over 56% possession, the midfield three of Pirlo, Marchisio and Thiago Motta has been running things, with Modric unable to get a look in. If things stay like that, you'd fancy there will only be one winner here.
  • Here's Michal Zachodny's take on proceedings: "Andrea Pirlo has given a masterclass, but he is given so much space that it is no surprise he can do whatever he wants on the pitch. Rarely tackled or even bothered by his opponents, Pirlo delivers. Modric is in his shadow, though there were at least few good passes from Spurs' playmaker."
  • Here's some half time analysis, first from Goal.com's Mark Doyle: "The opening goal of the game may have come from a free-kick but Italy's lead is thoroughly deserved on the balance of play. They have been much better in possession and far more menacing from an offensive perspective. There can be no denying that the goal had been coming, with Marchisio having been twice denied by Pletikosa just moments before Pirlo curled the ball just inside the Croatian goalkeeper's post. Sublime technique from the pass master."
  • Howard Webb blows the half-time whistle. It's been a tight game, but Andrea Pirlo's moment of brilliance divides the teams. It's a goal worthy of winning any match, but Italy will know that any lapse of concentration will let Croatia right back into this. Second half action is just minutes away.
  • 45'
    One final effort from Croatia, as Rakitic bursts forward but can't trouble Buffon, who saves his low strike easily. Croatia have gone a bit flat since going behind, and may need a change of approach in the second 45 minutes.
  • 44'
    Risky business from Daniele De Rossi, who tries to turn Jelavic three times on the half way line before running into trouble. The Roma man battles his way through, but had he lost the ball, Croatia had three men up in attack. Prandelli won't want to see that again.
  • 43'
    Modric gets a rare touch for Croatia, and it's back on the half-way line. A sign of the excellent job this Italian midfield is doing to keep the no.10 quiet.
  • 42'
    Very nearly 2-0! It's that man Pirlo who creates yet again, as his corner is headed powerfully goalwards by Antonio Cassano. It's just over the top, but Italy are buoyant now, and could extend their lead before the half time whistle is blown.
  • 40'
    Well, in a game as tight as this, sometimes you need a spark of pure genius. And that is exactly what Andrea Pirlo has just provided. Italy have been on the back foot for parts of this first half, but now look like going into the break with a lead.
  • 39'
    Goal Andrea Pirlo
    GOOAAALLL ITALY! Sumptuous free-kick from Pirlo! From the corner of the box, the midfield maestro curls the ball expertly up, over the wall and into the bottom corner. It's a fabulous effort. ITALY 1- 0 CROATIA.
  • 38'
    Italy win a free-kick on the edge of the box...
  • 37'
    HOW DID THAT NOT GO IN. A delightful ball from Pirlo releases Marchisio, and he must score! But the midfielder fires straight at Pletikosa, and from the rebound, the keeper makes an excellent sprawling stop. Should be 1-0 Italy, but credit to the Croatia keeper there.
  • 36'
    And here's another man down, as Mandzukic goes down under a tame challenge from Leonardo Bonucci. Get up man...
  • 35'
    Now what's happened there... Ognjen Vukojevic has gone down clutching his face after an aerial challenge involving Vedran Corluka and Cassano. Didn't look to be anything in that...
  • 34'
    From Goal.com's Mark Doyle: "Italy have looked a little more vulerable in the last 10 minutes, particularly down the left-hand side, with Srna starting to cause some problems in behind Giaccherini, whose positioning and defensive deficiencies were always likely to come under greater scrutiny against a side with genuine width. Chiellini is also proving something of a concern. After being rolled by Jelavic early on, he was very fortunate to get away with a sneaky pull on the Croatia No.9 in the area. Ominous."
  • 32'
    Italy win a corner, as Marchisio attempts to fire through a pack of bodies. Pirlo's kick is cleared, but as the ball comes back at Croatia, Cassano is suddenly in. The number 10 is at a tight angle, but still gets in a dangerous shot that flashes across Pletikosa's goal. Nobody at the back post to follow up for Italy.
  • 31'
    Luka Modric has been pretty much marked out of the game so far, as is having to come over to both wings in order to see any of the ball. Effective bit of man-marking being executed from Italy.
  • 29'
    That is lovely from Antonio Cassano. The Milan player twists Gordon Schildenfeld this way and that as he jinks into the area, before failing to make a decisive pass and allowing the centre back to get in a tackle. Delightful play prior to that though.
  • 28'
    Bit of a waste there from Italy. Balotelli does well to shield the ball on the edge of the box, then finds Marchisio, who attempts to thread a cute ball through to Giaccherini. The two Juve players weren't on the same wavelength though, and the ball runs harmlessly out of play.
  • 27'
    Croatia can't take the opportunity, as Srna's kick is cleared for a corner, before Perisic heads tamely at Buffon from the resulting kick. Croatia are starting to get on top though.
  • 25'
    And there is an example of why that isn't such a good thing. Giaccherini hoists a terrible clearance up into the air, and in trying to win the ball, jumps all over Darijo Srna to concede a free-kick.
  • 24'
    I think it's also fair to say, also, that the Italian back three does not look anything like as comfortable against this Croatia side as it did against Spain. As proof of that, Maggio and Giaccherini are doing a lot more defending than they had perhaps expected to do.
  • 22'
    This is very end to end. Mandzukic and Jelavic are causing plenty of problems inside the Italy penalty area, but as soon as the Azzurri win possession, they break like lightning. Thiago Motta, in particular, looks likely, and is very close to picking out Balotelli with a dangerous sweeping ball forward. Excellent entertainment.
  • 21'
    Here's Michal Zachodny from inside the stadium: "You can see why Cesare Prandelli went with Balotelli again, despite his awful performance against Spain. His movement suits very well the style of football Italy is playing, and especially with Cassano, there is a decent partnership in the making. Or rather it could be - Balotelli's decisions leave a lot of space for improvement..."
  • 20'
    Another chance for Croatia! Jelavic is inches away from connecting with another dangerous low cross, but he can't quite connect in the way that he'd like and Buffon is able to gather the ball. Moment of warning for the Italians.
  • 19'
    Now, is that a penalty? The ball is whipped in from the left by Perisic, and Chiellini looked to tug back Jelavic as he went for the ball. Howard Webb gives a free-kick the other way, but I'm not so sure.
  • 18'
    There's a sign of Croatia's aerial threat, as the Balkan defence wins the first, second and third ball from a Pirlo corner, before winning a free kick. Some very strong defending on show from both sides so far.
  • 16'
    Some further thoughts from Goal.com's Italy expert Mark Doyle: "Very encouraging start from the Azzurri. They look solid defensively and competent in possession. Maggio is getting forward at every opportunity down the right-hand side, while Marchisio is looking menacing. Cassano is also drifting wide to good effect and Balotelli has already had two openings. The only negative is that Chiellini received a talking-to from referee Howard Webb for bundling over Jelavic, as the Juventus man is carrying a booking from the first game."
  • 15'
    Great strike from Balotelli. The Man City forward comes deep to receive a pass from Cassano, and unleashes a ferocious shot at goal. It's straight at Pletikosa, but the veteran keeper still does well to beat the ball to safety.
  • 14'
    Just as Michal types that, Andrea Pirlo picks out his first glorious pass of the match, finding Balotelli from 50 yards. Lovely stuff.
  • 13'
    From Michal Zachodny: "The biggest worry before the game among Croatian journalists was not whether Slaven Bilic will or will not wear his magic woolen hat, but how his team will cope in the middle were they are clearly outnumbered. Even though it seems that Pirlo's early passing is sloppy at times, Vukojevic is unable to handle Marchisio and Motta on his own and expect even more space for them just in front of Croatia's back four."
  • 12'
    Perisic is again back to defend well against Maggio, who had been looking to link up with Cassano on the right. Could it be Croatia have set out a little more negatively than their first match?
  • 10'
    Another wasted chance from Balotelli, who takes too long to get his shot away after being found by a superb Cassano cross. Claudio Marchisio almost makes amends with an absolute thunderbolt from the rebound, but it whistles just over the crossbar. Plenty of attacking verve on show from the Azzurri, just no end product just yet.
  • 9'
    From Michal Zachodny: "Early nervous moments as Chiellini is apparently hit by Mandzukic off the ball and that makes the Italian bench react. But Prandelli seems to be more angry at how long it took his defender to play the ball and what he risked by that, rather than the foul Howard Webb gave."
  • 8'
    On that point, it's interesting to see how deep Perisic is playing on the Croatian left. Clearly, the Dortmund midfielder has an agenda to watch Christian Maggio, who made so many dangerous breaks forward against the Spanish.
  • 7'
    The same can't be said of Croatia, as Ivan Perisic slices a Cassano cross over his own crossbar. Pirlo's corner kick is easily cleared, however.
  • 6'
    There's the first sign of Croatia's aerial approach, as a deep cross from the right finds Mandzukic, who is well marshalled off the ball. Croatia win the ball back, and another cross finds Jelavic, who attempts an ambitious overhead kick that runs straight through to Buffon. Good defending from Italy.
  • 5'
    There are a lot of empty seats inside the stadium, you know. Couldn't anybody get out of work?
  • 4'
    More from Michal inside the stadium: "This is the first match in Poland that gaps in the stands are so visible. Not a surprise if you saw the numbers of touts outside the stadium. Croatians came in large numbers but the same cannot be said about Italians. Outnumbered and out-sang... will it be the same on the pitch?"
  • 3'
    First chance for Italy to get forward, and it should have been a goal. Giorgio Chiellini strides forward before playing in Giaccherini on the left. His cross finds Balotelli, who turns sharply before firing just wide of Pletikosa's near post. Should have hit the target.
  • 2'
    Frenetic start to the match, with the ball staying in the air for much of the first 30 seconds. Finally, Ivan Rakitic gets the ball down, and we can begin properly.
  • 1'
    Italy to get us underway. Here we go...
  • It's home colours all round, by the way, so azure blue for Italy, and red and white checks for Croatia. Kick-off is MOMENTS away.
  • Some strident singing from Italy during ‘Il Canto degli Italiani’ (The Song of the Italians). Buffon, in particular, has his eyes closed almost in prayer. The atmosphere is palpable.
  • And here are the national anthems. Croatia are first up with ‘Lijepa nasa domovino’ (Our Beautiful Homeland).
  • The teams are on their way out, led by the referee, England’s very own Howard Webb.
  • From Michal Zachodny inside the stadium: "Pletikosa, Srna, Corluka and Modric - from Croatia's starting line-up - took part in the 2-0 win in friendly over Italy in 2006. Modric scored, as did Eduardo who starts on the bench today. That was also Corluka's debut for the national team. Memories."
  • Here's one thing you can rely on from Balotelli. Calmness under pressure. So calm was he when through on goal against Spain, that he slowed to a casual walk. Who doesn't need that in high-pressure situations like this?
  • That comment from Bilic appears to have been clearly said for effect, given that the two players occupy very different areas of the pitch. Nevertheless, the Azzurri defence will certainly concede that is a player capable of causing just as many problems for them as Iniesta, Silva or Fabregas managed for Spain.
  • Key to today’s outcome, almost without doubt, is Tottenham’s Luka Modric. The playmaker was afforded the freedom of this Poznan pitch by Ireland last time out, and consequently dictated every attack. Bilic claimed this week that Modric is at least equal to Italy’s own talismanic midfielder, Andrea Pirlo.
  • Could this be an unlucky omen for the Italians? With coach Slaven Bilic having already agreed to take over at Lokomotiv Moscow after the tournament, there appears a relaxed mood in the camp, with the players keen to give their coach a memorable send off. World beaters they may not be, but Croatia remain a side that needs to be taken very, very seriously.
  • As Goal.com's Alex Mott points out - "Italy's only success against Croatia happened 70 years ago, in 1942." Indeed, since gaining independence in 1991, they not lost to Italy, winning three and drawing two of their five meetings.
  • Not too much love being shown for Mario Balotelli so far. Granted, Di Natale had an excellent impact from the bench, but at 34 years of age, could be really be expected to do the same for 90 minutes? I'm unconvinced.
  • That 1-1 draw with Spain, though lacking in goalmouth action, was arguably game of the tournament so far in terms of technical skill. Prandelli will have been very encouraged by the attacking promise of his 3-5-2 formation, which seems clearly modelled on the Juventus side that has just completed an unbeaten, title-winning Serie A campaign. There are six Juve players in the starting lineup here, and if they can maintain that domestic form during this tournament, then there are very few who will be able to stand in their way.
  • So here we are in Poznan, home of Lech Poznan, and of course, THE Poznan, for what could be an all-important fixture in the outcome of Group C. Croatia sit top of the pile after one game, and a win today would put the Balkan side through to the quarter finals. But despite having made mincemeat of Ireland in their opening fixture, Slaven Bilic’s men are likely to find it tougher going here. This is an Azzurri side, lest we forget, that outplayed world and European champions Spain for long periods in their last match.
  • It's a good point Mark raises. For all their tiki-taka, Spain presented little physical threat to the Italians - but it's something the Croatian side has in spades. Having not played against a recognised striker in the last game, makeshift centre back Daniele De Rossi now finds himself up against two proven goalscorers in Jelavic and Mandzukic. How he copes there could be all important.
  • Let's get the views on that Italy lineup from Goal.com's Italy expert Mark Doyle: "Well, in the end, Prandelli has once again decided to trust in Balotelli. It is a significant show of faith in the 21-year-old striker, who was dropped from the squad just four months ago because of his “agitated” behaviour. Balotelli has long been convinced of his star potential; now it’s time to convince the rest of the footballing world. Thiago Motta deserves another run-out in the midfield three in spite of patchy display in Gdansk, on account of his physicality and aerial ability, both of which could come in handy in this evening's contest."
  • CROATIA (4-4-2): Pletikosa; Srna, Corluka, Schildenfeld, Strinic; Rakitic, Vukojevic, Modric, Perisic; Jelavic, Mandzukic
  • ITALY (3-5-2): Buffon; Bonucci, De Rossi, Chiellini; Maggio, Thiago Motta, Pirlo, Marchisio, Giaccherini; Cassano, Balotelli
  • For Croatia, Mario Mandzukic and Nikica Jelavic keep their places after both finding the net against the Irish. Captain Darijo Srna wins his 93rd cap at right-back, putting him two behind the veteran Josip Simunic, who has to settle for a place on the bench once again.
  • Time for some TEAM NEWS. Both sides are unchanged from their previous outings, so Cesare Prandelli keeps faith in the colourful pairing of Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano in the Italian attack. Both had made a case to be dropped this afternoon, Balotelli for his glaring miss against the Spanish, and Cassano for his now infamous comments to the media on Tuesday. Daniele De Rossi continues to deputise at centre back for the injured Andrea Barzagli, while attacking width will be provided in the form of wing-backs Christian Maggio and Emanuele Giaccherini.
  • Now that, Michal, is a stat.
  • Allow me to introduce Michal Zachodny, who is in the stadium today for Goal.com. He has this to say before things get underway: "In the last three Euros that Croatia have featured in, they have always scored a total of four goals in the group stage. Those who remember their impressive win over Ireland and believe in fate will note that there is only one goal left in Bilic's team. A winning one against Italy, to gain them passage to the quarter-finals, perhaps?
  • Just one of the many talking points I’m hoping to raise today. Got something to say? We want to hear from you. Look to your right, and you’ll see our lovely comments box there waiting for you. All opinions welcome.
  • We’ve not even reached the end of the first week, but have already been treated to some truly outstanding action in Poland and Ukraine, much of which will live long in the memory. It’s already better than the World Cup in 2010 – but could it become the best tournament of recent memory? If it stays like this, I can’t think of another competition that could match it.
  • Euro 2012. The tournament that just keeps on giving. And trust me, we’re just getting started. Welcome to Goal.com - and our LIVE match coverage of today’s Euro 2012 Group C clash between Italy and Croatia. I’m Tom Woods and I’ll be bringing you all the action as it unfolds.