Spain is not going to go into the match looking for a draw. Russia got knocked out and Germany was within an inch of going down 2-1 and being knocked out late in the second half. If Croatia beat Spain and Italy beats Ireland, Spain will get eliminated. Trying for a 2-2 draw is like asking two NFL teams to try to engineer the game to go to overtime and trust the other team not to score a late field goal before the whistle blows. Literally impossible to do.
Spain will beat Croatia. Stone cold lock. I know Italy couldn’t do it, but Spain is going to come on strong now. They finally have Torres scoring and Xavi seemed to have regained some energy in the last game. If I were del Bosque, I would insert Cesc in the lineup instead of Xabi. Mandzukic has been big for Croatia, but this is the game for Jelavic to step up. Corluka is also going to have to have a big game in order to keep Alba and Iniesta thinking about their defensive responsibilities instead of overloading the Croatia right wing.
Pre-game prediction: Spain 2 Croatia 1
Iniesta and Torres to score for Spain and Jelavic to score for Croatia.
Italy is going to struggle against Ireland. It will be interesting to see how many opportunities Italy gets against Ireland as I would assume Trapattoni puts an extra midfielder in to clog up the middle and reduce Pirlo’s impact. That said, Italy knows it has to win in order to go through. It will be a tense encounter and I expect Italy to pull it out by a goal.
Pre-game prediction: Italy 2 Ireland 1
Di Natale and Marchisio to score for Italy and Dunne to pull one back for Ireland off a set piece.