World News Today continues its preview to Euro 2012 with a look at Group C which contains defending champions and world number one, Spain as well as Italy, Croatia and the Republic of Ireland.
Be sure to subscribe to our email updates to get the latest Euro 2012 news delivered straight to your inbox. Click the FOLLOW icon hovering at the bottom right and sign up.
FIFA RANKING: 8
EURO BEST: Quarter-finals 1996, 2008
Despite being above Italy in the FIFA world rankings, Croatia will be considered third favourites in what most are calling the most predictable group. A playoff win over Turkey secured their place in Poland and Ukraine and they will face an uphill battle to upset the apple cart here and pip Italy to second place.
CHANCES: Croatia have a good team and a talented manager in Slaven Bilic and their progression to the quarter final would not be a huge surprise. Their match against Italy will shape their tournament.
KEY PLAYER: Tottenham’s Luka Modric is the key man for Croatia. His vision in the centre of the park is vital if Croatia are to progress.
FIFA RANKING: 12
EURO BEST: Winners 1968
A strong qualifying campaign from the Azzurri, which saw them drop just four points, has left them in good steed for Euro 2012. Wins against Croatia and Ireland will see them through to the quarters where they will have a very strong chance of overcoming the best Group D has to offer.
CHANCES: Don’t let their world ranking fool you- they are still one of the best in the game and could mount a serious challenge.
KEY PLAYER: Antonio Cassano. The AC Milan striker was in fine form during qualifying and will be the key man in unlocking Group C’s defences.
Republic of Ireland
FIFA RANKING: 18
EURO BEST: Group stage 1988
Despite being Group C underdogs, Ireland pride themselves on being notoriously hard to beat- conceding only three goals in their current 13-match unbeaten streak.
CHANCES: They will be desperate to make up for their 10 year absent from major competitions but lack real quality to progress out of the group.
KEY PLAYER: Robbie Keane. The much travelled striker still has bags of talent and possess the know how to aid Ireland’s big match inexperienced squad through undoubted tough matches against three tough teams.
FIFA RANKING: 1
EURO BEST: Winners 1964, 2008
The hands down favourites to lift the trophy come July 1. The Spaniards have one of the strongest squads in footballing history despite the injuries that have disrupted their build up (Villa and Puyol are both out). Anything less then a championship win will be a disappointment to the Spaniards.
CHANCES: Favourites for a reason but face stiff opposition from Germany, Holland and France.
KEY PLAYER: Fernando Torres. Not Spain’s best player for sure but his performance in front of goal could be the difference between a winners medal and failure.