Oh hai! It’s time for another liveblog, this time from Group C’s mouth-watering clash between the swarthy Italians and the plucky Croatians. I could be more imaginative and/or derogatory and call them the corrupt Italians and the impoverished Croatians, but I’m not going to.
Italy gave a reasonable account of themselves against reigning European and World champions Spain in their opening fixture, while Croatia demolished the Republic of Ireland in theirs. This could be a feisty affair, and no mistake!
Italy: 1 Buffon, 2 Maggio, 3 Chiellini, 19 Bonucci, 5 Motta, 8 Marchisio, 13 Giaccherini, 16 De Rossi, 21 Pirlo, 9 Balotelli, 10 Cassano.
Croatia: 1 Pletikosa, 2 Strinic, 5 Corluka, 13 Schildenfield, 7 Rakitic, 8 Vukojevic, 10 Modric, 11 Srna, 20 Perisic, 9 Jelavic, 17 Mandzukic.
That’s yer line-ups sorted, and if you think I’m saying any of those names again you can forget it. You’ll just have to use your imaginations! (I will do my best, promise).
Fingers crossed we can enjoy this one without any demons. So far so good, but I don’t want to tempt fate. Do bear with me if this is a nightmare again. It’s not my fault!
So what are we all expecting from this one? I’ve always had a soft spot for the Croats, so I’ll be rooting for them. A win here would see them through to the quarter-finals. A win for Italy, coupled with a surprise ROI win/draw later (we can dream!) would open this group right up. Exciting!
Just seen that Howard Webb is reffing this one, so expect there to be a few penalties to Man Utd…
Was Cassano the fella responsible for the “queers” remark? Hmm.
The teams are on their way out, ready for the anthems. The BBC pundits are split with their predictions on this one. I’m looking forward to it!
Croatian anthem: Mediocre from the players, but the fans are singing heartily, and holding up a bally great flag in the crowd. Not as big as that triumphant Russian beast we saw the other night. Crikey!
Italian anthem: The players were stoic, but again the fans were all over that. Bouncy Italians everywhere!
Let’s get this one started!
Kick off: The game is underway and I really am expecting quite a lot from this, so I hope I’m not disappointed. More importantly, I hope you guys aren’t either. If there is indeed anyone out there. Do say hello if you are…
1: I have to listen to Mark Bright commentating, by the way, so you don’t have to. That’s just the kinda guy I am!
2: Nothing of any note so far. Lot of hoof ball in the middle of the park between both teams. Reserved stuff just now.
3: Nice passing from Italy and it leads to a real chance for Balotelli. He turns, he shoots, and it’s just wide.
4: An early goal from Croatia would give this game a real fizz. That’s both my opinion, and my hope. It’s a defensive free kick to Italy just now though…
5: Srna wins a throw for Croatia, level with the Italian penalty area. The same player lifts a cross into the box, but there’s nothing doing and it’s cleared for another throw.
I think the DEMONS are back! That didn’t take long!
6-10: Not much to report while I was fighting with the evil forces threatening to ruin this blog (again), but Balotelli had another chance just now. Blocked.
11: Few stoppages for silly fouls at the moment. Expect cards in this one, for sure.
13: Croatia not really imposing themselves on this one in the opening ten minutes or so. Italy look the more likely to break the deadlock.
14: Magnificent ball from Pirlo, but nothing came of it, and now Croatia break…
15: Decent cross into Mandzukic, but he couldn’t connect and it’s Italy’s turn to break. Break they do and Balotelli is gifted ANOTHER chance, which he wastes by shooting straight at Pletikosa.
16: Another searching ball over the top, this time from De Rossi to that man Balotelli again, but it’s cleared well by Croatia. All Italy just now, and they look very assured.
17: Balotelli wins a corner. He’s at the centre of everything here. He’s either going to score or punch someone. Watch this space.
19: Huge shout for a Croatian penalty, but Webb gives the decision the other way. I think it’s about right, to be honest.
20: Followed by a half chance for Croatia. Buffon clears up though.
21: A shove in the back from Jelavic leads to an Italian free kick. They launch it forward but it comes to nothing. Croatia are definitely finding their way back into this now.
22: Spell of pressure from the Croats now; cross in by Mandzukic is cleared, and a second cross by Modric evades everyone and possession is back with Italy.
24: Searching diagonal ball from Pirlo, looking for Maggio. It’s gone for a goal kick though.
25: Strinic puts a ball into the box, it’s not dealt with brilliantly and Giaccherini gives away a free kick in a dangerous area…
28: Still a bit of technical trouble here, so I apologise for the spaced out updates. There’s been chances at both ends, or half chances more accurately. It’s still 0-0 though. We need a goal. Don’t we?
30: Buffon looks 50 years old.
31: Mandzukic looked for Jelavic, but the Italian defence – solid as ever – deal with the danger comfortably. It’s going to take something special for the Croats, I’d say.
32: Strinic clatters into Balotelli, who goes down like he’s been shot. It’s a free kick, but there was no need for that reaction whatsoever.
33: Pirlo floats a cross into the box, but it’s well cleared. A second wave of attack leads to a Cassano effort, which is flashed across the goal and well wide.
34: Some good interplay between Motta and Marchisio, and the ball finds its way to Balotelli’s feet. He shoots from distance but it’s wide.
35: Two Croatian players come together, and bafflingly, Howard Webb gives them a free kick for a ‘foul’ by Cassano. He’s guilty of homophobia, perhaps, but he’s not guilty there. Odd.
36: It SHOULD be 1-0 to the Italians, as Marchisio has not one but two attempts to score. He’s denied twice by a double save from Pletikosa. Top keeping!
37: Free kick to Italy on the edge of the area…
38: AND IT’S IN! A wonder free kick from Pirlo, the keeper gets his hands to it but it’s so precise and he can’t keep it out. It’s 1-0 to Italy!
39: It’s all to play for now, and Croatia advance looking for a quick response. But there’s nothing doing.
41: Italy in possession, and Pirlo finds Giaccherini out wide. He sends the ball into the area and it’s headed clear, but Italy keep possession and win a corner.
42: Pirlo’s corner is played to the near post, and Cassano heads wide. That’s a chance, you know. It is. Yep.
43: Croatia with a spell of possession in the middle of the park, looking for a way back into the game before the break. They’re keeping the ball, but not doing anything with it.
44: It’s Italy’s turn to knock the ball around now, but it leads to nothing but a Croatian break. Mandzukic tries a shot, but it’s comfortably dealt with by Buffon. There’ll be one minute added on.
45+1: Nothing happens in that minute, apart from MORE technical difficulties, and that’s half time. I’m off for a cuppa and a nervous breakdown. Back in 15!
Half time guff: We’re being treated to a press conference from Roy Hodgson on the BBC. It’s all very by numbers really. I wish I could get excited about the England national team, but I just can’t. Jaded, that’s the word.
We also have the ‘expert’ analysis of Alan Shearer, Alan Pardew and Clarence Seedorf. The former Alan is a bore, the latter Alan is desperately trying to avoid saying rape (does anyone remember that?!) and Clarence seems an affable chap. I’m ready for some more football, though.
And that’s what we’re about to have, as the teams are out – unchanged – and ready to kick off. The demons are back though. GO AWAY!! (not you)
46-49: Pretty much just a Modric effort to report. It was well over. And now Italy have a corner. I’m getting really annoyed at these errors. I don’t know what’s going on!
50: Corner comes to nothing. Giaccherini has an effort from way out, and it’s in the stands.
53: Croatia enjoyed a spell of pressure, which led to a corner, but it came to nothing. Pirlo sends a ball forward for Italy and it’s called back for offside. Wrongly so!
54: Firework on the pitch, and the players aren’t happy. The crowd are suitable reprimanded by a couple of the Italians. Eek!
56: Balotelli tried to find Cassano in the Croatian penalty area, but the ball was scooped up by Pletikosa and now Croatia will press again. They’re still in it, that’s for sure.
58: Croatia definitely look sharper in this second half. They’ve been given a rocket up the arse at half time, no doubt.
59: Clash off the ball leaves Motta writhing around on the floor. It looks nasty on the replays. He’s almost beheaded!
60: An attack from Italy leads to a pot shot from yer man Balotelli. It fizzes over.
61: Another Italian attack comes to nothing when the ball is caught under the feet of Cassano. He’s got to do better there.
62: A break for a Croatian handball, and Italy take off Motta. He’s replaced by Montolivo.
DEMONS! BE GONE FROM ME!
64: It’s getting a little end to end here. Really open game. And once again I say that the next goal is absolutely crucial.
66: Croatia looking to make a change also, and it’ll be Perisic coming off, with Pranjic replacing him.
67: Almost a blunder at the back for the Italians. A dodgy header finds its way into the arms of Buffon. Close!
68: Italy have a free kick, and there’s just over 20 minutes left in this one. It comes to sweet FA, and there’s a second change for Italy to follow. Balotelli goes off, and he’s replaced by Di Natale.
70: It’s a little claggy in midfield over the last few minutes. And I’ve just been informed that Italy have had 14 attempts on goal in this game, compared to Croatia’s 7. But Croatia are definitely an improved side in this second 45.
71: GOAL!!!! It’s an equaliser from Croatia, and it’s lush. Gorgeous ball into Mandzukic, who controls well and smashes the ball in off the post from four yards. We’re all level!
72: We have more fireworks on the pitch, and the atmosphere is both noisy and smoky now. It’s all set up for an interesting end to this, and Croatia are on the attack again. Although we can’t see them for the smoke!
73: In fact, there’s a break in play while we wait for the smoke to clear. Buffon complains that he “can’t see nuffink guv’nor”. Or the Italian equivalent.
75: There’s 15 minutes to go, and Croatia have their tails up. Can they come from behind and steal this one?
76: Montolivo tries his luck from distance. It’s well saved by Pletikosa.
77: Diagonal ball to Maggio, who thinks he’s in and shoots, but he’s offside and his effort was wide anyway.
78: Balls! That’s what we have. Two of them to be precise, and there’s a brief stoppage while Webby sorts that out. It doesn’t take long, and we’re back with a Croatian attack…
79: …which led nowhere. And then Montolivo is booked for a shove in the back.
80: The Croatian fans are having a right royal rave up behind the Italian goal. Always a joy to see. Can they win this and book their place in the quarters? Can they?!
81: Croatia break, with Mandzukic in acres of space. Acres of the stuff. But the attack breaks down. Croatia still with it, and they’ll come again, as Eduardo waits to come on.
82: Changes for both sides, as Eduardo replaces Jelavic for Croatia, and Cassano makes way for Giovinco for the Azzuri. How queer!
83: Giovinco sends a looped cross in with his first touch, and it troubles Pletikosa. It’s out for a corner, which is poorly delivered and comes to nothing.
85: Free kick whipped in for Italy, but easily dealt with by the Croatian defence. There’s five minutes plus stoppages left. Is there a winner in this one? IS THERE?!
87: There’s a ball delivered towards Mandzukic, which comes off an Italian defender and spins out for a throw. Croatia fancy a winner here…
88: Strinic has to do better there. Eduardo finds him in space on the left hand side, and he sends his ball flying into Row Z. Tut tut tut.
89: A cross from Strinic loops up off a defender, but Buffon gathers comfortably. We’ll have five minutes added on for injuries, substitutions, and of course, fireworks.
90+1: Italy find possession on the edge of the Croatian box, but they can’t do anything with it and the chance is gone. Croatia break, but that in turn leads to nothing more than a goal kick for Italy. There’s still time for either of these sides to find a winner…
90+2: It’s getting scrappy. Lots of niggly little fouls by both sides. Italy have a free kick midway into the Croatian half…
90+3: …and Mandzukic goes down in pain while we wait for that kick to be taken. He’s receiving treatment and may have to go off. Kranjcar will replace him.
90+4: The change is made, and the Italian free kick is a poor one. Fails to beat the first man and is headed well clear.
90+5: Italy looking for a late winner with some pressure, but Croatia hold firm and now they break. It’s Eduardo pressing forward, but he fails to find a pass and the move breaks down.
90+6: There’s one last chance for Croatia, which Buffon needs a couple of touches to control, and the final whistle blows with the scores level and the points shared. Decent game, that.
Less demons today, but they still made their presence felt. Thanks for reading if you did.