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Shipped from Abroad, Euro 2012: Looking forward from Group C after Day 7

Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci (L) an

Italian defender Leonardo Bonucci (L) and Italian midfielder Andrea Pirlo (R) react as smoke of a flare billows on the pitch during the Euro 2012 championships football match Italy vs Croatia on June 14, 2012 at the Municipal Stadium in Poznan. AFP PHOTO/ GIUSEPPE CACACE (Photo credit should read GIUSEPPE CACACE/AFP/GettyImages)

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Group C “Power” Rankings

Sorting through the group dynamic, for whatever that’s worth.

1. Spain - Fernando Torres as a force multiplier? Perhaps, though I don’t really know what a force multiplier is (and military analogies scare me out of my moccasins). Not only was Torres the focal point Spain’s attack needed, but if he continues to produce, they may be the tournament’s favorites.

2. Italy - Their first half against Croatia hinted the team could contend for the title. The second half showed you can change the coach, you can change the players, but you can’t change Italy’s satisfaction with a 1-0 lead.

3. Croatia - If somebody ranked them number two, ahead of Italy, I wouldn’t waste a second of my life worrying about it. The teams played each other to a stand-still. It wouldn’t be shocking to see both teams finish on five points.

4. Ireland - But the fans are top of the supporters power rankings.

Crystal Ball: What Needs to Happen Next Round

Group C resumes play Monday, with both matches kicking off simultaneously

Spain vs. Croatia

If Fernando Torres merely shows up, Croatia’s central defense is in trouble. If he plays like he did on Thursday, Vedran Corluka and Gordon Schildenfeld are toast. They’re the worst central defense pairing in the tournament, they don’t play behind a Dutch-esque two-man shield, and Spain almost exclusively attacks down the middle. This should be sufficiently ugly.

At the other end, it will be interesting to see how Vicente Del Bosque deals with Slaven Bilic’s two-forward set up. Against Ireland, his fullbacks were released knowing the Republic uses only one forward. Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique could be left alone. Against Croatia, expect defensive midfielder Sergio Busquets to help keep the man advantage against Nikica Jelavic and Mario Mandzukic.

Italy vs. Ireland

As bad as Ireland looked today, they match up well against Italy. The Italians are at their best when opponents come after them. That’s not going to happen against Ireland. In addition, Italy doesn’t possess a passing game like Spain’s, and they lack the type of target men Croatia used to score on Sunday.

Another approach: Try to generate as many chances as possible. Eventually, one will find net. At least, that’s what happened for France against England. Daniele de Rossi being able to help in the attacking phase (with Ireland only using one forward) can’t hurt.

For Ireland, the two big questions concern motivation and adaptation. Will Ireland be at their best when all they’re playing for is pride? And will Trapattoni finally change things up, having been outscored one-to-seven through two matches.

PST’s Euro 2012 “More Powerful” Rankings

Taking a long term look, toward teams’ title hopes

1. Germany (-) – With one day’s perspective, we might have given Germany too much credit for their win over the Netherlands. It’s entire possible the Dutch are quite bad.
2. Spain (-) – Yesterday we said Germany are clear favorites. Not so clear anymore.

3. Italy (-) - I have them at three, the strength they’ve shown at their best drawing my eye. Others might rank them as low as seven.
4. Russia (-) - Their high points are arguably as strong as Italy’s, just against weaker competition.
5. France (-) - Les Bleus get to make their case tomorrow against Ukraine.
6. Croatia (+1) - Their defense is just too poor to rank higher.

7. Portugal (-1)
8. England (-)

... and PST’s Player of the Tournament Wunderlist

1. Alan Dzagoev, Russia
2. Andriy Shevchenko, Ukraine
3. Andres Iniesta, Spain
4. Andrea Pirlo, Italy
5. Mario Gómez, Germany
6. Daniele de Rossi, Italy
7. Andrei Arshavin, Russia
8. Mesut Ozil, Germany
9. Fabio Coentrão, Portugal
10. Xavi Hernandez, Spain

ProSoccerTalk is doing its best to keep you up to date on what’s going on in Poland and Ukraine. Check out the site’s Euro 2012 page and look at the site’s previews, predictions, and coverage of all the events defining UEFA’s championship.