Thiago Motta and Cassano celebrating Italy's goal
As this international friendly week has rolled around, I'm doing my best to follow nations as they struggle to qualify for the European Chuampionships of 2012. But struggle isnt really the proper term for some nations, as Italy and Spain, are one step closer to the Euruopean tournament. Here is a quick look at their most recent result, and how the teams are looking as the still very distant European Championships approach.
Slovenia - Italy
Italy defeated Slovenia 1-0 in a fairly entertaining match. While Italy were creative and dangerous in the first half, they weren't able to find the back of Slovenia's net, which was well defended by Udinese keeper Handanovic. Cassano and Pazzini were doing their best to be a dangerous pair, while the midfield needed a bit of time to properly get into the match. Aquilani and Montolivo were especially ineffective in the first minutes, slowly becoming more confident as the minutes passed by. Chances were created and wasted, and while Slovenia were dangerous at times it was Italy which was coming closest to scoring.
The blonde samurai, BalzarettiWhile the creative and attacking forces in the Italian midfield were meant to be Montolivo, Aquilani, and Mauri, it was the more defensive midfielder Thiago Motta who provided the necessary goal. A quick couple of passes the "blonde samurai" Balzaretti (Palermo's very attacking left-back) was finished with a low diagonal shot which left Handanovic flat-footed. After the 73rd minute goal, Italy held on to the lead, only slightly faltering on the Slovenian counter-attacks which ultimately didn't produce an equalizer.
With this win Italy have a very solid six point lead over Slovenia and Serbia in Group C, and qualification for the Azzurri is looking a lot simpler than it had when it began. Cesare Prandelli's rebuilding of the national team has been well orchestrated, breeding through the newer generation of players who were left out in the cold by Marcello Lippi. Now let's wait and see how Italy approaches the rest of their matches, and if they can manage to hold onto their first place and qualify for the European Championships in Poland and Ukraine.
Spain - Czech Republic
Unlike Italy, Spain had the comfort of playing in their own country against a well-organized Czech Republic. Yet things took a strange turn for the world champions when Plasil fired a wonderfully precise strike onto the post and in. And as the tiki taka tried to break down the Czech defenses, it was 1-0 for the Czech Republic at halftime.
David Villa scored twice in the 2-1 comeback
In the second half you could say that things got a little bit nervy for Spain. The tiki taka wasn't ticking, and as the clock ticked away, the home crowd got a bit restless. Long range attempts were the main option for Spain, as cutting through the thickly placed banks of defenders was provimg to be difficult. That is until David Villa decided to produce a moment of magic, a low shot across Cech in the 69th minute. Three minutes later, Spain were awarded a penalty when Iniesta was sliced from behind in the Czech box. David Villa placed it well, with plenty of power which carried the ball through Cech's outstretched fingers and into the net for the winner.
With all of Spain breathing a sigh of relief after the 2-1 win, David Villa has become the country's outright leading scorer in international competitions with 46 goals. Yet it wasn't easy sailing for the Spaniards, this match showing that they won't waltz to a second consecutive European Championships in 2012.
What are your thoughts on these two victories? What about the matches being played tomorrow? Share thoughts, predictions and more below in the comments!