Spain, Italy, Ireland and Croatia make up for group C. This group has a perfect blend of big guns Spain and Italy, the talented Croats and an ever improving Irish side.
The defending champions have a largely unchanged squad from their 2010 World Cup-winning team. The major exclusions are David Villa and Carles Puyol due to injuries. Fernando Torres was called in as a last minute replacement for Villa and he certainly has some huge scoring shoes to fill in. He has kept the faith of his manager Vicente Del Bosque, by scoring comfortably in the warm-up matches, but he needs to keep going in a similar way and needs to quickly find his golden touch to give Spain the advantage. Spain is a team that mainly relies on midfield play to get past opponents. Xavi Hernandez, their midfield general, has been an inspiration for them and his tireless passing, has opened up many defenses. His partner, Andres Iniesta is another player who can slip in pin-point passes, beat off-side traps and score when needed. They have been marshaled by their inspirational captain Iker Casillas, who has been a rock under the goalpost. Another player who excites the most is Sergio Busquets. He is versatile and his ability to come forward and slip into a defensive position when required is an asset to any team. All this along with Cesc Fabregas, is a perfect recipe to defend their title.
The masters of defense, the Italians, are desperate to prove a point after a poor show in the World Cup saw them being eliminated in the group stages. The Italians are plagued with the match fixing scandal and injuries to key players but six years back, they were facing similar problems, and they ultimately performed well enough to win the World Cup. Star keeper Gianluigi Buffon has been in and out of form, but must be confident after his Serie A win this season. In the defense we have Giorgio Chiellini, who has been in great form in the qualifiers. Andrea Pirlo and Daniele De Rossi are two players who can create chances from nothing. Pirlo is great in set pieces and that is one big added advantage for Coach Cesare Prandelli who might have to use Pirlo sparingly considering his age. Prandelli has three top class strikers to choose from; Mario Balotelli, Antonio Cassano and Antonio Di Natale. Balotelli can be a short fuse at times, but there is no doubt about his talent and Cassano has made a good comeback after his heart surgery. It remains to be seen how this new look Italian side play under a formation like 3-5-2. This was chosen by Prandelli, because the core of his team consist of Juventus players and the league winners, have played the same formation throughout this season. It remains to be seen how the others adapt to this formation.
The Croats have the ability to upset big teams and they have done this consistently in the past. The defense looks shaky, with a plethora of aging legs, the only exception being Domagoj Vida. The midfield is strong with names like Nico Kranjcar and Luka Modric. Kranjcar was the top scorer with four goals in the qualifiers. Modric plays the pivotal role of the central mid-fielder with ease. They are led by the influential Darijo Srna, who can be lethal in set-pieces. Coach Slaven Bilic, will dearly miss his lead striker Ivica Olic due to a hamstring injury. Nikola Kalinic has been names as Olic's replacement. Eduardo Da Silva in the other notable striker in this line-up. This team has never been given the credit they deserve for playing like a "team", and they are going to cause problems for either Italy or Spain.
Coach Giovanni Trappatoni has done a wonderful job of getting the Irish to qualify for this year's championship. They have qualified for the first time since 1988. His squad has players mostly playing in the EPL. Shay Given is his top custodian. John O'Shea and Richard Dunne are experienced campaigners and should add steel to the back. Damien Duff and Glenn Whelan are expected to play an important role if Ireland should expect any chances of qualifying this tough group. Their only hope up front is Robbie Keane. He is an all-time leading scorer for Ireland. The Irish have a tough task ahead facing the excellent Croat's, the defending champions Spain and the mighty Italians.