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Euro 2012, Day Three: Open Thread

Mario Balotelli, my dark horse for top scorer. If he gets off the bench?
Mario Balotelli, my dark horse for top scorer. If he gets off the bench?

Will UEFA allow La Furia Roja to wear black armbands? Manolo Preciado certainly deserves that honor. Time for the last two World Cup champions to kick off Group C.

Spain vs. Italy, 12 noon ET

A killer tie four years ago; maybe not now. No question the Spaniards are still among the world's best, but it's hard to repeat. Let alone three-peat, if you count South Africa 2010 (and you should). Everyone will be gunning for them, and Vicente del Bosque will see a wide variety of tactics. I expect Santi Cazorla to be a key figure in this tournament.

Italy is just not the same without Giuseppe Rossi. No question about it. And the match-fixing scandal will be on everyone's minds. But friction may bring Cesare Prandelli's men together. The azzurri will rely on Mario Balotelli and Antonio Cassano for goals; good luck with that.

Ireland vs. Croatia, 2:45 pm ET

Who knew beating out Andorra, Armenia, Macedonia, and Slovakia, then Estonia, was enough to qualify for a European championship? But the Irish are here, and they're not going to apologize. And in with a chance of reaching the quarterfinals. A lot depends on today's result and Robbie Keane.

Croatia is a very dangerous team. Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar will pull the strings in the midfield, and Nikica Jelavic is an on-form striker. And they will be motivated by their improbable last-second exit from Euro 2008 (at the 2:45 mark). Watch out for this team, particularly if they draw England in the next round.