The wait is finally over. After 10 long years, Ireland is finally back where it belongs amongst the pinnacle of Europe’s elite in international competition. This can only mean one thing – get your clever banners out and inflate those hammers!
Ireland have gone into Euro 2012 as massive underdogs. In a group that includes Italy, Spain and Croatia, it’s an uphill task before a ball has been kicked but it wouldn’t be Irish football if we didn’t do it the hard way. After a relatively easy qualifying draw and an even more favourable play-off one, Ireland is embarking in only its second ever European Championship. And with it they’ve brought one of the most settled squads in the whole competition and an invaluable amount of morale from both players and fans alike.
Croatia on the other hand have been loudly confident ahead of this game. Slaven Bilic has been vocal in press conferences on his team’s chances of getting off to a winning start in Poznan with in-form players Nikica Jelavic and Ivan Perisic, added to the football talents of Luka Modric and Ivan Rakitic.
Who to look out for
Ireland don’t have the most inspiring players in the competition, but expect Aiden McGeady to look to get down the left flank as often as possible. The Spartak Moscow winger has a bag full of tricks but has been inconsistent in the past for his country – a performance from him should open up some doors for Ireland in the creativity department.
As for Croatia, Nikica Jelavic has proven in the Premier League to be an accomplished goalscorer and will be the one causing most of the problems to the sturdy Ireland defence. Croatia will look to Luka Modric for most of their creative spark, expect him to have plenty of possession of the ball.
Ireland: Given, O’ Shea, Dunne, St Ledger, Ward, Duff, Andrews, Whelan, McGeady, Doyle, Keane
Croatia: Pletikosa, Strinić, Ćorluka, Schildenfeld, Rakitić, Vukojević, Modrić, Srna, Perišić, Jelavić, Mandžukić
We have to be optimistic here. Don’t expect a goalfest – we’re banking on a tight ship and just one opportunity to give us a 1-0 victory.
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