The second match in Group C at Euro 2012 will be between the Republic of Ireland and Croatia at the Municipal Stadium in Poznan, Poland on June 10th. The two sides met each other last August in a friendly in Ireland and the match ended in a goalless draw. Ireland is unbeaten in their last five matches up to May 26th with three wins and two draws. Croatia has three wins, a loss and a draw up to the same date. Ireland’s last outing was a 1-0 home win over Bosnia while Croatia beat Estonia 3-1 at home.
William Hill are currently holding Croatia as favorites for 2.15 (23/20) but we won’t go with the bookmakers on this one…
Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni of Italy guided his team to a second-place finish in the qualifying campaign, just two points behind Russia, and then managed to beat Estonia in a two-legged playoff series. It’s the nation’s first appearance at the European Championships since back in 1988. Ireland’s team looks pretty set and they’ll depend on goaltender Shay Given to be fit. He has 121 caps already for his country and it looks like injuries are the only thing that can keep him out of the side.
The back four will likely be made up of Stephen Ward, John O’Shea, Richard Dunne, and Sean St Ledger. The midfield usually consists of Damien Duff, Keith Andrews, Glenn Whelan, and Aidan McGeady. All-time leading scorer Robbie Keane will lead the attack and he should be supported by Kevin Doyle if Ireland goes with a 4-4-2 formation.
Both of these teams know it’ll be a huge task to finish in the top two of the group and advance to the next round since Italy and Spain are also in the group. However, Ireland always plays well against the Italians and the Croatians have lost to Italy just once in six meetings. This means it could also be a struggle for Italy to get out of the group too. Both teams will surely hope for a draw when Italy meets Spain in the other opener of Group C.
Croatia finished in second place as well in the qualifying tournament as they finished just behind Greece. They then faced Turkey in the playoffs and came away with an aggregate win of 3-0. Croatia will need to be firing on all cylinders in this game if they hope to win it. Ireland’s defensive record over the past couple of years has been simply amazing.
The Irish will have to continue playing well in both ends of the pitch to be successful. They’ll need to keep their eye on players such as Ivica Olic, Nikica Jelavic, and Eduardo. Another Croatian player to watch will be creative midfielder Luka Modric of Tottenham Hotspur in the English Premier League. Modric is the engine that drives Croatia and he’ll need to be at his playmaking best. Manager Slaven Bilic knows his team needs to get off to a good start and can’t afford to drop points to Ireland.
Look for an entertaining game with both teams scoring and Ireland managing to escape with the win. This feels like a match for gamblers and we’ll go for 2-1 Ireland.
Online bookmaker William Hill has the latest odds of an Ireland victory posted at 9/4 with a Croatia win at 23/20 and a draw at 15/8.