In a group that features defending champions Spain and continental giants Italy, both Croatia and the Republic of Ireland are expected to return home early yet the two teams possess considerable threat to give a new dimension to this all important group. The opening game for both Giovanni Trapattoni and Slaven Bilic could be seen as a mini final set to be hosted at the Stadion Miejski in Poznan today.
Republic of Ireland
This is only the second time in their history that the Irish have qualified for the Championship, with the very first appearance coming in 1988 when a Jack Charlton’s side opened the campaign with a memorable 1-0 win over England before being edged out by eventual champions Holland. In terms of pedigree the Irish have a limited experience in the European Championships although the Boys in Green had been pretty unlucky in the past for not qualifying for the finals despite being involved in the play-offs in 1996 and 2000 and finishing third in the qualifying groups for both 2004 and 2008.
Since the break up of Yugoslavia, Croatia have been consistently qualifying for the European Championships and performing well above expectations to be considered a genuine European football powerhouse. In 1996, a vintage Croatian side that included the likes of Davor Suker, Goran Vlaovic and many others qualified for the quarter finals in their first international tournament as an independent nation and were narrowly beaten by eventual champions Germany. The Balkan nation did not qualify for Euro 2000 while they were eliminated in the group stages in 2004 in Portugal, but Slaven Bilic’s side won three games out of three in Austria and Switzerland four years ago before a heart breaking quarter final loss to Turkey ended their dream run. A small and young nation with such a strong Euro pedigree does speak of the depth in talent and passion that the Croats have at their disposal, to take on any country on any given day.
Head to Head
Despite a strong pedigree, Croatia have managed to beat Ireland only once in six meetings losing twice and drawing three times, with the last meeting between the two nations ending in a goalless draw in Ireland on August 10, 2011.
The Irish are on a 14-match unbeaten streak and their defence looks well organised to trouble any top side. Giovanni Trapattoni has instilled a steely belief within the side that is just not prepared to go down without a fight. Having lost just a game in their qualifying campaign and that too against eventual qualifying group winners Russia, the republic of Ireland will go into the tournament with a never say die attitude.
Last five matches
|Rep. of Ireland- D W D D W|
|Jun 4, 2012||Hungary 0- Rep. of Ireland 0||INF|
|May 26, 2012||Rep. of Ireland 1- Bosnia 0||INF|
|Feb 29, 2012||Rep. of Ireland 1- Czech Republic 1||INF|
|Nov 15, 2011||Rep. of Ireland 1- Estonia 1||EQP|
|Nov 11, 2011||Estonia 0- Rep. of Ireland 4||EQP|
Last five matches
|Croatia- D W L D W|
|Jun 2, 2012||Norway 1- Croatia 1||INF|
|May 25, 2012||Croatia 3- Estonia 1||INF|
|Feb 29, 2012||Croatia 1- Sweden 3||INF|
|Nov 15, 2011||Croatia 0- Turkey 0||EQP|
|Nov 11, 2011||Turkey 0- Croatia 3||EQP|