Hitting the Irish Bar or Not
Group C: Republic of Ireland vs Croatia
Sunday, 10 June 2012
20:45 (local time); 14:45(EST); 00:15(IST)
Municipal Stadium, Poznań
Though Group C is not marked as the Group of Death, it is surely going to be a tricky affair. A gritty Republic of Ireland team is going to face one of the dark horses of the Euro 2012, Croatia, whereas the other two teams are definite European heavyweights. This is first time since Republic of Ireland qualified for Euro since 1988 and also they are into a major tournament after 10 long years. This is a grand opportunity for Irish fighters to show the world their character after their heart breaking episode against France in 2010 WC qualifier play-off. Ireland is not known for their goal-scoring flurry, rather the fighting spirit and determination are the two factors they are relying on. After Italian mastermind Giovanni Trapattoni took over the charge since 2008, Irish team looks very much organized and as a result they are back in top flight.
Croatia on the other hand, are currently ranked 8th per the FIFA ranking and expected to thrill the tournament with their exciting gameplay. Their Euro qualifying campaign wasn’t smooth enough though. Finishing the group after Greece, Croatia won the play-offs against Turkey to confirm their booking for Euro. They have experienced lots of ups and downs under their long-standing manager Slaven Bilić’s era and are expected to overcome all the odds to present a tight show on the grand stage.
Ireland had a pretty good qualifying campaign with their limited resources. They are facing the Croats after a 14 game unbeaten streak and they don’t want to spoil it either. Historically they were never beaten in the opening games of any major competition. After Trapattoni took over, Irish were beaten only 8 times out of 46 games. In the qualifiers, their only defeat came against the mighty Russians.
Croatia surprisingly had a tough run in qualifiers. Despite being the top seeded team they finished behind Greece with an astonishing defeat against Georgia. Their performances in pre-Euro friendlies were not impressive enough. They lost to Sweden, drew with Norway and managed to win only against weaker Estonia. Still, the amount of firepower they have stored easily can turn up the table. Turkey had faced the wrath of a rejuvenated Croatia team when they were demolished 0-3 at Istanbul – just an example what they are capable of.
Republic of Ireland: DWDDW
Teams and Formations
The Irish probably is going back to their tested and proven 4-4-2 formation after their lacklustre draw against much weaker Hungary team. Trapattoni tried a midfield packed 4-5-1 which didn’t look like working. So Robbie Keane at the upfront will be going to pair with Shane Long to provide a two-pronged attack where Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady will provide much needed width. Croatia will heavily rely upon returning Bayer Leverkusen defender Vedran Ćorluka to stop this well-formed attack. Irish supporters will be very much delighted to see their veteran defender John O’Shea back in starting line-up and their most capped (122) player of all time, Shay Given, declared fit to guard the net. Ireland will be eying on their most successful goal scorer of all time Robbie Keane (53) who had scored 7 goals in the qualifiers. Croatia also needs to be very cautious during dead-ball situations as the Irish are proven to be very good in that. In the midfield, Croatia will show a sheer dominance as they have the string master named certain Luka Modrić. This ambidextrous swift medio can turn the heat for the Croats combining with captain Darijo Srna – who has a fantastic right foot to deliver lethal crosses. Croatia needs to be cautious on their left as attack minded Perisic is not very prone to fall back which can give extra spaces to ever intelligent Duff. Factually, Croatia is pretty deadly in the air and scored 9 goals from header in the qualifiers. As they are missing their main striker Olich due to injury, Nikica Jelavić, who scored 9 goals in 12 matches for Everton already – likely to be given a chance over Eduardo, while Wolfsburg forward Mario Mandžukić start as withdrawn forward. Bilić also can pick very talented Niko Kranjčar. Richard Dunne will be the key man on the heart of Irish defense to stop this sharp attack led by Modric. Dunne needs to replicate his famous performance against Russia in Moscow in September 2011 where he single-handedly stopped a Russian team which totally dominated midfield and created wave after wave of attacks.
Republic of Ireland (4-4-2): Given, O’Shea, Dunne, St Ledger, Ward, Duff, Whelan, Andrews, McGeady, Long, Keane
Manager: Giovanni Trapattoni
Croatia (4-4-1-1): Corluka, Schildenfeld, Simunic, Strinic, Srna, Modric, Rakitic, Pranjic, Mandzukic, Jelavic (Niko Kranjčar)
Manager: Slaven Bilić
Referee: Björn Kuipers (Netherlands)
“They have someone like Luka Modric, who I know very, very well. I’ve been speaking to him over the last couple of days, having a bit of banter with him.”
Robbie Keane, Forward, Republic of Ireland
“On Sunday we will fight for every ball and for every inch of the pitch. I don’t see how Ireland can trouble us. Their football is very simple and not difficult to analyse.”
Slaven Bilić, Manager, Croatia