Ireland V Croatia – 19:45 Sun 10th Jun (Poznan) iTV
Ireland qualified for their first European Championships in 24 years and were instantly written off as they were drawn in pool C against Spain, Italy and Croatia. The Irish press have already dubbed Pool C the group of death.
On paper you could say Ireland have two chances of progressing from the group stages… SLIM and NONE! But much will depend on their performance in the opening game against Croatia. Odds on the Ireland V Croatia game currently stand at 15/8 for an Ireland win and 6/5 on Croatia and the draw priced at 9/4.
Between them, Ireland and Croatia have probably claimed more big team scalps then any other two teams in the world. Ireland humbled Italy in the 94 World Cup and England in Euro'88. Recently Ireland beat Italy 2-0 in a friendly match.
Croatia famously finished 3rd in the 1998 World Cup and were also quarter finalists in the 2008 Euro's.
Both Croatia and Ireland will be acutely aware that this game will be the key to them escaping the group of death. Defeat here for either team will almost certainly be the end of the road.
The most recent meeting between Ireland and Croatia was in August 2011 and the teams played out a 0-0 draw. The Croatians enjoyed more of the possession and created early chances but Ireland finished the game with a higher shots on goal count.
The temptation for both teams to engineer a similar result (0-0) on June 10th will be almost irresistible. However, I think the best chance Ireland have of progressing to the next round is to beat Croatia. They could then rest players against Spain before going hell for leather against Italy in the final group game.
The Italians would be intensely uncomfortable facing Giovanni Trapattoni's Green Army, especially if they also need some kind of result.
Paddy Power Bookmakers have a great moneyback special on this match, if Ireland win this game, they will refund all losing First Goalscorer, Last Goalscorer, Correct Score & Scorecast singles on the match.