Group Elimination C: Sunday, 10 June 2012 - Poznan - City Stadium
Ireland comes into this tournament competing after being in the finals 10 years ago. Though they are the outsiders they are confident with playing with the like of Spain, Croatia and Italy in Group Elimination C. Things are crucial for Ireland, if they lose this match that would mean they would need to beat powerhouse Spain or Italy and would need to take a point in another. Ireland should take care of business here with Croatia it would give them one more point and could be enough for a quarter final berth. Star goalie Given who suffered a calf strain is doubtful but, coach Giovanni Trapattoni's insistent that he is ready to return to training in Poland. Trappatoni insist it’s just fatigue. All eyes will be on Given if he’ll return to training. Irish will look for veteran striker Robbie Keane to provide his scoring punch also "doubles as a playmaker, drifting deep into midfield to help ease pressure and start attacks" when he plays for the national team. Ireland qualified behind Russia winning 6 from 10 losing once to the Russians. Irish posses strong work ethic and they are a tight knit bunch. The problem is with defending coming from upfront they will lack help when going forward. 10 out of the last 12 games for Ireland have been 2.50 goals.
The Croats earned everything they have with hard work to get to these finals after a poor campaign. Bilic’s Croats finished second behind Greece they were put to the test against Israel for second place and winning against Turkey to qualify. Croatia is lead by mid fielder Luka Modric and striker Nikica Jelavic to lead a sound attack against the Irish. Croatia has the talent to win but, I don’t know if they pack enough punch to beat Ireland. I’m not quite sold on the Croats after dropping matches against Greece and Georgia.
Predictions: Croatia wins 0-1
Croatia has to win this match before facing the giants Italy or Spain. Though I think this will be a fight and look for it to be close in the 1st half but, I look for Croatia strategy to unveil in the second half. Also, with Irish goalie Given being out this presents opportunities for the Croats and we know the attack favors the Croats.
Croatia came into this game making a statement against the Irish, beating them 1-3 in their Euro 2012 opener here on Sunday, with stud striker Mario Mandzukic scoring two in a stirring meeting that saw both teams battle hard from start to finish.
It’s almost like the Croats were looking past this match knowing that aware that heavyweights Italy and defending European champions Spain, both Ireland and Croatia had been clear that they needed a convincing start to the tournament.
Just 3 minutes into the match, Wolfsburg striker Mandzukic positioned himself for a cross from captain Darijo Srna, stumbling briefly before steadying himself to beat Irish goalkeeper Shay Given with a powerful header.
Surprisingly, Ireland started injured goalie Shane Given who looked uncomfortable as he was caught off guard, conceding his country's first first half goal in 15 matches.
Given, the Aston Villa goal keeper who had been a doubt because of a knee injury but, was cleared to train and given the ok to play giving coach Giovanni Trapattoni a sigh of relief.
Croatia's fans went nuts and celebrated with flares on Mandzukic's goal, and did continued on to celebrate. Ireland, roared on by their fans, battled back.
The Irish had a chance to equalize after winning a free kick on the edge of the area in the 11th minute when Gordon Schildenfeld fouled Kevin Doyle, but Keith Andrews's shot was blocked. Eight minutes later, however, came a repeat performance, as Doyle was brought down by Vedran Corluka.
Aiden McGeady stepped up to take the shot, firing the arching free kick to Sean St Ledger, who nodded past Croatian keeper Stipe Pletikosa.
That put a smile on the face of the Leicester City player, who did not score for his club this season. Ireland's green, white and orange-clad supporters responded by doing "the Poznan", a backs-to-the-pitch jumping dance made famous by fans of the city's top-flight club Lech.
The two teams continued to parry and thrust into the dying minutes of the half, until Croatia packed into the Irish area, with Ivan Perisic crossing to Ivan Rakitic. A touch by Stephen Ward put Nikica Jelavic onside, and he beat Given in the 43rd minute.
Three minutes after returning from the dressing room, Croatia made it 3-1 when Mandzukic fired towards the far corner of the net.
The shot hit the post, but bounced off the lunging Given and into the back of the net.
Ireland and their supporters were irate in the 62nd minute when talismanic captain Robbie Keane - their 31 year old record goalscorer who like Given is at what is likely to be his last international tournament - was brought down by Schildenfeld in what the video replay showed was the Croatian box.
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