Much has been made of Spain and Italy’s presence in Group C, with the last two winners of the World Cup set to go head to head earlier in the day. However, the winner of Republic of Ireland vs Croatia will fancy their chances of getting into the quarter-finals.
The Republic of Ireland are set to appear in the European Championships for the first time since 1988 and this time round it’ll be only their second appearance but there is a renewed sense of optimism around the Irish camp and a keen determination to vanquish the controversial World Cup 2010 play-off against France.
In Italian Giovanni Trapattoni the Irish have never lost a competitive away match, though they must learn to close games out after numerous draws including a 0-0 over group opponents Croatia. Trapattoni and his men have not lost in 14 matches and will want to continue that rich vein of form into these Championships.
Croatia came through a tough play-off tie against Turkey relatively issue free and many are tipping them to make an impact at this year’s competition, but with a tough group and coach Slaven Bilic rumoured to be close to quitting the national side in favour of club management, Croatia will need to work had to ensure qualification in a very open group.
The main injury issue for the Republic of Ireland in the build-up to the competition has been the fitness of goalkeeper Shay Given, who has been battling a Knee issue, though he looks likely to start with Kevin Doyle set to partner talisman Robbie Keane in a potent attack force.
Croatian defender Vedran Corluka had been complaining about tightness in his hamstring earlier this week but team doctors have cleared him to play following a scan. Midfielder Ivo Ilicevic ruptured a calf muscle and had to be replaced by defender Sime Vrsaljko in the only other injury concern.
See what the expert tipsters at OLBG are tipping on Ireland