Match: Rep of Ireland v Croatia
Venue: Municipal Stadium, Poznan
Time/Date: 20:45 10th June 2012
Republic of Ireland will play their first match in the European Championships in 24 years when they clash with Croatia tonight.
Paddy Power are offering to refund losing bets on Ireland v Croatia if Ireland win the match!
Giovanni Trapattoni’s side come through a play-off against Estonia to reach their first European Championships since 1988 after finishing behind Russia in qualifying.
Of all the sides competing in Poland and Ukraine it could be argued that the Rep. of Ireland’s starting XI will be the easiest to predict once all are fit. Shay Given will continue to add to his 121 caps in goal with John O’Shea, Sean St Ledger, Richard Dunne and Stephen Ward the back four.
Expect the midfield to be made up of Fulham winger Damien Duff, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrew and Spartak Moscow star Aidan McGeady. Record goalscorer, Robbie Keane will carry the hopes of a nation in the quest to find goals while Kevin Doyle is expected to partner Keane in a much favoured 4-4-2 formation.
The Irish will know with Spain and Italy next up after Croatia, three points is a must if they are to have any chance of progressing to the knockout stages.
For Croatia, they too had to come through a play-off in order to book their place in Poland. They had an impressive 3-0 aggregate win over Turkey after finishing second to Greece in qualifying.
The Irish have had an excellent defensive record over the past number of games and they will need to be in top form to prevent the likes of Eduardoand Everton striker Nikica Jelavic adding to their International goalscoring record.
Much will depend on the form of playmaker Luka Modric. The Tottenham midfielder has been in fantastic form all season for the Londoners and manager Slaven Bilic will hope Modric can continue this form into the Championships.