10th June Ireland v Croatia (Group C)
The Republic of Ireland celebrated their first qualification to a major tournament since 2002 in some style and kick of their European campaign against Croatia. With the strongest sides in the group playing each other earlier in the day, there will be everything to play for here. A win would put them in a very strong position whereas a defeat would be disastrous with two difficult matches to come.
Both of these two teams made it through to the finals through the play-offs having finishing runner-up in their respective groups. Ireland Coach Giovanni Trapattoni has knitted together a good team spirit without any of the star names that are littered throughout this tournament. They have built their success on a solid defence, conceding only seven goals in their ten qualifying matches.
What is a concern for the Irish, is the fact that they only averaged a little over a goal a game themselves and they will be looking to the likes of Robbie Keane to provide a moment of inspiration. Keane is approaching the latter stages of his career but can still produce the goods on the big occasion.
Croatia will go into this match as favourites as they look to have the edge in midfield. Luka Modric is widely regarded as one of the best in the World and he is ably assisted by Milan Badelj and Darijo Srna. They also have useful attacking options through Eduardo and Ivica Olic and could have just enough fire power to edge out the Irish.
Ireland v Croatia Betting Predictions
Croatia are 11-10 favourites to start their campaign with a victory over the Republic of Ireland and should have too many guns for the opposition. The Irish are priced at 5-2 with the same price for a draw. Ireland would see a draw as a good start to the competition but offer little in the way of an attacking threat so it seems wise to side with the Croatians.
Ireland are among the tournament outsiders at 100-1 with the Croatians held in similar regard at around 50-1. Croatia may feel slightly insulted by those kind of odds and an opening victory could set them up for a good showing at Euro 2012.
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