UEFA Euro 2012: Poland & Ukraine
Group C
Republic of Ireland vs Croatia-  Match Preview




Group C            Euro 2012               First round of fixtures

Sunday 10th June-                      Spain vs Italy                                    KO 5pm             ITV1/HD

                                      Republic of Ireland vs Croatia                 KO 7:45pm          BBC1/HD


Republic of Ireland captain Robbie Keane says he will be happy to play a deeper role in Sunday's Euro 2012 Group C opener against Croatia in Poznan.

The Republic were considerably outnumbered in midfield for large spells during Monday night's 0-0 friendly draw against Hungary in Budapest with manager Giovanni Trapattoni expressing his concern after the game. Keane commented: "I might have to drop deeper on to the [opposition] holding midfielder and not let them dictate the game. It's more things like that than, say, a formation change. He's had the same system since he came in, so if anything changes it would be a minor thing. We're not going to just go to a 4-3-3 when we haven't done it for a long time."

Trapattoni had given the impression that the team's strict 4-4-2 formation may be altered ahead of the match against Slaven Bilic's side having watched his side struggle in the goalless draw in the Hungarian capital. However, having reviewed the match video again, the Italian suggested such drastic action would not be required. After Thursday's training session in Gdynia, Keane also insisted there was little chance of such a change of policy by the 73-year-old Italian. 

Both sides have spoken of the game as being the most important of the group stage in the tournament in Poland & Ukraine with reigning world and European champions Spain and 2006 World Cup winner Italy being the clear favourites to progress from Group C.

The two teams played out a goalless draw in Dublin last August while Keane added: Yes, we played against them not long ago, so we know the players they have in the squad. In any competition you want to start off as well as you can and get points on the board. We know we're in a group where anybody can beat anybody so every point is crucial."  

Assistant boss Marco Tardelli has insisted that goalkeeper Shay Given will be fit to start the game despite taking limited part in training on Thursday morning. There is growing speculation that Given's recent calf strain could rule him out of the clash in Poland. However, Tardelli said on Thursday that Aston Villa keeper Given "is fit and ready to play" while there are no injury concerns in the entire squad.

Given was present at training in Gdynia but it was clear that he was not taking a full part in the workout and didn't participate in the practice match at the end of the session. However, Tardelli remained positive about his fitness saying: "Today Shay rested because he knows his body, Everything is good. He decides to work sometimes yes and sometimes no because he knows." Given, Ireland's most-capped player, is a key member of Trapattoni's first-choice back five although Kieran Westwood has deputised effectively when called upon over the last couple of seasons. Tardelli's comments followed goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly's assurances earlier in the week that Given would be fit for Sunday's match.

Croatia manager Slaven Bilic, who will step down from the job after the tournament to manager Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow next season, has vowed to respect the Irish and says that they will treat the game seriously and will be fully focused and prepared ready for the kick-off.

The coach said: "In Croatia, someone made it up like I said that they don't have a good team and blah, blah. It's totally nonsense. I have big respect for the team — I played against Ireland last summer. It's an unbelievably competitive team. They are very solid, they play very simple football, they don't take a lot of risks. But they are still dangerous enough with some really good forwards- two strikers and two wide men who are very quick. One on one, they can decide a game."

Luka Modric thinks Croatia's game with the Republic of Ireland is "their most important in the group" at Euro 2012. The Spurs playmaker commented: "If we win it, then I believe we will reach the next phase. I believe we will play at our best and defeat Ireland. I even think we could go all the way to the end and win the tournament. If a similar situation to the Turkey game four years ago comes around then that scenario is not going to repeat itself. The reason we lost to Turkey was a lack of experience. Now we are at our peak and we are more experienced."

Click here to listen to the pre-match interview with the Croatia boss here

Click here for pundit Mark Lawrenson's verdict on Croatia's Euro 2012 chances

Click here to listen to Irish skipper Robbie Keane's ahead of opening match

Click here to watch the latest report from the Irish camp on Saturday

Click here to listen to Irishman John O'Shea's thoughts ahead of Croatia game



I think if Republic of Ireland are to stand even the slightest chance of achieving qualification to the next phase they absolutely must beat Croatia. It is essential that they win by any margin preferably by two goals as goal difference could play a part in deciding who finishes in second place. I personally believe this is a third against fourth battle with Spain and Italy the other two teams in the group. But taking Spain out of the equation, Italy are not worldbeaters and one of these two teams could easily finish above them. The main composition of the Republic squad is built up with mediocre Premier League players such as Andrews, Duff, Hunt and Doyle. They are not world class by any stretch of the imagination but their forwards can all score goals which is a plus for them. Robbie Keane has been firing on all cylinders since his US move and had a decent run when he had time on loan at Aston Villa earlier this season, Doyle plays second-fiddle to Steven Fletcher these days but has still managed to reach double figures in the Premier League before, Long is an exceptional talent who cannot stop scoring, Walters is a hard worker who also knows where the net is although Cox doesn't get much time on the pitch at West Brom- he racked up a good number of goals to his name during his Swindon days. The question is can they take their chances when they come along at Euro 2012? We shall wait and see. Can Damien Duff, McGeady, McClean and Hunt provide the ammunition and supply from the wide positions? They will be in business if these lads can get service to Robbie Keane. Croatia are a team with tournament experience with players from all over the world joining forces. They have a natural born finisher in Nikica Jelavic- a potent targetman who will be difficult to stop being he has been in the form of his life since his move to Everton in January. Modric will be a key player as he can unlock defences in the blink of an eye with some lovely weighted passes and Ireland will be looking to stop him from running the show. It will be a difficult match and very tight- saying that I fancy the Irish to nick this. But don't be surprised if we don't see any goals- like the last meeting (see below) between the two sides albeit in a friendly match.

Adam predicts Republic of Ireland 1-0 Croatia

Alex predicts Republic of Ireland 1-0 Croatia



Last meeting:- 

10th August 2011            International Friendly               Republic of Ireland 0-0 Croatia                Venue-  AVIVA Stadium (Dublin)

Giovanni Trapattoni's Republic of Ireland side earned a goalless draw with Slaven Bilic's Croatia in the Irish capital. It was an even game filled with chances. Everton's January signing Darron Gibson had a shot saved by former Tottenham goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa while Aston Villa's Richard Dunne headed wide from Sean St Ledger's cross. The visitors felt they should have been awarded two penalties- first when ex-Arsenal forward Eduardo Da Silva felt he was pulled back by Irish midfielder Glenn Whelan when about to pull the trigger after a quickly-taken corner and secondly when Spurs playmaker Luka Modric was felled by Fulham full-back Stephen Kelly but Norwegian referee Tom Harald Hagen felt that the ball was won in both incidents. Kranjcar blazed over for Croatia while substitute Shane Long forced Pletikosa into action in the second half. In the final minutes, former Blackburn forward Nikola Kalinic dragged wide while captain Darijo Srna saw a volley from twenty-five yards kept out by Republic of Ireland's goalkeeping substitute Kieron Westwood of Sunderland. It was a productive warm-up for their September Euro 2012 qualifiers with Slovakia and Russia.




Manager-  Giovanni Trapattoni



Available squad:

Goalkeepers-  Given, Westwood, Forde

Defenders-  St Ledger, Ward, O'Shea, Dunne, Kelly, McShane, O'Dea

Midfielders-  McGeady, Duff, Andrews, Whelan, Green, Gibson, McClean,

Forwards-  Keane (C), Doyle, Long, Cox, Walters

Likely starting line-up:


St Ledger
Keane (captain)




Manager-  Slaven Bilic



Available squad:

Goalkeepers-  Pletikosa, Keleva, Subasic

Defenders-  Corluka, Simunic, Biujat, Schildenfeld, Strinic, Vida

Midfielders-  Badelj, Dujmovic, Ilicevic, Kranjcar, Modric, Persic, Pranjic,
                  Rakitic, Srna (C), Vukojevic

Forwards-  Eduardo Da Silva, Jelavic, Kalinic, Mandzukic

Likely starting line-up:


Srna (captain)
Eduardo Da Silva




Keith Andrews (Republic of Ireland) vs Luka Modric (Croatia)

Adam's comment:
"Croatia need to get Luka Modric on the ball as often as possible in this match- he will be looking to get the better of Keith Andrews and Glenn Whelan who are almost guaranteed to be his opponents in the middle of the park. Luka started the season in exploding fashion for Tottenham but faded away during their poor run of form in the closing weeks of the season. He will be desperate to show off what he really can do on the big stage and possibly showcase his true talents to any potential suitors watching his every move and weighing him up for a possible transfer after the tournament. He can be the main supply to Nikica Jelavic and if he begins to pull the strings and Andrews allows him time and space to spray passes around and dictate the play- then the Irish are in serious trouble. Keith Andrews is a decent footballer who was scoring goals for fun in the Championship with Ipswich in the first half of the season but found it difficult in the second half of the campaign at West Brom with competition for places there being hard. He will be doing most of his work looking after Modric and ultimately this will be done in his own half of the pitch. He needs to watch his every move even if he isn't on the ball- these playmakers are brilliant because they don't stand still. They do not stand in the same spot waiting for the ball to come their way, they are always on the go searching for a pocket of space. This is what makes them the best players out there. I am not a fan of the man-marking system but sometimes it is required and sometimes it works. Andrews himself likes to push forward but for this game I am sure Giovanni Trapattoni will ask him to sit back even when the Irish are breaking forward as Luka will be asked to stay put in midfield and shouldn't be asked to help out in defence at any stage."




The Republic of Ireland kept eleven clean sheets in their fourteen matches unbeaten going into the tournament. It is their first appearance in the European Championship finals since 1988 where they beat England in their first game but exited at the group stages.

Giovanni Trapattoni is yet to lose a competitive match outside Ireland as Republic manager.

The native Italian is the oldest coach ever to manage at the European Championship finals at the age of 73.

This is Croatia's first tournament under Slaven Bilic as manager- he is set to end his stay as Croatia boss at the end of the tournament to take over at Russian side Lokomotiv Moscow.

Ireland only lost once in their ten qualfying matches for Euro 2012- against Russia while they have only lost one of their previous six matches against their Group C opening opponents.

Croatia have never lost an opening group stage match at the Euros although this is only their fourth appearance at this tournament. They reached the quarter-final stage in Austria & Switzerland four years ago before being knocked out by Turkey- whom they beat in the play-off qualifier to reach Poland & Ukraine while the Irish also had to qualify via a play-off thumping Estonia 5-1 on aggregate including a 4-0 away first leg victory.

Niko Kranjcar, who has announced that he has moved from Tottenham to Dynamo Kiev, was Croatia's top goalscorer in the qualification process with four goals while Nikica Jelavic netted eleven goals for Everton after moving in January from Rangers and is set to make his tournament debut in the match in Poznan on Sunday.

Republic of Ireland and Croatia are the two smallest nations out of the sixteen teams represented at Euro 2012. The Irish won six, drew three and lost one in qualifying while the Croats won seven, drew one and lost two.

All the outfield players of the Irish expected to start the match have scored an international goal.




Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands)

Bjorn has been a FIFA and UEFA Elite Referee since 2006 and is still the only current Dutchman at the highest level of officiating. He has refereed at an Under-17s European Championships in his first year on the FIFA list although Euro 2012 is his first major tournament as a referee. The 39-year old regularly officiates in the Dutch first division Eredivisie while took up refereeing at the age of sixteen on the advice of his father who too was a referee at the time. In 2011-12, he took charge of 28 matches overall in all competitions brandishing a massive 101 yellow cards and 8 red cards. Kuipers took charge of the 2011 UEFA Super Cup in Monaco last August between Champions League winners Barcelona and Europa League champions FC Porto where he dismissed two Porto players for straight red card offences. His other season highlights include being in the middle for Wales' 2-0 victory over Switzerland in an October qualifier for the tournament in Poland & Ukraine. Kuipers also showed two red cards in a Champions League group stage match at the beginning of November where Bayern Munich defeated Napoli 3-2 at the Allianz Arena. Bjorn was the man in charge when Manchester United crashed out of the Champions League in December following a 2-1 defeat to Basle in Switzerland. He was also appointed to a Champions League quarter-final second leg- handling Barcelona's 3-1 victory over Italian giants AC Milan in April at the Nou Camp awarding the Catalan side two penalties which pundits described as being "soft". Domestically, his final game came on the penultimate weekend of the season on 6th May where he was the referee for a thrilling five-goal match between Heerenveen and Feyenoord which ended 3-2 to the visitors with just two yellow cards shown.


Bjorn co-owns a chain of three Supermarkets in Holland while he also works in a hair studio in Oldenzaal when he isn't refereeing.

Match Officials:

Referee- Bjorn Kuipers (Netherlands)

Assistant Referees- Sander Van Roekel & Erwin Zeinstra (Netherlands)

Fourth Official- Viktor Shevetshov (Ukraine)

Additional Assistant Referees- Paulus Van Boekel & Richard Liesveld (Netherlands

Reserve Assistant Referee- Norbertus Simons (Netherlands)



City Stadium, Poznan (Poland)
(picture taken before a Polish league match in January 2012)


Fixture Details:

Sunday 10th June 2012               KO 7:45pm (BST)              Coverage-  Live on ITV1/HD, BBC Radio 5Live & match highlights on BBC2 at 11:00pm


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