Well we're on the eve of kickoff for Ireland's 1st match of Euro 2012 against Croatia & it's time to lay it on the line & make my prediction as to how the Boys in Green will fare. They have been drawn in a tough group to be sure, but hardly insurmountable. If they play their cards right Ireland should do quite well.
Let's be realistic, no one is expecting them to do much against Spain, the Red Fury are just too strong for Ireland & I expect the defending champs to dispose of the boys with ease, which therefore leaves the matches against Croatia & Italy.
It's unfortunate that Croatia is the first up. They're in a similar position to Ireland in that they need to get a result from the match in order to have any sort of chance at getting thru to the knock out rounds. Personally, i'd have much rather played Spain first up, just simply to get it out of the way. The Croats are indeed a force to be respected, even if their arrogant SOB of a manager thinks we're a bunch of chumps. Any squad lead by Tottenham's Luka Modric, one of the finest playmaking midfielders in the world in the moment & will marshal the offence & with in form striker Nikica Jelavic looking to finish off Modric's endeavours they will pose quite a challenge for the boys.
What is crucial for Ireland to display against Croatia is thankfully the hallmark of Trap's system, discipline. If the backline & holding midfielders maintain their shape & their composure, it will be very hard for Modric & co to break them down. They played each other last summer in a friendly at the Aviva & it ended scoreless. I don't think that will be the case here. The Croatian backline is slow & lumbering & carrying some knocks & a team that plays direct should give them many problems. I look for our wingers McGeady & Damien Duff to pressure them constantly. Then comes the difference maker, one James McClean, the Derry Pele (though don't tell Paddy McCourt that...). Him coming on in the 2nd half will be what tips the balance in favour of Ireland. His pace & boundless energy will be too much for a tired Croatia & the Irish will capitalize. 3 points for the Boys in Green is the order of the day
2-0 Ireland final score.