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Euro 2012 Match Report: Republic Of Ireland 1-3 Croatia

By Rob
Sunday 10th June 2012
The Republic of Ireland's mass of travelling fans in Poland were left disappointed as their country slumped to a 3-1 defeat in their opening game of Euro 2012 at the hands of an impressive Croatian outfit.

Ireland were full of hope heading into their first international competition in 10 years, but their prospects of going beyond the group stage now look slim given they next face Italy and reigning World and European champions Spain.

The Irish got off to the worst possible start, conceding a sloppy goal in the third minute. From the first corner of the match some poor Irish defending saw them fail to clear the ball, the resulting ball back into the box deflected off Stephen Ward to striker Mario Mandzukic, who did well to steer the ball home.

Ireland responded well to the disappointment of going behind so early and got their just deserves after 19 minutes. Kevin Doyle was fouled for the umpteenth time by Vedran Corluka out on the left wing and Damien Duff's excellent delivery found centre-back Sean St Ledger, who jumped highest to score with a powerful headed effort. St Ledger sent the Irish crowd into a frenzied Poznan in the stadium the celebration was invented, with his first goal of the season having not scored throughout the domestic campaign for Leicester City.

The goal spurred Ireland on, with Doyle in particular posing problems to the Croatian defence and winning plenty of free-kicks. An action replay of their equaliser almost gave Ward a scoring opportunity, but Duff's free-kick was just too high for the Wolves full-back.

Croatia soon started to take control of the game with Everton striker Nikica Jelavic heading narrowly wide and the ever impressive Luka Modric beginning to pull the strings in midfield. Ireland were guilty of defending too deeply and allowing the Croatians far too much time on the ball, and were soon punished right on half-time.

Modric's shot from distance caused panic in the Irish defence and Ward's sliced clearance fell disastrously into the path of Jelavic, who may well have been offside when Modric shot. The striker showed unerring nerve in front of goal to coolly chip Shay Given and put the Croats back in front, dealing a hammer blow to the hopes of the Irish.

Giovanni Trappatoni's half-time team talk was duly thrown out of the window when Croatia doubled their leader just minutes into the second half. Mandzukic leapt highest to head goalwards and his attempt hit the post only to bounce back onto Given's head and into the net.  It was a terribly unlucky break for the goalkeeper, but the goal gave Ireland a really tough task as Croatia stepped up their stranglehold on the match.

The Irish threw caution to the wind, introducing Simon Cox and Jon Walters to the fray but their introduction didn't have the intended effect. It could have been different had Ireland been awarded a penalty when Robbie Keane was clearly fouled from behind by brilliantly named defender Gordon Schildenfeld, but the referee, for about the only time all match, did not give the decision when contact was made.

Ireland were constantly giving away possession, while Croatia looked supremely confident on the ball and came mightily close to adding a fourth following a neat passing move. Darijo Srna combined nicely with Sevilla midfielder Ivan Rakitic, who hit a curling shot from the edge of the box which flew narrowly wide with Given well beaten.

Keith Andrews seemed to be Ireland's main hope for a goal, with the West Brom midfielder going close on several occasions. First his close range header was easily saved by Stipe Pletikosa, then a minute later Andrews curled a shot from the edge of the box just past the far post. Minutes later Andrews again threatened the Croatian goal, but his header went over the bar after Pletikosa had half-cleared Cox's cross.

In the end Ireland could find no way back into the match, and Croatia came away with a well deserved victory. Ireland must improve on their performance, particularly their sloppy defending, if they are to have any hope of coming away with anything from their matches with Italy and Spain.

Republic of Ireland: Given, O'Shea, St. Ledger, Dunne, Ward, McGeady (Cox), Whelan, Andrews, Duff, Doyle (Walters), Keane (Long). Subs not used: Westwood, Kelly, McShane, Gibson, Hunt, O'Dea, Green, McClean, Forde.

Goals: St. Ledger (19)

Croatia: Pletikosa, Srna, Corluka, Schildenfeld, Strinic, Vukojevic, Rakitic (Dujmovic), Modric, Perisic (Eduardo), Mandzukic, Jelavic (Kranjcar). Subs not used: Kelava, Simunic, Buljat, Pranjic, Badelj, Vrsaljko, Kalinic, Vida, Subasic.

Goals: Mandzukic (3), Jelavic (43), Given (og, 49)

Total articles: 69

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