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Team of the Week
10 June 2012
• INEA stadion, Poznań
Referee: B. Kuipers
• Attendance: 39550
Republic of Ireland
S. St. Ledger 19'
M. Mandžukić 3', 48'
N. Jelavić 43'
After a cracking day in Group C it is Croatia that top the group on three points with a 3-1 win over Ireland. I'm Martin Macdonald and it has been a pleasure to commentate on a fantastic match. Thank you for joining us on Goal.com and stay tuned for coverage of England vs France and Ukraine vs Sweden tomorrow!
Peter Staunton gives us his final thought on the proceedings: "That was an unmerciful, relentless defeat of the Irish by themselves. A basic gameplan, which lends itself only to negativity and the hope that the opposition misses all their chances unsurprisingly unravelled in the most spectacular of fashions. A cruel exposure of Ireland's agricultural, messy play at the highest level. They were poor against Hungary on Monday. They were worse here. The warning signs were there but ignored. Individual errors blighted the performance from start to finish. Losing goals at key times is unlike Ireland. Conceding three is also incongruous. Croatia played well, make no mistake, but they did not have to exert themselves too much to outgun a subdued, poor Ireland. The resilience, the fight and the spirit were conspicuous by their absence and when those core spiritual tenets are stripped from the Ireland team, all that's left is a bunch of players high on endeavour and low on quality. An inability to keep the ball, an inability to create chances, an inability to introduce the dangerous players into the attacking regime all cost Ireland tonight. A nightmare start. The worst imaginable."
A Mario Mandzukic brace and a late first half strike from Nikica Jelavic have cancelled out Sean St Ledger's first half equaliser to see Croatia go top of Group C with a 3-1 win.
FULL TIME IN POZNAN
90' + 2'
90' + 2'
Ireland keep going to the very end but Croatia have done well to stifle any potential late attacks from Trapattoni's men through patient retention of the ball.
Andrews heads wide!!! So close for Ireland!! Keith Andrews finds himself in acres of space at the back post and sends a measured header towards the back post that misses by inches!
Change for Croatia as Ivan Perisic is replaced by Eduardo. The substitute makes his tournament debut this evening after sadly missing the 2010 World Cup through injury.
The Irish have been spirited as always but they have been outplayed in vital areas this evening. The Croatians have showed a class in possession that has been absent from the play of Trapattoni's men.
St Ledger and Mandzukic both down at the moment after a nasty clash in mid-air. There have been some spats here and there but the match has mainly been played in a good competitive spirit.
Yellow Card Niko Kranjcar
Peter Staunton gives us his take on the match as we enter the latter stages: "One of the many disappointments tonight, from an Irish perspective, is how well they've allowed Croatia's good players to play. We know Srna is a threat, possibly the best right back in the world. We know Modric causes hassle when he gets the ball to feet and can turn and play vertical passes. We know Perisic drifts in well and uses his right foot to strike good attempts on goal. We know Jelavic is a poacher. And yet, it's like they've not even been scouted. Srna cantered, Modric probed, Perisic drifted in and Jelavic snaffled what came his way. And that's not even to mention Mandzukic, his aerial prowess, and him heading two goals. Ireland's game plan was cruelly exposed. 24 years on from their only Euro appearance and Ireland look like a team transported from that time. Basic, outdated football and played badly to boot. Roll on Spain."
Some shots of the crowd show the euphoria of the Croatia fans and the desperation of the Ireland fans. It hasn't really been the Irish's day today, but still just about enough time to grab a goal or two. Unlikely as it may be.
Damien Duff cuts in from the right again and flashes a cross into the box for Keith Andrews to head on goal. The Irishman makes a decent connection but Pletikosa makes a relatively comfortable save.
A small moment of worry for Croatia as Simon Cox hounds down Corluka on the edge of the box and the defender, on loan at Leverkusen this season, goes down and appears to handle the ball. However, the referee quite rightly gives a foul for a clip of the heels by Cox.
Peter Staunton discusses the possibility of a different personnel and tactical selection from Trapattoni: "Robbie Keane departs and Shane Long appears. A fine striker, Long, but can't help thinking that it's a lost cause now. Long has good pedigree and, in my book, should have started. Trapattoni, for a man so sure of his system, has made some strange substitutions tonight. Cox left wing is particularly baffling and using all three striking replacements is not something I've seen before from him. Not the night for Robbie Keane. He didn't sit deep enough in that withdrawn striking role and, aside from attempting to win a penalty, barely penetrated the Croatia box.
Two changes to report as Niko Kranjcar replaces Nikica Jelavic for Croatia and Shane Long replaces Robbie Keane for Ireland. This substitution from Bilic suggests that he plans to have his side rest on their lead.
Trapattoni's men with a decent period of possession in the match, and this is perhaps due to them moving further up the park. Dunne and St Ledger have parked themselves on the halfway line now as Croatia begin prepare to sit back and soak up the pressure.
Brighter play from Ireland. O'Shea sprays a pass out to Duff on the right wing and the Fulham man whips a cross into the area. Pletikosa does well to come out commandingly claim the ball, though.
Peter Staunton gives us his take on the penalty appeal: "Ireland claiming the penalty after keeping the ball while Mandzukic lay prone on the turf. Referee had a look and decided not to give it. Ireland, it feels, clutching at straws. They've sabotaged their own chances with criminal defending and poor tracking. Looking for a penalty seems the last kick of a dying horse."
Ireland need to find some inspiration from somewhere. Croatia are looking relatively comfortable at the moment and it is imperative that Trapattoni's men move their defensive line up the park.
Penalty shout for Ireland!! Robbie Keane appears to turn Schildenfeld on the edge of the box but goes down under the challenge of the Croatia centre-back! The referee waves play on and Keane is furious with the official!
Wasteful again from O'Shea. The Sunderland man has had a few opportunities to swing crosses into the area from the right but has opted to stand them up. With Keane and Walters not the tallest players in the match, perhaps a lower cross would be more fruitful.
Peter Staunton muses on the Irish mentality tonight, and also questions a tactical change by Trapattoni: "Poland, Australia, Russia and Paraguay have all knocked three past Ireland during Trapattoni's tenure. Three of those were friendlies with experimental backlines at one stage or another but this is another story. Rarely has an Ireland defence been so self-harming in competitive matches under Trap. Is it nerves? Is it the Trapattoni system backfiring? Something has to change. Seems strange to introduce Simon Cox as a left winger with James McClean, one of the Premier League's best in that position, kicking his heels on the bench."
The match has quietened down after the Croatia goal. However, it is simply not in the make-up of the Irish to give up on a match. If they can grab one, it will be game on.
Ireland hadn't conceded more than once in their past 14 games before tonight. It is such a pity that their defence has capitulated in such an important match.
Yellow Card Luka Modric
As well as Simon Cox entering the fray in place of McGeady. Kevin Doyle has also been sacrificed, with Jon Walters his replacement.
Peter Staunton gives us his take on Aiden McGeady, and in timely fashion, as the Spartak Moscow man has just been replaced by Simon Cox: "It's been a disastrous night so far for Aiden McGeady. The left winger has been made to look amateurish by Darijo Srna on that flank. He's not tight enough to the Shakhtar man and he's failing to retain possession. McGeady, a huge threat for Ireland usually, needs to improve. "
Our Croatia expert Luke Matthews analyses the star of the match so far, Mandzukic: "Breathing space for Slaven Bilic's men and just as he did in the first half, Mario Mandzukic finds the net with a superb header three minutes after kick-off. A lot has been said of Nikica Jelavic and even Eduardo da Silva to some extent but a lot of people have ignored the qualities Mario Mandzukic offers with one of them being his strength in the air and willingness to run the flanks."
Peter Staunton gives us his take on the vital Croatia third goal: "Own goal Shay Given. Ireland, defensively, as poor as I've seen them under Giovanni Trapattoni. Again, they cede territory and possession far too easily and lightening strikes twice. Two minutes into the second half after the same start to the first. Ireland dropping too deep too early, which is all well and good if you can defend stoutly. Ireland refusing to press their opponents and failing to defend the vertical passes."
Assist Ivan Perisic
Goal Mario Mandzukic
GOOOOAAAAL FOR CROATIA! Same story as the first half with an early strike from Mandzukic! So unlucky for Ireland though! The Croatia man powerfully headers of the post but the ball cannons of Shay Given and into the back of the net! 3-1!
Our Ireland expert Peter Staunton has an idea of one way Ireland can improve: John O'Shea has completed, by contrast, 48 per cent's worth of his passes. O'Shea, the right back, often looks into the channels for middle and long distances passes. It's not working at the moment. Ireland need to step out now and take the game to Croatia with some quicker passes."
The action is back underway!
The players have returned to the field now. Robbie Keane just had a little word in the referee's ear. Wonder if it was a possible complaint about whether Croatia's second goal was possibly offside?
Make sure to post your thoughts and feelings on the match on our chat section of the Goal.com live match centre. Who thinks that Croatia will see out the match? Who thinks we will see an equaliser or possibly a winner from Ireland?
Ireland expert Peter Staunton gives us his thoughts at the break: "Half time in a fiery, entertaining match. Some horrific stuff from the left side of the defensive line and Stephen Ward finds himself in the line of fire. Darijo Srna, is having a field day there too and Aiden McGeady is simply not equipped to, bail Ward out. Combined with that, every ball in the box brings grenade-like panic. Dunne and St Ledger are doing decently but there's only so much they can withstand. Keane or Doyle needs to take responsibility in the centre of the field and tack on to Modric if Trapattoni is intent on defending so deeply. It could be a long second half for the Irish. It's not often they score more than one. They need to now. But hope spring eternal."
Half time in Poznan. Mario Mandzukic and Nikica Jelavic both score at opposite ends of the half to cancel out Sean St Ledger's 19th minute equaliser. A bold performance from the Irish, but two defensive errors costing them at the moment.
45' + 1'
Yellow Card Keith Andrews
Our man at the match Michal Zachodny describes the atmosphere after the Croatia goal: "Sadly, as after the first goal, also after the second Croatia scored, the flares are lighten up in their section, then thrown on the pitch. Noise bombs there as well. Russian can tell them how much it costs."
Peter Staunton also highlights the defensive uncertainty of Ireland: "Stephen Ward compounds one bad error with an absolute horror show. His sliced clearance falls straight into the path of one of the continent's most in-form forwards, Jelavic. Ward, at left back, had been identified in the run up to the tournament as a possible weak link in the Ireland back line and so it's proven. Greg Cunningham, the Manchester City left back, had been earmarked for that role but his broken leg ruled him out of most of the qualifiers. Ireland undoing their own good words with shambolic defending. Avoidable goals are unforgivable at this level. After 11 clean sheets in 14 games, this sort of defending is incongruous."
Croatia expert Luke Matthews gives us his opinion on the goal: "Slaven Bilic's men take the lead once again following an increased period of pressure. However, for all of their good attacking play it's an absolute gift from that man again, Stephen Ward. I highlighted the Wolves full-back as a weak spot before the game and it's showing. Ward inexplicably knocks the ball into the path of Nikica Jelavic who makes no mistake in dinking it over Shay Given for only his third international goal in 21 appearances."
Goal Nikica Jelavic
GOOOOOAAAL FOR CROATIA!!! Nikica Jelavic scores! A scramble on the edge of the box and some uncertain defending from Ireland sees the ball break to the Everton striker just outside the six-yard box, and he expertly clips the ball over Given! 2-1!
Ireland are slightly guilty of playing too deep at the moment. Modric is being allowed all the space in the world to dictate the game and play in Srna down the right, who is bombarding crosses into the box.
Nikica Jelavic aims to get in front of Dunne at the front post and manages to get his head on the ball and glance an attempt at goal. Well wide though and the Ireland captain done enough to put him off.
Ireland defending brilliantly, however. Their box is being sprayed by crosses at the moment but St Ledger and Dunne are matching just about everything in the air.
Ireland need to retain possession better at the moment. The high pressing of Croatia has meant that in the last few minutes, O'Shea, and the rest of the defence, have had no choice but to hump the ball up the park.
Peter Staunton continues to highlight the threat of Modric: "Luka Modric tugging the strings at the moment. The pitch is tilting around the little Tottenham prompter. Ireland too willing to concede territory early in Croatia phases of possession, meaning that Modric is playing balls deep in Ireland's third. He's playing very advanced, ahead of Whelan and Andrews, in areas that Ireland are finding hard to close. That will need attention and, possibly, either Keane or Doyle to sit deep in the centre third."
Our Irish expert Peter Staunton looks to have been bang-on with his previous opinion of Luka Modric. The Spurs playmaker almost gave Croatia the lead with a delicate curled strike from the edge of the area only for the shot to be saved by Given. He is effortlessly pulling the strings in the match at the moment.
Peter Staunton praises the big match impact of Sean St Ledger: "Sean St Ledger becoming something of a goalscoring totem for Ireland. Three goals in 30 caps is not a bad return for a centre back and they've not been small ones either. His goals have all been in competitive fixtures, against Italy in the run up to the World Cup, away against Slovakia in the last qualification campaign and here tonight. His two previous goals have earned precious draws."
Well, what a superb 30 minutes of football. Ireland have done incredibly well to fight back after conceding such a soft early goal.
Croatia are taking the sting out of the game at the moment through patient passing along the defence and midfield. The Irish continue to admirably press the ball, however.
Peter Staunton has pin-pointed the main threats of each side "Ireland cannot afford to allow Luka Modric time on the ball to drive into their territory. He did so and Croatia should have benefited through Mandzukic. Lucky escape. The Boys in Green need to get their own little maestro into the game again. McGeady."
Luka Modric sneaks into the hole in front of the Ireland defence and attempts a clever one-two with Mandzukic in the area but the Irish numbers in the box prove too much to overcome and Given manages to sprint out from goal to clear the ball up the park.
Peter Staunton believes Shay Given's previous save will boost the confidence of the Aston Villa man: "Great save by Shay Given from Perisic's fine volley. That will do him some good after conceding a soft one earlier."
There was incredible scenes after the goal as the Irish fans, rather fittingly, performed their own version of "the Poznan. A massive green huddle in the stands!
Strong save from Shay Given!! Perisic drifts in from the left and unleashes a fantastic drive at goal but the Irishman beats the ball to safety! End to end stuff in Poznan!
Peter Staunton gives us his take on the goal: "A shot in the arm for Ireland's hopes. It's Sean St Ledger, who's making a habit of big goals for his country, sneaking in at the back post to nudge the ball past Pletikosa. McGeady's free kick from the left side was accurate. Game on."
Assist Aiden McGeady
Goal Sean St Ledger
GOOOOAAAAAAL FOR IRELAND!!! Simple as you like! Aiden Mcgeady floats a free kick to the back post and Sean St Ledger gets the wrong side of Corluka to head home!! 1-1!
Set-piece opportunity for Croatia. Ivan Rakitic whips a superb cross to the back post from the left-hand side but John O'Shea rises high to clear the ball for a corner!
Our man at the match Michal Zachodny has spotted a possible fashion faux pas in the Croatia dugout: "I'm not sure I see correctly from the distance but it seems that Slaven Bilić has a woolen cap on his head. It's not that cold. And it's not that rainy either!"
Ireland have finally settled into the match after the high tempo start by Croatia. Slaven Bilic's men nearly provide another sucker punch as Ivan Perisic whips a cross in from the left wing, but no takers inside the box.
Ireland with a good opportunity to get a shot on goal with a set-piece on the edge of the area. However, Keith Andrews steps up and fires his free kick off the wall, and then drags his rebound shot wide. Not the best.
Croatia expert Luke Matthews gives us his analysis on the first ten minutes of play: "Croatia have looked far from convincing in their warm-up matches but they're completely void of any significance now. 10 minutes in and they have a deserved lead. Top of the group, here we come."
To be fair to Ireland they don't seem to be panicking after their very early set-back. They need to get the ball into the box to give Doyle and Keane something to work with.
The fastest goal of Euro 2012 so far, and one which gives Ireland an uphill task for this match and the rest of the group. The last two World Cup winners await Giovanni Trapattoni's men after the game.
That goal has really settled the tie down for Croatia. They look 10 feet tall. Ireland need some positive touches, fast.
Ireland expert Peter Staunton gives us his thoughts on the opening:"A messy goal for Ireland to concede. Criminal stuff. Nervousness in the backline and even in the veteran goalkeeper Given. Ireland could disappear into a void here if they're not careful."
Assist Darijo Srna
Goal Mario Mandzukic
GOOOOAAAAL FOR CROATIA!! Nightmare start for Ireland!! Darijo Srna drives down the right and stands up a cross to the edge of the box, and Mario Mandzukic heads into the bottom corner! Questions over the positioning of Shay Given there!
High tempo start to the match. The fans are cheering for every pass made and every successful tackle for their side. Two sets of incredibly passionate supporters here!
And we are off!
Our Croatian expert Luke Matthews has given us his thoughts as the game as about to kick off: "Croatia in their change kit this evening of all blue with a section of their traditional red and white check. Saying that, I can't think of a team in international football who wears their 'away' kit more than the Balkan nation."
Well it sounds as if the Irish outnumber the Croatian supporters in the stadium! The Ireland national anthem was sang with passion and gusto!
Slaven Bilic is the proudest man in the stadium as the Croatian nation anthem sounds out in the stands! Excellent scenes!
The players have took to the pitch now and it is a cracking atmosphere!
This is the begin of the end for Croatia in regards to the era of Slaven Bilic as national manager. After the competition he will leave his post to become manager of Lokomotiv Moscow.
Set-pieces are sure to play an important role in this evening's festivities. Ireland scored 10 goals from set-pieces in qualifying, which was the most of any nation. However, Croatia netted nine headers in their qualifying group, the most of any side.
15 minutes to go to kick-off now folks, lets get some predictions on Twitter!
Interestingly, in the only two previous competitive fixtures between the nations, Croatia coach Slaven Bilic appeared in both matches, one of which saw him up against a teenage Robbie Keane and Damien Duff.
Croatia are playing in their third consecutive European Championships, and have only missed one tournament out of the last five, which was Euro 2000.
This is Ireland's first appearance at the European Championships since 1988, a tournament in which the Irish failed to qualify from the group stage, despite not losing a match.
This is the starting XI of Croatia: Pletikosa; Srna, Corluka, Schildenfeld, Strinic; Rakitic, Vukojevic, Modric, Perisic; Mandzukic, Jelavic.
This is how Republic of Ireland will be lining up tonight: Given; O'Shea, Dunne, St Ledger, Ward; McGeady, Whelan, Andrews, Duff; Keane, Doyle.
THE TEAMS ARE IN
I'm Martin Macdonald, and I will be your commentator this evening. You can follow Goal.com International on Twitter at @goal_intl so feel free to post your thoughts, feelings, and predictions on the match!
As I'm sure you all know, Spain and Italy played out a 1-1 draw moments ago in Gdansk, so if either nation tonight can come up with a win, they will top Group C after the first round of matches.
Good evening folks! Welcome to Goal.com's LIVE coverage of the Euro 2012 encounter between Republic of Ireland and Croatia at the Stadion Miejski in Poznan, Poland!
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