Ireland’s joy at returning to the big stage must have been slightly tempered by a draw that sees them face the reigning world and European champions Spain, 2006 World Cup winners Italy, and a Croatian side that stormed through the group stage at Euro 2008.
Clearly the favourites to proceed to the next stage must be Spain, who are 1/10 (1.10) to qualify and only 8/15 (1.53) to win the group with Sportingbet.
Whilst Vicente del Bosque's men look good value for their role as champions elect, Italy look less certain to live up to pre-tournament expectations.
The Azzurri are 3/1 (4.00) to top the group and 8/13 (1.62) to merely qualify, but have looked far from convincing in recent games as they suffered a tumultuous few weeks in the build up to Euro 2012.
Cesare Prandelli’s side were forced to cancel their friendly against Luxembourg due to earthquakes, and subsequently lost their only remaining warm-up fixture 3-0 to Russia.
With the shadow of a match-fixing scandal also looming over them and a tough first game against Spain to contend with, it may be worth backing the Italians to return home early this summer, at odds of 6/5 (2.20).
In pole position to benefit from Italian misfortune are Croatia, who will be desperate to make up for their disappointing absence from the last World Cup.
Coach Slaven Bilic has some players of real quality at his disposal, and Luka Modric and Co. seem like excellent value at 13/8 (2.53) to progress, albeit unlikely to win the group at 13/2 (7.50).
Their fate could effectively be determined in the opening match, when Croatia face Giovanni Trapattoni’s disciplined Republic of Ireland side.
The veteran Italian has braved frequent criticism to mould The Boys in Green into an undeniably effective (if unspectacular) outfit, but a lack of creativity could cost them in Poland and Ukraine.
Some may draw hope from Greece's infamous 2004 triumph built on organisation and resolve, but even 15/4 (4.75) to qualify seems like a long shot for Ireland, let alone 14/1 (15.00) to win the group.
|Italy to fail to qualify at 6/5 (2.20) with Sportingbet
||Croatia to qualify at 13/8 (2.53) with Sportingbet
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Al Hain-Cole is a Liverpool fan, experienced tipster and avid follower of European football. He specialises in accumulators and if you would like to read more from Al you can follow him on Twitter here.
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