Group C kicks off with the top two in the group, at least as far as the betting goes, going head to head, with the champions Spain kicking off their defence against Italy at 5pm. Then we have Ireland v Croatia at 7.45pm. Both of these sides will consider themselves to be dark horses. I’ll be here with updates throughout both games. Join in by commenting below or get involved in the banter on Twitter.
Current Score: Ireland 1-3 Croatia
Not bringing McClean on is my biggest gripe in this game but there’s only so much the young lad could have done anyway. Ireland go to the bottom of the group with Italy and Spain to come. A minimum of 4 points will be needed from these two games but even then that may not be enough. Qualification now looks a pipe-dream. To sleep perchance to dream. I’m off home to bed to temporarily revive our chances.
Final Whistle: That was as poor as Ireland have looked in a long time but this is football people. It ain’t over until it’s over and other such clichés. We still have two games to go. The Irish fans finish with a rousing chorus of the fields of Athenry. We have to believe, hope and pray for a miracle now. Stranger things have happened. Not much stranger mind.
9.38pm: I want to abuse Bilic about that stupid beanie but I know it’s just sour grapes.
9.36pm: That was the chance right there. Andrews gets a free header in the box but steers it wide from 15 yards.
9.35pm: Five minutes of injury-time…..
9.34pm: The Ireland fans gamely sing on as we edge towards the final whistle but this has been a disheartening showing from the boys in green.
9.30pm: Trappattoni will have to earn every cent of his €1.5m salary after this game. The Croatian goalkeeper makes the most of a clash with Andrews to waste some time.
9.28pm: All we have to do now is beat Spain and Italy to qualify from the group. Simples.
9.25pm: “Croatia are honestly strolling this, and it’s a good thing the Ireland fans had their big night out last night,” says our man in Poznan, Ciaran O’Raghallaigh.
9.24pm: Ten minutes plus injury time to go. Ireland are now 500/1 to come back and win. The fans in Poznan haven’t given up anyway.
9.22pm: Rakitic goes close. Croatia look a threat every time they come forward. Ireland have looked short of confidence all game. The timings of the goals they conceded won’t have helped.
9.21pm: We’ve seen more unlikely comebacks but Ireland need to make something happen soon. Croatia have all the possession at the moment.
9.18pm: Shane Long on for Robbie Keane. Alas there’ll be no McClean tonight.
9.17pm: If this isn’t the time for the swashbuckling wing play of James McClean, when is?
9.15pm: Ireland now 13/5 to score the next goal.
9.14pm: “Trap’s squad decisions being put under harsh focus here. Paul Green warming up on the sidelines, with Paul McShane. Neither of whom were deemed good enough to be in the squad at the start. Who can change this game? Green? Trap will face a barrage of questions if things don’t change,” says our in stadium reporter Ciaran O’Raghallaigh.
9.13pm: Kevin Kilbane on the Keane foul: “It’s a clear penalty for me. He’s come through the back of Robbie Keane. He’s not won the ball and he’s taken Keane legs, and that would have been Ireland’s chance to claw one back.” Damn right Kev, damn right.
9.11pm: Cox shows some decent feet and some even more decent simulation to win a free-kick out wide.
9.10pm: And now I hear McIlroy put it in to the water on the last hole to ruin his chances in the St Jude Classic. Ho-hum.
9.07pm: That my friends was a stonewall penalty as Keane is taken out from behind in the box. Shocking stuff from the ref. (I did say we might be biased)
“Had to question the inclusion of Doyle from the start – over loyal? Walters already throwing himself about, and the long ball to Doyle was too easy for Corluka.
Ireland need to hold the ball more – but Cox, a striker, who doesnt like playing on the wing at club level – comes on the wing instead of Hunt or McClean. Trap will be under huge pressure if this doesn’t turn around.” – says our man in Poznan, Ciaran O’ Raghallaigh
9.02pm: Piers Morgan has just tweeted “Come on #Ireland – dig deep. #euro2012”. Not too sure what to think about that one. I guess his support couldn’t hurt, right?
8.57pm: Modric goes in the book for a late challenge on Whelan. Trap brings on Cox and Walters for Doyle and McGeady. McClean is needed out there.
8.55pm: This is threatening to get ugly for Ireland. Trapattoni is getting set to make some very necessary changes.
8.52pm: What is it with Ireland at the beginning and end of halves? Croatia go 3-1 up within minutes of the start after Mandzukic’s header comes back off the post, hits Given and goes in. Disaster.
8.50pm: “Trapattoni will have to earn his crust at half time,” says Roy Keane on ITV. Insightful stuff there Roy.
Betting Update: All the money is coming in for Croatia right now at 1/4. It’s only half-time and [insert appropriate cliché here]. Ireland are 11/1 and the draw is 7/2.
8.40pm: Admittedly a tad harsh on Ward. He was fouled by Mandzukic as he tried to clear. I’m starting to really not like that guy.
HALF-TIME: Ireland have been sloppy at the back and though they’ve shown some desire to get forward they need to tighten up at the back or risk being caught out again. Another Croatia goal could prove fatal.
8.33pm: The replay of Jelavic’s goal suggests he may have been off-side. It also confirms how poor Ward’s attempted clearance was.
8.32pm: Frustration from Andrews who picks up a yellow for a late tackle on Mandzukic.
8.29pm: Goal!! Jelavic was always going to be the danger man but that’s poor from Ireland. That ball should have been cleared. Good finish from the Everton man who pounces on a poor attempt to clear. Disappointing for Ireland so close to half time.
8.19pm: Modric is having more and more influence. He has a decent shot on target which Given holds comfortably. The Ireland midfield need to shackle the Spurs midfielder before he does some damage.
8.17pm: Thankfully Jelavic can’t cross for toffee but Croatia look slightly slicker going forward.
8.15pm: A ball to the back post is too high for Ward but the Croatian keeper Pletikosa isn’t looking too convincing under crosses.
8.13pm: Doyle wins another free off Corluka who barges in to him….again. There’s a yellow a coming.
8.10pm: A tough tackle from Corluka gives Ireland a free. ‘Send him off’ echoed around the office but it was a fair challenge. Tough but fair.
8.07pm: Croatia respond well but some good defending from Dunne prevents Jelavic from getting on the end of a cross.
8.04pm: YESSSSS!!!!!! St Ledger equalises. Great delivery from McGeady and Corluka fails to deal with it at the back post. 1-1.
8.02pm: Dunne caught in possession at the back. Gives away a free-kick, perhaps lucky not to be booked.
7.58pm: My boss jinxes things by insisting Ireland are definitely going to score. Andrews hits it straight at the wall then slices the rebound well wide. I’ll be posting his email address at the end of the game.
7.56pm: The boys in green are settling in to this game. Doyle earns a free-kick on the edge of the box….
7.53pm: Duffer has a shot from distance but misses wide and right. They don’t want to let Croatia settle on this lead.
7.49pm: 1-0 Croatia. The worst possible start for Ireland. Poor defending and Croatia take an early lead as Mandzukic heads in from 12 yards out.
7.48pm: The stadium is full of Irish fans and it’s pissing down. Feels like a home game this one.
7.45pm: Here we go. The top of the table beckons.
7.44pm: Good to see Robbie Keane singing the national anthem. Not so great to hear him though.
7.40pm: The Irish fans are in full voice in Poznan. Apologies in advance if we’re a little biased for this game. Come on Ireland!!!
7.36pm: Trainspotting author Irvine Welsh is getting behind Ireland on Twitter. “Croatian coach is an arrogant fucker and has dissed the Irish team. Let’s hope Keane and Doyle make him eat his words.” – @WelshIrvine1m
7.34pm: I’m not using the rubbish joke my boss just made about Irish fans feeling sheepish. We haven’t this kind of support since Italia ’90 though. After ten years out if the major tournaments Ireland are baaaa-ck! Aw, that was actually worse.
7.29pm: I’m almost getting sucked in to the black hole of pessimism that is the RTE panel. I know Gareth Southgate is awaiting on ITV though….decisions, decisions.
7.26pm: Apparently the only barrier to Ireland being the new Brazil is Trapattoni’s tactics. Right you are Dunphy my man.
7.18pm: Our Mobile Money-Back Special on the Spain v Italy match clicked so Paddy Power is refunding all losing first goalscorer, last goalscorer,and correct score single bets as this game ended 1-1. Applies to mobile bets only, click here for more.
7.12pm: Bah-humbug. Croatia are 8th in the world the RTE panel warns! After the 1990 World Cup Ireland were ranked 4th.
7.10pm: Apparently it’s “Ireland Time” according to Bill O’Herlihy on RTE2. Is that like happy hour? And why isn’t Dunphy wearing a tie? Come on man, make an effort.
7.03pm: No surprises in the Irish line-up. It’s just a relief to see Dunne and Given included. Both players will be needed to keep a talented Croatian attack at bay. Jelavic was superb for Everton after his January move from Rangers. With Modric feeding him, he’s sure to get a few sights of goal.
6.56pm: Would any Ireland fans be unhappy with a 1-1 draw in this game? A lot depends on how the game pans out but not losing must be the main target in what is a very tricky game for all involved. 1-1 pays out at 5/1.
6.48pm: Alonso is too close to goal to score and puts another Spanish chance wide from just outside the box. Give it to him on the half-way line.
6.44pm: For the want of a good finish Marchisio almost scores a beaut of a goal as he slaloms through the Spanish midfield. This is the best game of the tournament so far.
6.40pm: Torres throws an elbow and gets a booking for his trouble. Then he has another chance and messes this one up too. Puts it over the bar from the edge of the box with Buffon in no-man’s land.
6.39pm: Torres does a Balotelli. Gets in to a good position and messes it up.
6.38pm: In to the last ten minutes and this game could either way. Spain look the more dangerous and are having more of the ball but Italy will look to hit them on the break.
6.33pm: there’s still plenty of danger from Italy as Di Natale gets a good chance he should have done a tad better with.
6.30pm: Maybe that’s why Torres didn’t start. Through on goal but a poor touch allows Buffon to clear.
6.29pm: Fabregas goes off for Fernando Torres. The Chelsea man is 7/1 to score the next goal.
6.22pm: Bonucci goes in the book for a scything tackle on Iniesta. This one might get a little tasty now.
6.19pm: Fabregas equalizes after a beautiful through ball from Silva. Spain 1-1 Italy.
6.16pm: There we have it and it’s been coming. The 73-year old Di Natale comes on to put Italy one up with a cracking finish across Casilla. 1-0 Italy.
6.12pm: No surprise to see Balotelli going off for. Straight to the local strip clubs to set off some fireworks in the bathroom. Or whatever he does to relax after a frustrating day at work.
6.07pm Not wanting to labour the point but Spain need a target man up front. Lots of great play but they’re not creating clear enough chances to beat Buffon. Except for that one. Iniesta should have done better.
6pm: The second-half kicks off. Will we see a goal? Will we see a Spanish striker?
Price Update: Italy have looked dangerous on the break, particularly Cassano. The Azzuri are now 5/1 to win this game
5.47pm: Motta pulls a good save from Casillas. All square at half-time. Spain have been better on the ball but Italy have edged it on chances.
5.44pm: Xavi to Iniesta…he looks for Messi, can’t see him anywhere and puts over the bar instead.
5.43pm: Spain’s build-up play is great to watch but the Italian defenders are getting the foot in. A stronger presence is needed in the box. Llorente or Torres will be on early in the 2nd half
5.40pm: It’s hard to see the logic in putting in crosses for players as short as the Spanish midfielders.
5.37pm: Balotelli picks up the first yellow of the game. It’s about the best thing he’s done so far. Under-whelming stuff from the City man so far. A red card or a substitution won’t be too far away.
5.36pm: Cassano puts a cross in for Marchisio, who hits it well but too close to Casillas.
5.34pm: Cassano forces a less than convincing save from Casillas. Balotelli adjudged to have given away a free in the ensuing scramble.
5.29pm: More great build up play from Iniesta. Puts a ball in the box but there isn’t a striker to be seen anywhere…oh yeah.
5.27pm: Cassano is looking bright up front for Italy. He’s currently 12/1 to score first.
5.22pm: Cassano gets free down the left hand side of the Spanish box. He puts one across the keeper and not too far outside the post.
5.21pm: Italy are starting to control possession. This isn’t supposed to happen. Maybe Spain need some more midfielders in there.
5.12pm: Busguets is caught in possession and a clumsy tackle from Sergio Ramos gives Italy a free-kick on the edge of the box….
5.10pm: Balotelli has a strike turned behind for a corner. The corner is rubbish but Italy show signs of life up front. David Silva then has a chance on the break but his shot is weak and straight at Buffon.
5.09pm: Spain dominating in midfield, largely because there aren’t any Italians there. We get our first sniff of a chance as Spain cause some consternation at the back for Italy. If only they had a finisher. Ehem…
5.03pm: Busguets makes physical contact with another player and doesn’t go to ground. This is a game full of surprises already.
5.01pm: So Fabregas is starting up front. Poor Torres.
4.59pm: Okay the anthems have been mumbled through, actually the Spanish players didn’t even bother doing that much. Let’s get this game under way.
4.53pm: In case this turns out to be a dud, a having set myself up with the Balotelli reference. Here’s a pic of the striker’s girlfriend. They may have broken up by now. We don’t care.
4.47pm: Mario Balotelli is now the most likely striker to get on the scoresheet in this game. He’s 10/1 to score first.
4.42pm: Tis a rather peculiar line-up from Spain. Considering how defensive Italy are expected to be, does Del Bosque have the necessary cut to go with the thrust provided by having so many ball-playing midfielders in the team?
4.30pm: Well there’s a surprise. Spain have opted for the lesser used 4-6-0 formation, deciding against using any strikers. Are there any doubts about Del Bosque’s lack of faith in Torres? Italy on the other hand are starting with two up top going with Cassano and Balotelli.
Casillas, Arbeloa, Pique, Sergio Ramos, Jordi Alba, Xavi, Busquets, Alonso, Silva, Fabregas, Iniesta.
Buffon, Chiellini, De Rossi, Bonucci, Giaccherni, Marchisio, Pirlo, Thiago Motta, Maggio, Cassano, Balotelli.