By Ciaran O Raghallaigh in Poznan
NO TO JEDZIEMY!
In case you’re not totally sucked up by the whole Euro 2012 experience just yet – that’s Polish for ‘here we go’.
And one way or another, we’re going. Tonight. Croatia are favourites and Slaven Bilic thinks he’s going to surprise Ireland.
The Irish are underdogs but Trap says ‘ball is ball’, and Robbie insists the players have NO doubts they can qualify from Group C.
Someone is going to be disappointed.
Ireland and Croatia have met six times, with the Irish enjoying a slightly better return – with two wins, three draws and one defeat.
Robbie Keane and Damien Duff have both scored against the Croats in the past, while seven of the team starting today started in the 0-0 last August.
Croatia had the better of play that day, but if you’re trying to read too much into that game, don’t; John O’Shea, Aiden McGeady, Keith Andrews and Kevin Doyle weren’t taking part.
Sure, Ireland’s players are mostly interchangeable, but O’Shea, McGeady and Andrews alter the flow of this team immensely.
If any player is going to take this game by the scruff of the neck, it’s most likely to be McGeady.
The Spartak winger will flip sides with Duff on a regular basis – and with Shakhtar captain Darijo Srna likely to play right back rather than right midfield, that could be the clash of the night.
McGeady will make his 50th appearance tonight, and after suffering years of abuse in Scotland for playing for Ireland – this week could be momentous for the former Celtic star.
In the 49 games before today, however, he has scored just two goals. What a time this would be to add a third. McGeady is 22/1 to be first goalscorer tonight.
Behind him it’s getting ridiculous. Ireland have 11 clean sheets in the last 14 games, and are unbeaten away from home since Trapattoni took charge.
Luckily, all three games here are away from home.
For Ireland to keep a clean sheet you can get 11/5, and it’s 9/2 to win to nil in the latest online betting with Paddy Power.
Up front, Keane is set for cap 118, and dreaming of goal number 54. The Dubliner scored past Stipe Pletikosa on the way to the 1998 u-18 European Championship and is 3/1 to score at any time.
With money back if Ireland win, it’s not too unpatriotic to have a punt on Croatia.
Nikica Jelavic, while boasting a lacklustre international record, has enjoyed a phenomenal season at club level. The Everton man is 6/1 to score first, and 23/10 to score at any time.
NO TO JEDZIEMY!
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