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Euro 2012 - Group C Matchday 1 Recap

Ireland undone in Poznan as Spain and Italy draw in Gdansk

Written by Christopher Kisby

Group C

The Republic of Ireland’s Euro 2012 hopes were blown apart in Poznan on Sunday night as Croatia waltzed to a consummate 3-1 victory over Giovanni Trapattoni’s side. Mario Mandzukic netted a brace for the Vatreni whilst Nikica Jelavic continued his fine goal scoring form to add to Ireland’s misery.

Ireland are now long odds against to qualify for the knockout stages and it is easy to see why with both Italy and world champions Spain lurking around the corner. Moreover, the men in green were woefully frail at the back and a repeat showing in the two remaining Group C games will see the Irish embarrassed as well as eliminated.

Ireland’s usual high spirit and discipline was strangely missing in Poland despite a brief reprieve midway through the first half. Following Mandzukic’s soft opener, Sean St Ledger managed to sneak round the back of Vedran Corluka to convert a well worked set piece.

But that only served to ignite the Croat’s who put the game out of Ireland’s reach with strikes from Mandzukic and Jelavic either side of the break. Slaven Bilic’s men impressed on the main and are now in with a shout of reaching the last eight – particularly if Mandzukic and Jelavic can keep up their effective partnership going forward.

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Italy are next up for Croatia and the Azzurri will have been satisfied with their performance against Spain in Gdansk.

Although Spain unsurprisingly saw more of the ball after fielding an incredible six midfielders in their starting line-up, it was Italy who persistently posed the bigger threat going forward and they hit the front on 61 minutes through veteran marksman Antonio Di Natale whose impact was immediate after replacing the disappointing Mario Balotelli.

Italy’s star playmaker Andrea Pirlo had experienced a quiet evening until the hour mark but like so many top drawer players he arrived on the scene with a magical piece of play to change the game. Pirlo’s incisive through ball split the Iberian defence wide open and Di Natale simply couldn’t miss – however the Italians lead was not to last long.

Indeed, only three minutes later, Spain were back in it courtesy of a slick midfield move which was finished off expertly by Cesc Fabregas who slotted home past the ever impressive Gigi Buffon.

Both sides will probably be content with a point and equally confident of progressing through to the quarters over the coming days. Italy vs. Croatia will undoubtedly be the crucial match in Group C and the Azzurri will be favourites to triumph and edge ahead in the race for qualification.

Spain meanwhile could well go back to the drawing board regarding tactics and the use of a recognised striker will almost certainly be implemented against Ireland in Gdansk.

As ever Titan Bet are here to service all of your betting needs throughout the tournament and a host of markets are readily available about both forthcoming Group C fixtures.