Republic of Ireland kick-off their Euro 2012 campaign on Sunday evening when they take on Croatia looking for three crucial points in their bid to progress from Group C, as we bring your the latest Paddy Power bookmaker free bet offer as Paddy Power announce a free bets offer and live stream. – Find out more here
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There is no doubt that the Irish are the outsiders to make it to the knockout stages of a group that contains Spain, Italy and Sunday’s opponents Croatia. However, they have some fantastic momentum at the moment and will believe they can upset the odds.
To do so though, they really need to win this opening fixture. A draw wouldn’t be disastrous, but defeat going into games with Spain and Italy, means they really would have it all to do.
As mentioned though, this Ireland side are made of tough stuff. Giovanni Trapattoni has made them extremely difficult to beat, something which is backed up by the fact that they haven’t tasted defeat in 14 games, a run stretching back to March 2011.
They also haven’t conceded more than one goal in a game since they last lost, so their methods are clear. Remain solid at the back and have enough quality going forward to get the wins, something they will be hoping captain Robbie Keane can do.
As for Croatia, they too know how important a positive result in this opening game is for their chances of progression.
Looking at their form going into this one, they have been relatively inconsistent with one draw, one win and one defeat in their last three friendly matches.
It therefore seems fair to say that nobody knows quite what to expect from them this summer. They do have plenty of quality – mainly in the form of Tottenham’s Luka Modric – but they also needed a play-off to qualify for this tournament and they have been in a better place under coach Slavin Bilic.
Speaking of Bilic, he will step down after this tournament after a successful spell in charge of Croatia. It means there is extra motivation there to not simply limp out at the group stage. Bilic will want to go out on a high.
Looking at the odds for this one, Croatia are the favourites at 5/4, while Ireland are 11/4 to start the tournament with a win. A draw in this 7.45pm kick-off on Sunday can be backed at 11/5.