Euro 2012 draw: Ireland grouped with Croatia, Italy and Spain
The Republic of Ireland face tough games against Croatia, Italy and Spain in Group B after the draw took place in Kiev
The Republic of Ireland will face reigning world and European champions Spain in Group B at Euro 2012 after the draw was made on Friday in Kiev.
The Irish were also drawn against Croatia and Italy in their group and will face Slaven BiliÄ‡’s side in their opening group game in Poznan.
Manager Giovanni Trapattoni said: “Yes, I know Italy better [than the others] but every game is different,” he said. “Spain is the strongest team, but Croatia are not easy.
“It’s important our squad is completely without injury. We are happy to stay in Poland.”
The Republic of Ireland’s opponents: Croatia
Croatia had a foot in the Euro 2008 semi-finals after Ivan KlasniÅ¡’s 119th-minute opener against Turkey, yet coach Slaven BiliÅ¡ had barely returned to the bench after the wild celebrations that ensued when Semih ÅžentÃ¼rk scored a dramatic equaliser.
With fate at its most capricious, Turkey prevailed on spot kicks; Croatia went home chastened, the hangover lasting throughout 2010 World Cup qualifying as they finished third behind England and Ukraine. Second to Greece this time around, their reward was a rematch with Turkey in the playoffs ““ and revenge was sweet.
The Republic of Ireland’s opponents: Italy
Italy have endured a turbulent period since claiming a fourth World Cup in 2006, but Cesare Prandelli has brought stability and fresh impetus since his summer 2010 appointment. He took the reins after a forgettable defence of their title in South Africa, finishing bottom of a group that also included Paraguay, Slovakia and New Zealand.
Yet Italy, edged out on penalties by Spain in the Euro 2008 quarter-finals, head to Poland and Ukraine hopeful of a second continental crown after sauntering through qualifying unbeaten, conceding just two goals in ten outings.
The Republic of Ireland’s opponents: Spain
Reigning world and European champions Spain ended their 44-year wait for a major trophy with their Euro 2008 triumph under Luis AragonÃ©s. Since then, the Spanish have kept up the winning habit under Vicente del Bosque.
They posted 10 straight victories in 2010 World Cup qualifying, then recovered from a slow start in South Africa to reach the final, where AndrÃ©s Iniesta hit the extra-time winner against the Netherlands. And there has been no let-up since with eight wins in a row to reach next summer’s showpiece.
Euro 2012 draw in full
Group A: Czech Republic, Greece, Poland, Russia.
Group B: Denmark, Germany, Netherlands, Portugal.
Group C:Croatia, Italy, Republic of Ireland, Spain.
Group D: England, France, Sweden, Ukraine.
Republic of Ireland Euro 2012 factfile
“¢ Shay Given and Robbie Keane both enjoyed campaigns to remember. Given is Ireland’s most capped player ““ making his 120th international appearance in the play-off second leg against Estonia while Keane’s double in the Tallinn opener took him on to 53 goals for his country.
“¢ Trapattoni’s side also established a new national record for consecutive clean sheets. Ireland went eight matches without conceding a goal between the 3-2 friendly defeat at home by Uruguay in March and the 2-1 win at home to Armenia in the final group game and are currently 11 games unbeaten.
“¢ Ireland qualified for their only previous European Championship in 1988, opening their campaign with a famous 1-0 win against England thanks to Ray Houghton’s early header. Jack Charlton’s side were only edged out for a semi-final place in West Germany by eventual champions the Netherlands.
“¢ Ireland narrowly missed out on the final tournament in 1992, 1996 and 2000, losing in play-offs to the Netherlands and Turkey in those last two attempts. Recent years have seen less success as Ireland finished in third place in their qualifying groups for 2004 and 2008, ending the latter campaign 12 points behind group winners the Czech Republic and ten adrift of Germany.