Croatia 3-1 Republic of Ireland
It at first looked like the Irish had a chance. A sea of green jerseys waited in anticipation in the stands. Easily out-numbering the Croatian fans, the Irish followers filled the stadium with hope for their underdog favorites. For lack of a better word, they looked like a lucky team. That optimism lasted three minutes into the first half.
Mario Mandzukic didn’t even give the boys in green a chance to breathe when he knocked in a header past Irish keeper Shay Given after a bad clearance from the first corner kick of the game. The Irish compensated by not only dominating the next twenty-five minutes of the game, but by also scoring an equalizer in the 19th minute. St. Ledger evened up the score off of a set piece (No surprise, they scored 10 goals for Euro qualifying using set pieces) which gave the underdogs some hope which once-again, was short-lived.
Jelavic knocked another one in past Given in the 43rd minute while Mandzukic sealed the fate of the game in the 48th. The Croats kept possession for most of the second half, creating a more subdued atmosphere until the Irish forward, Robbie Keane was fouled in the penalty box. Referee Bjorn Kuipers might be hearing complaints for a bit after he decided that the foul would not be a penalty. Although pressure was applied to the Croatian defense near the end of the game, the Irish couldn’t find the back of the net a second time.
Man of the Match
Mario Mandzukic, easy. He was constantly on the run, tore apart the Irish defense, and was a part of almost every offensive play for the Croatian side. Oh yeah, and he scored two goals. If I played defense for Italy, I would be watching out for him.
Post Game Thoughts
–The Irish have a lot of work to do and by a lot, I mean an amount which is probably unattainable. Their next match is going to be up against Spain, have you heard of them? What was surprising (and what I mentioned in the match preview) was that the Irish were not the conservative or rigid side seen during qualifying. Sure, they played a 4-4-2 but they seemed to lack the shape and discipline which was typical of the team. The only feeling of Irish team nostalgia I felt was when they scored off of the set piece in the first half. The Irish team played more aggressive, offensive and physical throughout the game, which is typically good, but not their style of play.
-Shay Given is a key player, and when he messes up, the team is obviously hurt. He made dumb mistakes and looked a little off-balance today. To his benefit, he did make some good saves for the Irish, but that will not be enough against a Spanish side. Is it time to try to put him on the bench?
-Believe the hype, Modric is good. Really good. I doubted the talent he would bring before the tournament due to his recent trading to Manchester United and his lighter workouts, but I was wrong. Along with Jelavic and Mandzukic, they made dangerous attacks on the Irish side of the field. If Modric continues his consistent play, a win against Italy would not seem too far from reach.