It’s unlikely to be a
game that frightens their Group C cohabitants, tournament favourite Spain and 2006 World Cup champs Italy, but Sunday’s Ireland versus Croatia
match should be an entertaining clash in Euro 2012.
If your think
just picking the winner (and backing the favourites) is all the excitement you
need in the European Championship, you have another think coming! Neither
Ireland nor Croatia are likely to worry any bookies by lifting the Euro 2012
trophy, even at odds of 100/1 and 50/1 respectively. But just because this is a
clash of the UN-titans doesn’t mean we’re in for 90 empty minutes, in fact (and
despite the facts) I feel that at least one of these sides might confound
first – sobering facts
Croatia are 14/1
to reach the Euro 2012 final while Ireland are (dead last) at 50/1. Ireland are also the worst odds to be the
tournament's top scorers at 250/1 while Croatia are 66/1. It gets worse…Ireland
are the bookies favourites to be Euro 2012’s LOWEST scoring side at 4/1
(Croatia are close behind at 9/1) while Ireland are the second favourites to
concede the most goals and Croatia are third favourite at 10/1. Do you not get
it, lads? The Irish are the longshots of Europe
Both sides have
reason to be wary of a group that sees them face the reigning world and
European champions Spain and the 2006 World Cup winners Italy, it is a fair bet
that whoever fails to win this match will have little hope progressing – expect
a hard fought game. The last meeting between these sides was a 0-0 friendly
draw in August 2010, but a repeat of that score (available at 9/2) on Sunday
would help neither side. It’s interesting to note that the bookies have a 1-1
draw at the shortest correct score odds of 5/1, while any draw (certainly worth
a bet) is at 9/4. More fuel to that fire is the fact that the bookies have this
game at a least fancied 8/1 to be the highest scoring in Group C. And is it
worth mentioning that Ireland went out at the group stage in their only Euro
appearance in 1988.
But things are
NEVER as bad as they seem for the Irish
Croatia may have
stormed through the group stage at Euro 2008 but the Republic of Ireland are
very difficult to beat, and have conceded only three goals in their current
14-match unbeaten streak. The luck of the Irish may have been a factor but so
was discipline, determination and hard work.
Republic of Ireland are the bookies’ least favourite side to top Group C at
18/1 (Croatia are third favourite at 8/1), What’s more Croatia are the bookies’
favourites to finish third in this group at 21/10 and Ireland are favourites at
8/11 to finish bottom. It seems that the sportsbooks have already decided the
order of the teams in Group C; Spain, Italy, Croatia and Ireland.
So say it once,
say it loud: I'm an Irish longshot and I'm proud!
amongst longshots is Robbie Keane. The wandering striker was Ireland's top
scorer in their last major tournament, the 2002 World Cup, and remains the
primary Irish goal threat. If you want
to bank roll some real Guinness flavoured celebrations stick a pair of punds on
Keane to be the tournament's top goal scorer at 150/1, and couple it with
Ireland reaching the semis (as one thing helps another) at 12/1.
seven goals in qualifying and is Ireland's record scorer with over 50 goals on
Croatia have plenty
to be proud of themselves
gaining independence (and therefore their own seat at the Euro 2012 table) in
1991, Croatia needed little time to warm up to international football. At Euro
'96 in England (their first Euro), they made the quarter-finals, losing 2-1 to
(eventual winners) Germany at Old Trafford. However, Ireland have proved to be
a tough nut for the Croatians to crack and in six matches between the two
nations, Croatia have won just once, a 1-0 in Zagreb in September 1999.
The bookies fancy
Croatia in this match at 6/5, while and Irish victory is at 5/2, but I’m
betting with my heart (and Monday’s beer money) on this one!
Sure it's basic
and it's simple. But Irish football is something else too, it's honest. There's no
tippy-tappy. It sticks its neck out and plays it straight. Sure there's a lot
of different short-odds countries you can bet on but…where’s the fun in that?
Prediction: Irish eyes start smiling as the
Republic beat Croatia 2-1
, available at 12/1.