The Republic of Ireland face a mammoth task to make the knock-out stage after loosing 3-1 to Croatia. The rain fell down in Pozan but that was not enough to damper the spirit of the traveling Irish fans who were roaring at the start of the match. That noise didn’t take long to be silenced as Mario Mandzukic scored after three minutes. Giovanni Trapattoni would have wanted his Irish side to play well defensively but his plans were shattered early on.
Croatia started the game well and it was clear from the beginning that their players were superior with the ball. They moved the ball around quickly and didn’t allow Ireland to settle into the game. Irelands failure to clear a corner lead to a header for Mandzukic who scored after some awful marking in the box. Shay Given should have done better but was left unsighted by his defense.
Ireland could have easily crumbled but to their credit they rallied. On 19 mins they won a free kick out wide on the left which was headed in by a diving Sean St Ledger. It was clear it was Ireland’s plan to use their wide men as their attacking outlet as their midfield were struggling to cope with the movement and passing of Modric and co. Near the end of the second half Modric would play a key role in the next goal as his shot was blocked and then Stephan Ward sliced the ball into the path of Nikica Jelavic. The striker appeared to be in a offside position but was played on side as the pass came from an Irish player. He took his chance well as he flicked the ball past the on rushing Given. Ireland looked deflated as they went into the break a goal down.
Trapattoni looked furious before the break and would have stressed to his players the importance on starting the second half well. But yet again he would see his plans come to nothing as on 48 mins Mandzukic grabbed his second of the game. Ireland allowed the opposition too much time on the ball and a cross came in from the left and Mandzukic’s header came off the post that went in off the back of Given.
3-1 down Trapattoni made a double substitution bring on Jon Walters and Simon Cox for Kevin Doyle and Aiden McGeady. His opposite number Slaven Bilic, whilst looking very animated on the touch-line, would have been happy with the way his side were playing. They moved the ball around well and defended well when they had to. After an hour there was some controversy as Mandzukic lied on the ground after a challenge and Ireland refused to kick the ball out of play. As play continued Ireland felt they had a good claim for a penalty as Robbie Keane was brought down in the box by Schildenfeld. The referee turned down their appeals as replays showed a penalty would have been a fair call.
The Irish failed to make any clear-cut chances despite a lot of effort from their players. Croatia had a good chance to score a forth on 77 mins when Rakitic bent his shoot wide of goal after Ireland again gave the Croats too much room. Keith Andrews headed just wide on 90 mins from a corner but that’s as close as they came to getting another goal.
Ireland played with a lot of heart and were encouraged on by their passionate supporters who remained loud throughout the game. They will be very disappointed with the goals they gave away as they were very sloppy. They were beaten by a Croatia side that was simply too good for them, they were simply allowed too much time on the ball to play the football they wanted and that feed into their hands. Italy will be next for Croatia who will feel a draw might be a good result for them to make the next stage. For Ireland, Spain will be next and the task ahead looks to be very difficult indeed.