Sunday June 10th marks the first matches in Group C, a group that features the Republic of Ireland, Croatia, Spain, and Italy. Spain and Italy will be playing first on Sunday, but our focus is on the second match between Ireland and Croatia. This match may seem to slip through the cracks because most of the attention is being put on the Spaniards, but it is more important and significant than it is getting credit for.
The Irish side features a lot of names that any world football fan will be familiar with. For instance, the head honcho in the attacking third, like it has been for ages, is going to be Robbie Keane. Even at his age of 31 he is still a force in front of the net. Keane will be accompanied up front by Wolves forward Kevin Doyle. The midfield for Ireland is strong as well with names like Aiden McGeady and Darron Gibson who are able to play neat balls down both left and right channels consistently. Most Ireland fans are satisfied with their starting keeper, Aston Villa man, Shay Given. All in all the Irish side is solid through and through.
If you want to talk about midfields that will be tough to handle, Croatia is the team you should be talking about. Their two Tottenham Hotspur midfielders Niko Kranjcar and Luka Modric are enough to give anyones midfield and defense a tough day. In attack Croatia has some lesser known youngsters in Nikola Kalinic and Mario Mandzukic but they will assuredly be out looking to prove themselves, and with a talented midfield such as Croatia has, they can expect to be fed the ball plenty of times. The forward that will be leading the way, most likely, is a man by the name of Ivan Perisic who plays his club ball at Borussia Dortmund. The only real weakness you can pick out of this Croatia side is that their number 1 goalkeeper, who at this point looks to be 33 year old Stipe Pletikosa, is not a particularly standout player.
Bovada.lv has Croatia as the favorite as they sit at +120 on the moneyline. It seems as though a draw is more likely than an Irish win as it sits at +220 and an Irish win is now at +250 on the moneyline.
Given the odds I think I would have to go with the Irish in this opening match for them. For years now it seems that the Irish teams have been on the verge of greatness, and I really think that this tournament is going to be their coming out party. Robbie Keane is as hungry as any other player out there and so is the rest of this Irish squad. I would not be surprised if the Irish were to win by more than just a goal or two.
Pick: Ireland to win (+250)