Perhaps the Republic of Ireland fans will adopt a ‘when in Rome’ mentality if the boys in green find the net against Croatia, with Giovanni Trapattoni’s side looking to get off to a flyer ahead of tricky matches against Spain and Italy which makes life very difficult for both of these teams in terms of group qualification.
You can back Ireland at 11/4 (Boylesports free bets) to claim victory and they are set to be the fittest team in the tournament considering the management staff are putting them through their paces and ensuring that they are well-drilled and organised for the three matches.
The Republic are clearly limited in terms of quality, although a set 4-4-2 formation and the same group of players gives them every chance of keeping things tight against their trio of opponents and a draw (11/5 bet365) is probably the most likely outcome on that basis.
Croatia will be similarly rugged but can rely on the play-making skills of Luka Modric to dictate the tempo of the game, with Slaven Bilic feeling quietly confident that his team can not only beat Ireland but book their place in the last eight.
The loss of Ivica OIic was a fairly big one considering the striker would have been first choice, although Everton’s Nikica Jelavic is a class act and he’s among the favourites at 6/1 (Paddy Power bookmaker) to score the first of this game, while Mario Mandžukić is probably overpriced and can be punted at odds of 17/2.
Robbie Keane is the master marksman for his national side and actually among the top three international goalscorers in the tournament, with the LA Galaxy striker always reliable in an Ireland shirt and he will attract plenty of patriotic money at 13/2.
The odds about Under 2.5 Goals in this contest clearly suggest that both teams will operate from a safety-first perspective and it’s open to question whether 8/15 (BetVictor) about two goals or less is much of a price although perhaps this is a game that will be decided by one goal.
Croatia to triumph 1-0 is available at odds of 11/2 (Coral) although the Irish supporters will be in good voice and maybe a new and exciting chapter for them will be written here, with 7/1 available that Trap masterminds the three points and puts the Republic in pole position.