Croatia beats Ireland 3-1 in Euro 2012
Playing in a difficult group with Spain and Italy, it’s Croatia
at the top.
The Croats took advantage of a frail Ireland defense to win
their opening match at the European Championship, getting two goals
from Mario Mandzukic in a 3-1 victory on a rainy evening at the
”I still can’t believe what we just did. It was a fantastic
victory,” Mandzukic said. ”We knew it would be a tough match, but
we responded excellently and we achieved a great victory.”
Croatia now leads Group C with three points, while Spain and
Italy each have one point after their 1-1 draw in Gdansk. Ireland,
which is playing at a major tournament for the first time in 10
years, is last. The Croats next face Italy on Thursday.
”Probably one victory will be enough to go to the
quarterfinals,” Croatia coach Slaven Bilic said.
Croatia took the lead in the third minute when Mandzukic looped
a header past a diving Shay Given, but Ireland equalized in the
19th when Sean St. Ledger headed in Aiden McGeady’s free kick from
Nikica Jelavic put Croatia back in front in the 43rd minute,
scoring his first goal in a competitive match since he made his
international debut in 2009.
”The second goal was clearly offside,” Ireland coach Giovanni
Mandzukic added the third in the 48th after his header from Ivan
Perisic’s cross bounced off the post and into the net off Given’s
Croatia nearly made it 4-1 in the 77th when Ivan Rakitic’s shot
curled just wide of Given’s right hand post.
”Our coach showed us everything about the Irish team,”
Mandzukic said. ”We had all the information.”
The three goals were as many as Ireland had conceded in its
previous 14 games.
”It was unlike us to concede the goals we conceded today,” St.
Ledger said. ”Croatia didn’t split us open. From our point of view
they were disappointing goals to concede.”
Bilic reinforced his defense by playing captain Darijo Srna at
right back instead of midfield, and moving Vedran Corluka across to
”Since the first minute of the match, I was really sure and
confident that we are the better team on the pitch,” Bilic
There were no surprises from Trapattoni, an Italian veteran who
had named his starting lineup days before the game.
”It’s always nice to get goals, but we lost the game,” St.
Ledger said. ”We need to move on now.”
Ireland: Shay Given; John O’Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St.
Ledger, Stephen Ward; Damien Duff, Keith Andrews, Glenn Whelan,
Aiden McGeady (Simon Cox, 54); Robbie Keane (Shane Long, 75), Kevin
Doyle (Jon Walters, 53).
Croatia: Stipe Pletikosa; Darijo Srna, Vedran Corluka, Gordon
Schildenfeld, Ivan Strinic; Ivan Rakitic (Tomislav Dujmovic, 92),
Ognjen Vukojevic, Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic (Eduardo, 89); Nikica
Jelavic (Niko Kranjcar, 72), Mario Mandzukic.