CROATIA beat Ireland 3-1 on a wet night in Poznan after starting with the fifth-fastest goal ever in the European Championship.
Ireland conceded a bizarre early goal when a cross was ricocheted off the back of a defender and flew out to Wolfburg striker Mario Mandzukic, who sent a looping header from 13 yards that Shay Given should have saved.
Republic O Croatia 1 after 3 minutes.
On a night of pouring rain and powerful headers, Sean St Ledger connected with an Aiden McGeady free-kick to make it 1-1 after 19.
But Croatia had more ideas and skill, and also, it has to be said, more luck.
A shot by Luka Modric hit two defenders and broke for Jelavic to stab home for 2-1 in 43. The kind of razor-sharp finish we now expect from the Everton striker.
Very soon after half-time, Croatia looked far too comfortable in possession and, fearing the worst, I said, “This is gonna be 3-1 and Goodnight!”
Anybody could see a goal coming as Modric fed the ball out to the left and a good flat cross by Ivan Perisic (Borussia Dortmund) allowed Mandzukic (Wolfsburg) to produce a thumping header which hit the post and bounced in off the head of the diving Given.
Robbie Keane was denied a penalty at 3-1 when he was clumsily clattered by Eintracht defender Gordon Schildenfeld. A panicky challenge which went unpunished by Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers.
Keith Andrews missed late chances.
Trapattoni’s substitutions looked dubious, with Shane Long coming on too late and rookie left winger James McClean not used.
Italy v neighbours Croatia is at 5pm on Thursday June 14.
Italian is spoken in the north of the country, the region Jan and I have not visited yet.
Spain v Ireland is in Gdansk on that Thursday at 7.45 pm.
This from Wikipedia:
On Hadjuk Split defender Slaven Bilic
Bilic moved abroad to the Bundesliga side Karlsruher SC in a £750,000 deal in 1993.
His performances earned him much praise very early on and he soon became the club’s captain (the first ever foreign player to be named club captain in Bundesliga history).
After reaching the semi-final of the 1993-94 UEFA Cup with Karlsruhe, he was voted the best centre-back in the Bundesliga.
In January 1996 Harry Redknapp, manager of Premier League side West Ham United, brought him to the club for a fee of £1.3 million, setting the club’s record for highest fee paid for an incoming player.