Ireland handed tough Euro 2012 draw


Soccer: Clashes with Spain, Croatia and Italy await the Republic of Ireland at Euro 2012 after Giovanni Trapattoni’s side was drawn in Group C in Kiev this evening. The team will be based in Poland for the group stages of the tournament and will open the campaign against Croatia on Sunday June 10th in Poznan.

They will then square off with Spain – the tournament favourites and reigning world and European champions - in Gdansk on June 14th before meeting Italy in Poznan on June 18th.

Should Ireland progress beyond the group stages they would face opposition from Group D – which features co-hosts Ukraine, England, Sweden and France - in the quarter-final stages in either Donetsk or Kiev on June 23th or 24th.

“It’s impossible to say which group is better because we know our position in ranking," said Trapattoni after the draw. "We have to think in football, everything is possible.

“We have to play with the same mentality. Obviously, all the teams are very difficult, but I am confident. I know better Italy but every game is different. We also have to play Spain and Croatia are not easy.

“Spain are the world champions and are a strong team. We have to think about games against the famous players, like Italy, Brazil and Germany.

“We have to think about our moment, it is a good moment, with our attitude and mentality. It is important that our squad stays without injury.”

Republic of Ireland midfielder Keith Andrews said the draw could have been “kinder” and that Ireland would have been happier to drawn one of the home nations.

“There’s no denying it has been a tough draw,” he said, but added it would be fantastic to face Spain, describing the reigning world and European champions as “one of the best teams of the last 30 years”.

Ireland have faced both Croatia and Italy in friendlies over the last 12 months - drawing 0-0 with Croatia at the Aviva Stadium in August and beating Italy 2-0 in Liege in June.

During the World Cup 2010 qualifying campaign, Ireland drew 2-2 with Italy in Croke Park and 1-1 in Bari.

Ireland's last competitive meeting with Spain, also the country's last fixture at a major championships, was in the second round of the 2002 World Cup in Suwon, Korea. The sides drew 1-1 before Spain progressed 3-2 on penalties.

Euro 2012 gets underway in Warsaw on Friday June 8th, 188 days from now, with co-hosts Poland facing Greece.

Group A:Poland, Greece, Russia, Czech Republic.

Group B:Netherlands, Denmark, Germany, Portugal

Group C:Spain, Italy, Ireland, Croatia

Group D:Ukraine, Sweden, England, France.