Damien Duff reacts to a missed chance. INPHO/James Crombie

As it happened: Ireland v Croatia, Euro 2012

Could Giovanni Trapattoni’s men get off to a winning start against Croatia this evening? Let’s find out.

It’s here at last. Join us for Ireland’s Group C opener against Croatia in Poznan. We suspect you may have some opinions on this evening’s action so get in contact by writing a comment, email, tweet @thescore_ie or find us on Facebook. Let’s do this.

Full time: Croatia 3 Ireland 1

As David McSavage’s president of Ireland often says: Gid Wivvening! We’re strapped in for the night as the latest chapter in Ireland rich football history is about to be written in Poznan. Miguel Delaney is in the stadium for us and will bring us news and reaction after the final whistle. In the meantime, you’re stuck with me… and I won’t promise this is going to be coherent and/or balanced. But let’s see how we go.

Speaking of presidents, have you seen the bould Michael D droppig in on the fans earlier?

Niall Carson/PA Wire/Press Association Images

Check out the rest of the pictures here.

Marco Tardelli just spoke to Dave Kelly on RTÉ. And you can file this under ‘validation’.  ”The Irish people is a very good people” says Trap’s assistant manager.  We are, a very good people aren’t we?

There’s been some great costumes falling out of camper vans and train onto the streets of Poland this week. But this guy Irish dancing outside an official looking building in Poznan, makes me wonder if the bar has been raised to Lady Gaga levels. Bravo, sir.

You can check out more of the build-up in Poznan here.

Cue Reservoir Dogs soundtrack…

John Walton/EMPICS Sport

Point of information: If you’re one of the 87% of poll respondents who think Ireland will win tonight, Bill O’Herlihy is laughing at you.

As my old school principal once told me: you can’t fatten a pig in a day. But I always believed in cramming. So what can we learn from Croatia’s qualification campaign?

“Their talent in advanced areas then came to the fore. There is likely to be a threat down the left, where they tend to play narrowly, and Modric will be instructed to get on the ball as often as possible so John O’Shea, Damien Duff and one of Glenn Whelan or Keith Andrews will need to work well together to snuff out neat interchanges of passes similar to those in the build-up Mario Mandzukic’s first in the clip below.”

Read more from Ben Blake on the lessons for Trap et al here.

Forget your Spains, your Italys and your Denmarks, we’ve just witnessed the highlight of the tournament so far! Billo read ‘It’s Ireland time’ like he was seeing the words for the first time and then someone turned the studio lights green. Amazing.

But the lads are right. It’s is Ireland time.

Youtube: EastTerracer

We’ve got the team-sheets in our hand. Trap has gone for the XI he already hinted would take the pitch.

Ireland (4-4-2): Shay Given – John O’Shea, Sean St Ledger, Richard Dunne Stephen Ward – Aiden McGeady, Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews, Damien Duff – Kevin Doyle, Robbie Keane (capt.)

Croatia (4-4-2): Stipe Pletikosa – Darijo Srna (capt.), Vedran Corluka, Gordon Schildenfeld, Ivan Strinic – Ognjen Vukojevic, Ivan Rakitic, Luka Modric, Ivan Perisic – Nikica Jelavic, Mario Mandzukic.

What do you think?

The first pictures are starting to drip in from the stadium. I am well jel.

David Bradley from Wexford. INPHO/James Crombie

Miguel is in his seat in the press box and is stuffing his mouth with the Polish equivalent of prawn sandwiches, we’re sure.

“Fans in great voice,” he tells us. “I can barely hear the other reporters sitting right beside me.”

That’s no harm sometimes.

The Croatians are making up about one third of the crowd at a buzzing Municipal Stadium and are making themselves heard.

Chippy reckons with a bit of determination we can get a draw, Giles seems not to fancy it while Dunphy is cast — unusually — in the role of the optimist. How do you think it’ll play out?  The teams are in the tunnel and the 10-year wait is almost over. Those things in your stomach? Butterflies.

Here’s the anthems. I’m reminded, as the camera pans along the Croatian line-up, of Barney Ronay’s description of Luka Modric looking like a small child dressed up as a witch.

And we’re off with Croatia kicking off and ‘You’ll never beat the Irish’ ringing around the stadium. “Here we go again,” says George Hamilton.

First foray forward came down Aiden McGeady’s left flank. The former Celtic player pulled it back for Stephen Ward after some trickery but the  cross from the Wolves man came to naught. Reader Sean writes in the comment section: ”Just listened to Amhran Na Bhfiann Makes the hair on my neck stand to attention.” We know what you mean.

GOAL! Croatia 1  Ireland 0, Mario Mandzukic 3′

What a disaster of a start. Mario Mandzukic has broken the deadlock after a mere two and a half minutes with a header past Shay Given from all of 16 yards, after a pull back from the byline. The Croatians are in full voice now and it seems like a long way to group qualification from there. How are we feeling out there?

Free kick for Ireland on the Croatian D after Keane and Doyle linked up well on the edge of the box and the Wolves striker was brought down.

Duff rolled it casually to Andrews and he walloped it at the wall before volleying the rebound wildly behind. This is an encouraging enough reaction to that kick-in-stomach start though.

Karl Mallon from Inchicore Pic: INPHO/James Crombie

GOAL! Croatia 1 Ireland 1, Sean St Ledger 19′

Get in! St Ledger gets in at the back post to head home the equaliser after 19 minutes. Kevin Doyle won another free kick for Ireland with Corluka barging into the back of the Wexford man, McGeady took it and the Leicester City defender held off his marker to nod home, not unlike the time he put us 2-1 up against Italy.

Spare a thought, dear reader, for our man following the rugby team in New Zealand. Pat McCarry tells me he’s watching the game “through a bad stream on a half inflated air mattress. Somehow fitting at the moment.” That was before the goal though.  Where are you watching the game?

Incidentally, can anyone else hear a second whistle — coming from the crowd we think? Some of us in the office here refused to celebrate for a good 30 seconds because of the phantom tooter.

Here’s that equaliser from Ledge/The Saint:

YouTube credit:

Kevin Doyle was — I believe — the most fouled player in qualification and he’s winning plenty of frees here for us. Corluka has been told by the Dutch ref that he’s one more away from a yellow as he’s taken SuperKev out again. McGeady floated in a ball for St Ledger from an identical position but there’s no goal this time.

The Croats carved outa nice little opportunity for themselves there with Everton striker Jelavic taking both Irish centre halves out of it with a lovely dink over his own head. Perisic came onto it and wellied wide and over. 36 minutes gone.

Jelavic just flashed a header wide of Shay given’s near post, beating Richard Dunne to a quick diagonal ball. Dunne hasn’t been at his Moscow best has he?

GOAL! Croatia 2 Ireland 1, Jelavic 42

That’s been coming. Nikica Jelavic has scored to put Croatia ahead once again, despite protestations from the Irish players. The Everton player looked to be marginally offside when an initial ball was played through but it may have eventually have dropped to him via the boot of an Irishman. With Keith Andrews watching, his arm in the air, Jelavic lifted it over Given. It should never have got to that point in truth with Glenn Whelan earlier making a silly mistake with the result a cheap corner kick.

Off The Ball’s ken Early tweets: “pretty demoralising for ireland to concede two bad goals. fans have gone much quieter than they did after mandzukic’s goal. andrews booked”.

As I type, Croatia create another chance but it’s headed over.

The whistle sounds, a relief to Ireland. Trap will have to earn his crust in that dressing-room in the next 10 minutes. What do you think needs to be done now?

“I have to say lads that’s a bit of a bummer,” isn’t it? asks Billo, looking pretty fed up. We went to sleep for a long time after the equaliser, adds Dunphy. Miguel tweets from Poznan:

“First time Ireland have conceded 2 in a competitive game since last defeat – Russia at home. Is this level a little too much for the system?”

Here we go again, no changes on either side. In the interval, Brady astutely identified a foul on Ward in the lead-up to the second Croatia goal, causing him to mis-kick into Jelavic’s path,

GOAL! Croatia 3 Ireland 1, Mandzukic 47

What an absolute disaster. Mandzukic was allowed to flick a cross into the corner of Given’s net in the opening minutes of the first half. Cox and Walters look to be warming up, something certainly needs to change.

61 minutes on the clock and though Ireland are enjoying a period of possession, they haven’t done anything with it really. As I type, the Irish fans are loudly appealing for a penalty as Robbie Keane is tackled from behind inside the 20-yard line by Schildenfeld. The challenge comes while a Croatian is lying on the pitch ‘injured’ and Ronnie Whelan insists the ref waved away the claims for a spotter because Ireland didn’t kick it out of play.

As Brian Lenihan Sr once said, on mature reflection that should have been a penalty. As one commenter below says: stonewall. And however inept some of facets of this Irish performance have been, you still suspect if Ireland score in the next few minutes, they’ll somehow get a third. The draw is priced at 26/1 on Betfair at the moment, midway through the second half.

Ireland’s final throw of the dice: Robbie Keane sprints to the sideline to be replaced by Shane Long. He has 15 minutes to make his mark.

78 mins After a spell of Irish possession — if little else — Croatia almost add the icing to their Polish pastry. Rakitic whipped one at Shay Given’s far post but it spun wide to the relief of the Aston Villa ‘keeper.

Keith Andrews has had two chances to get Ireland back into it in the past two minutes but failed to make either count. The first saw the West Brom midfielder head low towards the Croatian goal but it was too close to the keeper and moments later he arrived at the edge of the box to hit one but struck across it and dragged it wide. George Hamilton sounds depressed.

The good news? Mandzukic won’t be getting a hat-trick tonight; he’s hobbling off after a meeting with St Ledger. Damien Duff has just put in an inviting cross which Keith Andrews tried to nod in but was punched in the head by the keeper. I thought that might be the one that would set up a tense last few minutes.

Former Gooner Eduardo is coming on Perisic rather than Mandzukic, who seems determined to hang on in there. One minute of normal time remaining now.

Five additional minutes — time enough for two goals, Hamilton says — but where are they coming from. Ireland have a corner. We dare not dream right?

Keith Andrews, who has been the brightest of Ireland’s performers, meets the ball on the six-yard line but heads it a yard to the wrong side of the far post. Sums it all up. 92 mins on the clock.

Andrews has yet another chance; the ball dropping on the edge of the box again but he curls it wide. And that, fittingly, is the last action of the game. The Fields of Athenry rings out defiantly.

“We gave the ball away, and didn’t play well,” says Giles, while Liam Brady seems to have spent the second half in the tape room highlighting the Stephen Ward ‘trip’ on the grassy knoll. “I don’t think our chances of advances… exist,” says Chippy.

Okay, that’s your lot on what is a utterly deflating night for Irish football fans. We’ll have more reaction and analysis later tonight and early tomorrow morning as normal. Keep the comments coming.

Check out TheScore’s Euro2012 mini-site here>

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