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What can Ireland learn from Croatia's Euro 2012 qualifiers?

Finding success from crosses could be a real possibility against today’s opponents.

Wolfsburg's Mario Mandzukic scored three goals in qualifying.
Wolfsburg's Mario Mandzukic scored three goals in qualifying.
Image: Slavko Midzor/Pixsell/Press Association Images

EN ROUTE TO Poland, Croatia finished runners-up in Group F – two points behind winners Greece.

They amassed 22 points from their 10 fixtures, one more than Ireland, by claiming seven wins, one draw and two defeats against the Greeks, Israel, Latvia, Georgia and Malta.

Slaven Bilic’s side conceded seven goals along the way but only let in more than a single goal in on one, last October.

Turkey were their opponents in the play-offs and after a superb 3-0 first leg win in Istanbul, they were happy to see out a 0-0 draw in the return match to book a place at the finals.

Below, we look at where Ireland might find joy and, also, what Trap’s side must be wary of in defence.

2-0 defeat to Greece, October 2011 (failing to deal with crosses)

Croatia suffered their second defeat of the qualifying campaign during the penultimate match in Piraeus. After a fairly uneventful first half in which neither side took the initiative, the Greeks found some joy from two set pieces.

The first goal, on 71 minutes, saw a Giorgos Karagounis corner from the right not properly cleared before Celtic striker Giorgos Samaras volleyed home from inside the box. Eight minutes later, Karagounis again delivered for Fanis Gekas to rise completely unmarked to head in the second.

Ireland do pose an areal threat and the likes of Dunne, St Ledger, O’Shea, Andrews, Doyle, Long and Walters could find themselves on the scoresheet in a major tournament for the first time if the delivery from the flanks is up to scratch.

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2-1 win over Georgia, November 2011 (attacking threat)

When they travelled to Tbilisi to face Georgia the following month, Croatia again allowed a cross/header combination to penetrate their backline.

However, 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.

As well as Mandzukic and Nikica Jelavic, who are likely to start, Bilic also has former Arsenal man Eduardo to spring from the bench.

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Ben Blake

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