Ireland 1 – 3 Croatia

Man of the Match: Mario Mandzukic. Decisive contributions at the beginning of each half from the Wolfsburg frontman were responsible for Croatia’s victory. Tucked in on the right of Nikica Jelavic, Mandzukic’s link-up play provided a constant threat and he showed his eye for a goal by heading Croatia in front early on, before his header hit the post and deflected off Shay Given for Croatia’s third.

Croatia verdict: Possessing a lively front pair, Slaven Bilic’s side offered plenty of excitement in attack, with Luka Modric pulling the strings in midfield. Goalkeeper Stipe Pletikosa deserves credit as he was bombarded with crosses and though Croatia’s defence looked frail at times, they dealt with the aerial threat after being punished once by Sean St Ledger’s goal. Top of the group and will be deservedly full of optimsm heading into huge games against Spain and Italy.

Ireland verdict: Defensively naive. Ireland needed to be strong at the back if they were to make an impact a this tournament, but they were quite the opposite in Poznan – Mandzukic appeared unmarked for both the first and second
goal and though Jelavic was offside for the second, his strike came as a result of a comical slice from Stephen Ward. Offensively, the non-introduction of James McClean was a little surprising, when Giovanni Trapattoni’s side desperately needed an attacking spark.

Could do better: Aiden McGeady. Aside from the delivery for the goal, the tricky Spartak Moscow winger was anonymous before being withdrawn in the second half. Ireland’s main threat was from the wings but McGeady did not get enough crosses in, often looking nervous and unwilling to take defenders on.

Stat attack: This was the first time Ireland have ever conceded three goals in a match at a major international finals – they had previously gone 17 games without doing so.

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