When the Republic of Ireland prepare to travel to Euro 2012 this summer for its first participation at an international tournament for ten years, the Emerald Isle will go into the competition as underdogs and a slightly unknown entity. Despite being paired with Spain, Italy and Croatia in Group C, fans will rush to get their Euro 2012 final tickets as Eire could well be the surprise of the tournament.

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Republic of Ireland vs Spain

Undoubtedly the toughest of tests for Giovanni Trapattoni’s men, playing against the current European Championship and World Cup holders will be the pinnacle of many of the Irish players’ career, and they should enter the game with pride. Although on paper the Spaniards have a much superior side, the home nation will revel in their underdogs tags, and will be keen to get to grips with their illustrious opponents.

A good start is certainly needed in this game, and the Irish side will look to the experience of the likes of Shay Given, Richard Dunne and John O’Shea to give them a solid defensive platform to work from. Switzerland beat Vicente del Bosque’s men in the last World Cup, why can’t Ireland do the same?

Republic of Ireland vs Italy

Looking at the draw, this will be a game that the Irish side look forward to and know that they need to get a result from. The travelling support will hope that Trapattoni’s inside knowledge of the Italian game and will to win against his homeland will set them in good stead, and with the Azzurri not as commanding or assured as previous sides, Ireland should enter this game with no fear.

All Irish fans will remember Eire’s historic 1-0 win over Italy in the 1994 World Cup in the United States, with Ray Houghton’s wonderstrike sealing a momentous and unforgettable victory. With history there to be made, the Irish players will look to rattle their at times inconsistent opponents.

Republic of Ireland vs Croatia

The first game of the tournament for the Irish side and arguably the most important, a win in the opener would mean half the work of getting through the pool would be done immediately. Although Slaven Bilic’s men have improved over the last decade and have the likes of Luka Modric and Nikica Jelavic in their side, Croatia should not be a daunting opponent for the Irishmen.

With a number of Premier League players in the eastern European outfit’s team, familiar faces to the UK-based opponents will mean Ireland will know what to expect. There is no reason for Trapattoni’s men not to attack in this fixture, and the Irish fans will hope the likes of Robbie Keane, James McClean and Aiden McGeady can take the game to their evenly-matched opponents.

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