International Football

Ireland vs. Croatia: Impact Players Who Will Decide Outcome

POZNAN, POLAND - JUNE 09:  Shay Given of Republic of Ireland saves a ball during a Republic of Ireland training session prior to the UEFA EURO 2012 Group C match against Croatia at the Municipal Stadium Poznan on June 9, 2012 in Poznan, Poland.  (Photo by Christof Koepsel/Getty Images)
Christof Koepsel/Getty Images
Ryan PhillipsContributor IIIJune 10, 2012

When Ireland and Croatia take the field to open their Euro 2012 campaigns on Sunday, there are several key players who will decide the outcome of the match. Here is a look at the impact players for both sides and how they will affect the game.

 

Ireland

Shay Given

Ireland's goalkeeper has been nursing an injury entering the tournament, but he should be fine when the match starts. The Aston Villa keeper was in doubt because of a knee injury, but he has been training full-time and appears ready to go.

If he is on his game, Given is a top-flight keeper. Even at 36 years old, he can still get it done. If he can post a clean sheet, the Irish will have a great chance at picking up three points on Sunday.

 

Robbie Keane

Ireland's all-time leading scorer with 53 goals, Keane will be looked to to create some magic for the Irish. Ten years ago today, Keane had an equalizer in the 92nd minute against the Germans. He may need to do something similar for this year's squad to contend. 

Keane is a pure scorer who can seemingly strike out of nowhere. He will need to step up and do that today if the Irish hope to escape with a win.

 

POZNAN, POLAND - JUNE 09:  Luka Modric of Croatia controls the ball during a Croatia training session prior to tomorrows UEFA EURO 2012 Group C match against Ireland at Municipal Stadium on June 9, 2012 in Poznan, Poland.  (Photo by Jamie McDonald/Getty I
Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Croatia

Luka Modric

Modric will likely be matched up against Keith Andrews for much of today's match. With Ivica Olic out with an injury, the Tottenham midfielder will have to find a way to make plays for Croatia.  

Modric has eight international goals in 54 caps, but his best asset is his ability to make plays for others. If Modric can get loose and make plays for Croatia, they will have a chance to do damage. If he can't, it will be a long day for his squad.

 

Nikica Jelavic

With Olic out, Everton striker Nikica Jelavic will have to step up and be a force offensively. The 26-year-old has only scored twice in 19 international appearances, but he just finished off a phenomenal season where he scored 11 goals in all competitions for Everton this year. 

Jelavic may need to find the back of the net on Sunday if Croatia hopes to come away with a win. He is probably the team's best hope for a goal.

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