Going up against a hardworking Ireland team, Croatia jumped out to a quick start. After dealing with a siege for most of the first half, the Croatians came back strong in the second and dominated.
Croatia's attack was in form, and the team scored three goals for the efforts. The Republic of Ireland played well, but their defense couldn't hold up against the striker tandem of Nikica Jelavic and Mario Mandzukic.
Croatia is in the driver's seat in Group C, and they are in great shape to advance. These five players are the biggest reason why.
Darijo Srna was massive for Croatia on the outside.
While not many of them were successful, the captain provided 10 crosses, which put constant pressure on the Irish defense. His hard work and deflected cross led to the first goal of the game, which put Croatia in control right away.
Srna has been playing for Croatia for almost a decade, but he has never seen the side past the quarterfinals in a major tournament. If Srna can be as effective as he was against Ireland, the skipper could lead his side to glory.
Luka Modric was the biggest star for Croatia heading into the tournament, and he put in a classic performance.
He wasn't the best player on the pitch, but he was the most calm and collected. He controlled the pace of the game from the midfield, and he moved forward very effectively.
Modric was an intricate part of the attack, and he did well to get the ball to Croatia's sensational strikers.
Modric completed nearly 95 percent of his passes, and he switched the field as well as anybody in the tournament. Including his laser of a shot, Modric definitely kept the Irish on their heels.
If Modric continues to play this well, Croatia has a very good chance of advancing deep in the tournament.
Gordon Schildenfeld was great for Croatia in the back.
Ireland was determined to continue sending long balls and crosses into the heart of the defense, and Schildenfeld was up to the challenge. He won a handful of aerial duels, cleared the ball countless times and intercepted a few passes when Ireland tried attacking through the middle.
Italy and Spain won't be as predictable as Ireland, but if Schildenfeld can continue to dominate the middle, Croatia will be in great shape.
This game was decided by Croatia's strikers, and Nikica Jelavic's goal was probably the biggest.
Appearing to be offside, Jelavic swooped in on a horrific clearance by Stephen Ward to poke the ball over Shay Given. By retaking the lead so close to halftime, Croatia turned the game on its head and devastated Ireland.
The momentum appeared to be shifting toward the Irish side, but Jelavic poached the goal that changed the game. Shortly after the half, Croatia scored again, and Ireland was pretty much done.
With Jelavic's game-changing goal, Croatia was able to overcome a strong first-half showing by Ireland. Jelavic changed the game, and he might've changed the fates of both of these teams on that simple poke.
It took Mario Mandzukic three minutes in each half to score a goal.
Not too shabby, huh?
His third- and 48th-minute goals were enough to demoralize Ireland shortly after the halves started. He worked well with Nikica Jelavic, and his determination on the first goal gave Croatia a dream-like start.
Mandzukic had a solid club season for Wolfsburg this year, but his brace in this match was by far his best performance.
Now, there's no reason to get ahead of ourselves. However, if Mandzukic (and Jelavic) continues to finish chances at this rate, Croatia could become the new European champions.