At the end of the day there is no surprise that it was World and European Champions Spain who qualified along with Italy from this group. Of course the bare stats hide the tale of the six matches between the four teams.
If Shay Given had been a shade luckier then perhaps Ireland may have avoided defeat on at least one occasion. If penalties had been given to Croatia, or if golden opportunities presented to them had been taken... It's all a load of "ifs" and "ands" though in the end.
Ultimately, Spain might just face England or France or co-hosts Ukraine in the quarters. Italy will meet France, or possibly England or co-hosts Ukraine.
For the record, here's what I said before this all started:
C is for... cash? Credit? Currency? Well in the case of three of these, it's unlikely.
I'm sorry, but I can't see past the current World and European Champions, Spain and dogged, serial tournament improvers, Italy emerging from this group. Croatia will present a challenge to both and may even spring a surprise, but Ireland are rank outsiders.
That said, the Republic's qualifying record was impressive, losing just once, to Russia (at home). A series of impressive draws - twice with Slovakia and in the Moscow return saw them keep their shoulders in front of the opposition to qualify for the play-offs. Further eastern European opposition were drawn in the play-offs as Estonia came out of the hat. The trip to Tallinn was most successful with a 4-0 away win all but securing their progress, which was rubber stamped 4 days later in Dublin with a 1-1 draw.
In may ways the issue that Ireland has is England's, minus the expectation of a nation. Too many supreme athletes who are unable to string more than two passes together before handing the ball over to the opposition.
|Republic of Ireland||3||0||3||0||1||9||-8||0|
- Italy 2-0 Republic of Ireland Monday 18 June, 19:45 BST
- Croatia 0-1 Spain Monday 18 June, 19:45 BST
- Spain 4-0 Republic of Ireland Thursday 14 June, 19:45 BST
- Italy 1-1 Croatia Thursday 14 June, 17:00 BST
- Republic of Ireland 1-3 Croatia Sunday 10 June, 19:45 BST
- Spain 1-1 Italy Sunday 10 June, 17:00 BST
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