Croatia star striker Jelavic tipped to give Irish a tough first match

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THE Republic of Ireland are widely tipped to finish bottom of Group C and if they lose to Croatia in their first match in Poznan, that will almost certainly turn out to be the case.

Giovanni Trapattoni’s men are 29/10 outsiders to give themselves a chance of progression by edging out the Croats and 9/4 (Paddy Power) to pick up a decent point but Slaven Bilic’s team could be something of a surprise package in Euro 2012 and they have to be fancied at 6/5 with Betfred to prevail in this one.

Nevertheless, the Irish are rarely an easy opponent to face and they will undoubtedly make Croatia work for their maximum haul. A case can therefore be made for Coral’s 11/2, posted against a 1-0 triumph for Bilic’s charges, who are also on offer at 11/4 via Stan James to nick it by a one-goal margin.

Everton striker Nikica Jelavic, enjoyed an impressive end to the season and he has to be fancied to make an impact against defenders he’ll be used to facing. Bet365 make him 11/2 to notch first and he’s 2/1 with the same firm to notch at any time.

Spain come into Euro 2012 as reigning European and world champions so it’s perhaps not surprising to see Vicente del Bosque’s men installed as 5/6 favourites by William Hill to begin the defence of their crown with a victory against Italy.

However the Italians, Paddy Power’s 4/1 outsiders, are something of an unknown quantity ahead of their opening fixture, unfancied in the outright betting but possessing plenty of quality and the ability to hurt some of the competition’s favourites.

Spain could be set for a frustrating evening against an Italian team that will look to keep things tight. BetVictor’s 13/5 for the spoils to be shared jumps from the page.

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