The draw for Euro 2012 has been made and Irish football fans are looking forward to some tough encounters with European and World Cup champions Spain, Italy and Croatia. The Republic of Ireland’s most recent tournament experience was ended by a crushing penalty shoot-out defeat at the hands of the Spaniards, whilst Ireland’s contest with Italy will mark the third encounter at tournament level between the two countries (Toto Schillaci and the legendary Ray Houghton scored the respective winning goals in the 1990 and 1994 matchups.) The Irish have met Croatia at group stage before but never in tournament finals.
England look to have dodged a bullet by avoiding the Spanish and Dutch groups and being drawn instead against France, joint hosts Ukraine and Sweden.
The Boys in Green will face Croatia on Sunday 10th June, before meeting Spain on 14th June and the Italians on the 18th June.
The fact that England and Ireland were kept apart in the group stages will likely see the much speculated friendly encounter between the two sides being given the go-ahead, the first such meeting since 1995. As someone who was amongst the crowd for that ill-fated encounter, clearly it is to be hoped that events pan out in a different manner this time around (though I’d settle for the same scoreline…)