/ Euro 2012

Dave Kelly gives us his perspective from Euro 2012

Updated: Sunday, 10 Jun 2012 12:45

Dave in the company of the two-time World Champions of Table Football
Dave in the company of the two-time World Champions of Table Football

The day before the game is always a busy one for the journalists. It was made somewhat easier with Republic of Ireland and Croatia training and press conferences back to back at the match venue.

From our own point of view it's a long and complicated day for our satellite operators, technicians, and broadcasting managers. Every cable, every camera ,every commentary position and every interview area needs to be checked.

With a massive TV and Radio audience expected, nothing can be left to chance. Security is a real priority for UEFA and there was a ring of steel around the stadium.

The expectation level from the Croatian media appears to be quite low. Their manager Slaven Bilic, who steps down as national team manager after Euro 2012, has the best win rate of any Croatian national team coach. His future was called into question however, after the 1-0 defeat away to Georgia in March of last year.

A number of his key personnel are now in their thirties, there is a feeling that the side may began to break up over the course of the World Cup qualifying campaign for Brazil 2014.

It's in defence in particular where it seems Croatia are vulnerable. Vedran Corluka is regarded as being the key defender in his team.

Bilic was given a real headache when Corluka picked up a hamstring injury in training on Wednesday, but he will start in Pozan.

Tottenham's Luka Modric is clearly their standout player, and Everton's Nikica Jelavic has made a big impact in his short time in the Premier League.

Wolfsburg Striker Mario Mandzukic scored three times in qualifying, and former Arsenal striker Eduardo could also be a prominent squad member, especially as Ivica Olic misses the tournament due to injury.

When someone introduces themselves to you by saying: "Hello, I am a small and funny man" it tends to grab one's attention. That was my introduction to Damien, a media liaison officer in the Fan Zone area of Poznan.

He informed me that a media table football tournament was taking place as part of their welcome evening for journalists.

As it's a sport I have never quite mastered I politely declined the offer. The prize for the tournament winners was the chance to face the two-time World Champions of table football, Agata Cwiakala and Agnieszka Rutowska.

An opportunity to meet two world champions on the same day rarely presents itself so I thought this was a photo opportunity to good to miss, purely for the purposes of this blog of course.

I spent Saturday between the Fan Zone area, the match stadium, and the bars and restaurants of Poznan, where the Irish supporters were in flying form.

It's always difficult to calculate in terms of actual numbers, but at a rough estimate I'd say the ratio of Irish fans to Croatian fans was at least 10:1. At lunchtime we got an Irish version of the 'Poznan' at the Dubliner pub in the City, which is just around the corner from where the RTÉ 2FM Roadcaster is parked.

From the supporters we spoke to cautious optimism seemed to be the general feeling. As one fan said while this may be a team limited in some areas, it is also one that is difficult to beat.

Giovanni Trapattoni's policy of sticking with his tried and trusted starting XI was, in the main, also welcomed. Clearly there was a lot of relief when the news that Shay Given would start came through.

The stats from the Euro 2012 qualifiers suggest it may be a busy night for the Donegal man and his defenders, Only Germany and Spain had more shots on goal than Croatia on the way to the finals.

And so to Saturday Night in Poznan. After a very enjoyable barbeque watching Germany v Portugal in the Fan Zone Media Centre, it was time to find the action areas. By around midnight the Irish fans had completely taken over the centre of the old town.

We got some rousing renditions of all the old songs, Paul McGrath, Gary Breen, and the current manager all very much to the fore. A new one, 'Strip off for the Boys in Green' may not catch on, particularly on a cold October night in Dublin for a World Cup qualifier.

There is a real mix of Irish fans over here, including quite a few that experienced the highs and lows of that first major finals 24 years ago. The supporters will do their utmost tonight to make a difference and it will feel like a home game for Ireland. It's now down to the players.