By Barry McEneaney

The Republic of Ireland’s scoreless draw against Croatia - a team ranked in the top 10 of the Fifa rankings - means Ireland have now kept five consecutive clean sheets. You have to go back to 1997 for the last time the side managed such a feat.

Croatia play in a style not dissimilar to Russia and manager Giovanni Trapattoni will be more than satisfied with the result prior to the matches in Dublin on 2 September and Moscow on 6 September.

Paddy McCourt scored twice as Northern Ireland beat the Faroe Islands 4-0 in Belfast.


90 min Simunic drags down Cox as Ireland earn a free-kick with just seconds remaining. Dunne ambles forward and eventually reaches the edge of the Croatia box, but the delivery is cleared and the referee blows for full-time.

Comment: “Solid display from the boys today especially the back four and the Duffer. Keane faces a big fight for his place after Long’s transfer. Long and Doyle must be the new front two.” Stephen Quinn
By the way, our earlier emailer Martin Wyer also goes by the marvellous moniker ‘Ghostie O’Toole’. Can’t believe I didn’t highlight that before now.

85 min The ball reaches the unmarked Kalinic at the edge of the area, but his snap-shot is comfortably gathered by Westwood. He should have done better and it’s easy to see just why he’s surplus to requirements at Blackburn Rovers.

83 min Cox and Treacy enter the fray for Duff and Long.

82 min Kalinic and Srna link up on the edge of the Ireland box, but the Croatia captain’s low strike goes to the left and wide.

81 min A Duff corner from the right is headed clear by Simunic.

75 min The ineffectual Whelan makes way for O’Dea.

75 min Northern Ireland lead the Faroe Islands 2-0 in Windsor Park.

72 min Srna and Keane both handle a contested ball, but it’s Ireland that get the decision. The free-kick poses no initial danger to Croatia, but when St Ledger whips in a sublime cross from the right that seems certain to change, however, the unmarked Dunne’s misdirected header from close range doesn’t even find the target. Disappointing.

69 min Mandzukic and St Ledger emerge relatively unscathed from a nasty clash of heads, but the Leicester player looks decidedly groggy.

66 min Hunt and Given make way for Keogh and Westwood on the Ireland team.

62 min Croatia have enjoyed a 10-minute spell of sustained pressure as the game opens up and players are afforded more space. The final delivery continues to hold the visitors back, however. Srna’s corner is yet another example of Croatian profligacy, as it sails out of play without ever looking likely to connect with a Coatia or even an Ireland player.

54 min Gibson picks up a yellow card for a reckless challenge on Olic. The free-kick that follows finds Lovren in splendid isolation, bearing down on goal, but he looked embarrassingly ungainly in his attempt to execute a left-footed volley.

Comment: “These are the games Ireland must win in order to regain lost credibility on the world stage, youngsters have to show the same hunger and passion the previous generation showed. C'mon Ireland!!! Ciaran Boyle Long Island, New York

Comment: “Pretty solid display from the boys in green during the first 45, especially considering it's a pre-season friendly. We look dangerous up front and more importantly I've been watching the back four and they look water tight, especially young Wardy." Martin Wyer

50 min Mandzukic’s cross from the right eludes Olic in front of the Ireland goal in a quiet start to the second half. Vukojevic picks up an unnecessary yellow card, the first of the night.

Half-time banter

Back in the day, Robert Prosinecki would be enjoying his second half-time fag about now. It’s unlikely any of the current Croatia squad are allowed to indulge in such behaviour. Besides, the Aviva is a non-smoking stadium.

Replays have shown that Croatia were indeed denied two pretty conclusive first-half penalties.

Ray Houghton in the Sky commentary box is one of those to have been inconvenienced by the London riots, but any soft southerners/mini-zombies thinking of straying on to the Glaswegian’s manor should think twice. The man from Castlemilk isn’t easily intimidated.


45 min Ireland have the chance to seal a late first-half lead from a Duff corner, but St Ledger’s header goes wide of the target.

45 min Keane is very much in the shop window this evening, with his time at White Hart Lane almost certainly drawing to a close. He saunters past one Croatian inside the area before unleashing a shot which Pletikosa smothers.

42 min The game is petering out as the player look forward to the interval. Vukojevic speculative shot from distance draws howls of derision from the wags behind the Ireland goal.

38 min Plenty of pretty patterns and build-up play from Croatia, but the end product from the visitors has been underwhelming. Eduardo must feel like he’s back at Arsenal.

36 min Long beats the offside trap yet again, but the Croatia defence seems wise to his ploy of cutting back on to his favoured right foot. The ball is cleared for a corner, which comes to nothing.

32 min Long beats the Croatia offside trap to latch on to a ball from St Ledger, but the level of support the West Brom man received left something to be desired. He is eventually dispossessed, but sloppy play from the visitors affords Hunt the chance to get in a cross from a promising position on the left. However, the Wolves man’s final ball is much to close to the Croatia keeper.

30 min Croatia are dominating in terms of possession, but that’s to be expected of such a technically accomplished outfit. The hosts are the ones to have had more shots on target.

28 min Mandzukic cuts in from the left and leave the lumbering Dunne for dead, but Wards anticipates brilliantly to intercept his pass to Modric in a dangerous area in the Ireland box.

25 min Long leaps highest to meet an Irish cross and register a header on target. He beat not one, but two Croatians in the air. Corluka and Lovren have been warned.

21 min A deft Duff volley drops to Hunt in a superb position in the Croatia box. He may have been taken by surprise, but his decision not to opt for a first-time strike was questionable. A good move out of nowhere comes to nothing.

15 min Whelan’s clumsy-challenge malaise may be contagious. The probing Modric finds Strinic, who has bombed forward from left back, and Kelly’s challenge in the box looked an illegal one. Ireland ride their luck yet again. Luck of the Irish, eh? Except it always seems to come in meaningless friendlies and not when it really matters.

14 min Whelan may be in for a bit of a ‘mare tonight. His challenge on Eduardo was agricultural at best and could have easily resulted in a penalty for the visitors.

12 min A sublime ball from Keane, deep in the Irish half, finds strike-partner Long. However, the Tipperary man’s cross is botched by Whelan on the edge of the Croatia area and danger is averted.

8 min Northern Ireland have taken an early lead against Brian Kerr’s Faroe Islands in Belfast. In Dublin, Kranjcar almost finds Spurs team-mate Modric in the Irish box but his pass has just a little too much weight on it.

4 min Gibson dispossess a Croatian midfielder and gets on the other end of a neat one-two with Duff, before unleashing a decent shot from outside the area. However, Pletikosa gets down well to make a comfortable save.

1 min Ireland have donned their traditional green and white kit, while Croatia are sporting an all-blue ensemble on a muggy night in the capital. That ends our sartorial commentary for the evening.

Match build-up

Shane Long starts up front with Robbie Keane for the Republic of Ireland after finally having completed his move to West Bromwich Albion in a strong line-up that includes Damien Duff, Richard Dunne and Shay Given.

Irish fans will be hoping the Boys in Green can extend their four-game winning streak ahead of the Euro 2012 qualifying double-header against Slovakia and Russia next month.

Tottenham trio Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar and Vedran Corluka start for Croatia.

Rep of Ireland v Croatia

Rep of Ireland: Given, Kelly, Dunne, St. Ledger, Ward, Duff,
Whelan, Gibson, Hunt, Long, Keane.

Replacements: Westwood, Forde, Keogh, Treacy, O'Dea, Clark, Cox, Clifford.

Croatia: Pletikosa, Corluka, Lovren, Simunic, Strinic, Srna,
Modric, Vukojevic, Kranjcar, Eduardo, Mandzukic.

Replacements: Subasic, Pranjic, Perisic, Schildenfeld, Kalinic,
Ilicevic, Dujmovic, Olic, Petric, Vrsaljko.