The Republic of Ireland heads to Poland and Ukraine for their first appearance at a European Championships in 24 years, since Jack Charlton led them to third place in their group including a historic 1-0 victory over England in Stuttgart at UEFA Euro 1988. This time however, Ireland is led by the pragmatic Giovanni Trapattoni and will be looking to go one better and reach the quarter finals for the first time in its history.

Republic of Ireland

Ireland’s UEFA Euro 2012 team.

Despite having gone 14 games unbeaten, with that run containing 11 clean sheets, Ireland face an uphill task trying to get out of a group containing current holders Spain and UEFA Euro 1968 winners Italy. Qualification was a mixed bag for Ireland. Despite managing 21 points from their qualifying group containing Russia and Slovakia, it has been said that Ireland underachieved. In the two matches against Slovakia, Ireland only managed to pick up two points. This allowed Russia to win the group, putting Ireland in the play-off spots.

Richard Dunne

Richard Dunne will need to be at the top of his game to stop the Spanish

Tactically Ireland is one of the most predictable teams at the Euros this year; Trapattoni favours a rigid 4-4-2 formation containing two workhorses in the centre of midfield. This rigid defensive formation has worked for Ireland, who as we know is on a 14 game unbeaten run. However, this formation leaves a lot to be desired up front as Ireland often struggles to break teams down and finds it difficult to score at times.

Aiden McGeady

Can Aiden McGeady fire Ireland to the quarter finals?

Due to the choice of formation and players, Ireland lacks any form of creativity through the middle of the park. The bulk of Ireland’s forward momentum rests on the shoulders of wide men, Aiden McGeady and Damien Duff, who are tasked with breaking forward and providing chances for the forwards.

Qualification for the quarter finals may be a step too far for a limited Ireland team, billed as rank outsiders, but a win against Croatia in the opening match and anything is possible.

Players to watch:

Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy),  117 caps.

Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow), 49 caps.

James McClean (Sunderland), 2 caps.

Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), 73 caps.