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Republic of Ireland soccer team Photo by: Google Images

UEFA Euro 2012: Republic of Ireland soccer team preview

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Republic of Ireland soccer team Photo by: Google Images

FIFA Ranking: 18

Euro History: The Republic of Ireland have only qualified for this tournament once before, and it was back in 1988. Though they registered a famous win over England, courtesy of a Ray Houghton goal, Ireland didn't advance from a tough group featuring England, USSR, and the Netherlands.

How they qualified: Ireland finished runners up to Russia in the group, but cruised to a convincing first leg play off success over Estonia in Tailinn. The second leg at the Aviva Stadium was simply a qualification party.

Group information and schedule:
Ireland are in Group C with Croatia, Spain, and Italy, and will play their matches in Poland.

June 10 v Croatia in Poznan

June 14 v Spain in Gdansk

June 18 v Italy in Poznan

The players and squad thoughts: Giovanni Trapattoni has surprised few with his squad selection, but there are a number of defensive injury concerns ahead of the tournament. The only real loser was Everton's Seamus Coleman, with the exciting, James McClean included.

Goalkeepers: Shay Given (Aston Villa), Kieren Westwood (Sunderland), David Forde (Millwall).

This followed expected lines. Given is first choice, Westwood is second in command, while Galway native Forde is third in the mix.

Defenders: John O'Shea (Sunderland), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa), Stephen Ward (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Sean St Ledger (Leicester City), Darren O'Dea (Glasgow Celtic), Stephen Kelly (Fulham), Kevin Foley (Wolverhampton Wanderers).

Injuries have disrupted Ireland's preparations, so Paul McShane has been placed on standby and could be involved if some of the more established stars problems don't clear up. With a full bill of health, Trapattoni will opt for John O'Shea, Richard Dunne, Sean St Ledger, and Stephen Ward as his back four. They have served him effectively on the journey to Poland with Dunne's heroic display in Moscow the highlight of the campaign to date.

Midfielders: Glenn Whelan (Stoke City), Keith Andrews (West Bromwich Albion), Aiden McGeady (Spartak Moscow), Darron Gibson (Everton), Keith Fahey (Birmingham City), Damien Duff (Fulham), Stephen Hunt (Wolverhampton Wanderers), James McClean (Sunderland).

This is similar to the defensive situation in that Trapattoni has a system and that is what usually happens with his four man midfield too. Damien Duff and Aiden McGeady should be on the flanks with Glenn Whelan partnered by Keith Andrews inside. James McClean and Stephen Hunt are certainly options out wide from the bench, while Darron Gibson would slot into a central role if Whelan or Andrews aren't available.

Forwards:
Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Kevin Doyle (Wolverhampton Wanderers), Shane Long (West Bromwich Albion), Jonathan Walters (Stoke City), Simon Cox (West Bromwich Albion).

The main talking point surrounds who will partner Robbie Keane up front with Shane Long, Kevin Doyle, and Jon Walters all pushing for selection. Skipper Keane, Ireland's record goalscorer, contributed impressively in the 2002 World Cup and will be hoping to make a similar impact in this tournament. Doyle is his likely accomplice, but Long and Walters have ability too.

How they will do: This will be a demanding group for Ireland, who were efficient and effective in qualifying. That owed a lot to their solid defensive set up with Sean St Ledger and Richard Dunne offering Shay Given plenty of cover. They will need to be at their best to frustrate nifty opponents from Croatia, Spain, and Italy. Ireland's midfield will continue to work diligently, but whatever chances that are carved for skipper Robbie Keane must be taken. The opener with Croatia carries a deep importance.

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