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Visitors might have too much talent for Ireland.

Byline: Mark Langdon

IRELAND have been producing some excellent form in recent months but they could face a setback when Croatia visit the Aviva Stadium this evening.

Giovanni Trapattoni's team have won six of their last seven matches, a run which has seen them lift the Nations Cup as well as put themselves in a decent position to qualify for next year's European Championship.

However, beating the likes of Scotland, Northern Ireland and Wales is no real preparation for a clash with classy Croatia and the visitors look the team to back at 13-8. Slaven Bilic's side is packed with quality players with plenty of Champions League pedigree. Darijo Srna (Shakhtar), Vedran Corluka (Tottenham) and Danijel Pranjic (Bayern Munich) are defenders who were in Europe's elite competition last season and the midfield contains Luka Modric and Niko Kranjcar - technically-gifted midfielders who are vastly superior to anyone in the Irish ranks.

There are also many forward options at Bilic's disposal with the majority of Ivica Olic (Bayern), Mladen Petric (Hamburg), Eduardo (Shakhtar), Mario Mandzukic (Wolfsburg), Nikica Jelavic (Rangers) and Nikola Kalinic (Blackburn) playing in Europe's major leagues.

Croatia played ten games last season and lost only once in a shock 1-0 reverse away to Georgia. Most of their away performances have been up to standard with wins away to Latvia and Israel and a goalless draw in France.

Ireland have not performed that well in friendly matches at home with defeats last season to Norway, Argentina and Uruguay and it could be that Trap's men need to be at full throttle to show their best form.

Kevin Doyle's injury robs Ireland of a key performer going forward and two of their back four - John O'Shea and Kevin Kilbane - are also sidelined.

Recommendation Croatia 1pt 13-8 Hills, Lads, V Chandler KEY STATIreland have been victorious in six of their last seven matches TEAM NEWS Ireland Kevin Doyle misses out after Giovanni Trapattoni said the striker was not 100 per cent fit. Jon Walters, Marc Wilson, James McCarthy, Seamus Coleman, Keith Fahey and Damien Delaney have also withdrawn from the squad.

Youngsters Ciaran Clark and Conor Clifford have been drafted in.

Croatia Ivica Olic returns to the squad after his injury nightmare last season.

REST OF THE SQUAD Ireland Pos Age Caps Gls G David Forde 31 2 0 G Keiren Westwood 26 7 0 D Ciaran Clark 21 2 0 D Darren O'Dea 24 90 M Keith Treacy 22 5 0 F Simon Cox 24 4 2 F Kevin Doyle 27 41 9 F Andy Keogh 25 21 1 Croatia Pos Age Caps Gls G Vedran Runje 35 22 0 G Danijel Subasic 26 30 D Ivan Strinic 24 100 D Dejan Lovren 22 80 D Gordon Schildenfeld 26 7 0 D Sime Vrsaljko 19 10 M Tomislav Dujmovic 30 11 0 M Ivo Illicevic 24 31 M Milan Badelj 22 2 0 F Mladen Petric 30 4412 F Eduardo 28 7 19 F Nikica Jelavic 25 12 2 F Nikola Kalinic 23 8 4

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Ireland players celebrate Simon Cox's goal against Italy
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Title Annotation:Sports
Publication:The Racing Post (London, England)
Geographic Code:4EXCR
Date:Aug 10, 2011
Words:513
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