Could it be any more difficult than this? That’s what Republic of Ireland fans were asking last night after their team was drawn with Spain, Croatia and Italy in Group C of the Euro 2012 finals.
The one consolation is the team being based in Poland for the group stages, which will help offset the cost for travelling Irish fans next summer.
The Republic will open their group games against Croatia on Sunday June 10 in Poznan, then square off with tournament favourites and reigning world and European champions Spain in Gdansk on June 14. Their final group game will be with manager Giovanni Trapattoni’s native Italy in Poznan on June 18.
And, should the Irish progress beyond the group stages they would face opposition from Group D — which features England, co-hosts Ukraine, Sweden and France — in the quarter-final stages in either Donetsk or Kiev on June 23 or 24.
“We have to think that, in football, everything is possible,” said a pragmatic Trapattoni last night.
“We have to play with the same mentality. Obviously, all the teams are very difficult, but I am confident.
“I know better Italy but every game is different. We also have to play Spain, and Croatia are not easy. Spain are the world champions and are a strong team.
“We have to think about our moment, it is a good moment, with our attitude and mentality.”