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Ireland handed tough draw

Ireland will face holders and world champions Spain, Italy and Croatia in the group stage of Euro 2012.

The four teams were drawn together in Group C at a ceremony in Kiev on Friday night.

Ireland, appearing in the championships for the first time since 1988, will open against Croatia in Poznan on June 10. Yet it is the games against Spain, winners in 2008 and World Cup victors in South Africa last year, and 1968 champions Italy which will most excite their fans.

Giovanni Trapattoni's men will travel to Gdansk to face Spain on June 14 and return to Poznan to play Italy four days later.

Ireland, currently ranked 21 in the world, will be one of the tournament's outsiders, but Trapattoni was upbeat after the draw and pleased to be facing his native Italy.

He told BBC Sport: "I am happy. It is impossible to say which group was better because we know our position, the ranking. We have to think in football that all is possible.

"We have to play with the same mentality - obviously all the teams are very difficult. But I am confident."

The other co-hosts Poland were drawn alongside Euro 2004 winners Greece, Russia and the Czech Republic in Group A.

England will face France, Sweden and co-hosts Ukraine in Group D.

Group B will comprise three past champions in Holland, Denmark and Germany as well as 2004 runners-up Portugal.

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