Niall Quinn: Don't underestimate Ireland -- we'll get out of this group
The rest of the world talk about the luck of the Irish, but we all let out a collective groan when the Euro 2012 draw lumped us with Spain, Italy and Croatia. I'm not pessimistic, though.
Ireland's preparations have been good, we've gone a long time unbeaten, and with the way Giovanni Trapattoni sets out the team we're ideally suited to pulling off a shock.
Which is why I'm confident Ireland will survive the Group of Death.
We play in a way that stifles the opposition -- which is what you need to do against teams that play pretty football -- and as long as Trap's men go into the final group game against Italy still able to qualify, I think we'll get out of the group.
The key is not to lose the opener against Croatia. Get a result in that one, and the pressure is off against Spain. If Ireland go into the Italy game needing to win, I'm convinced we'll reach the quarter-finals. Ireland can beat Italy. Our record is good, their build-up could not really have been any more negative with the distraction of match-fixing allegations, and the Italians are in awe of Trapattoni.
They love him and respect him and that plays into Ireland's hands.
It has taken us some time to get used to the way Trapattoni sets his teams up. Under Jack Charlton, it was a high-pressure game designed to take the game to the opposition, but under Trap the team is organised to make sure no weaknesses are exposed and there is restraint when Ireland go forward.
There have been grumbles, but I don't think you can argue with the job he has done.
The old guard are going to be key: Shay Given, John O'Shea and Richard Dunne at the back, Robbie Keane up front and Damien Duff on the wing. Tactically, Keith Andrews and Glenn Whelan with be most important in terms of stopping the likes of Luka Modric dominating a game.
I was given my first competitive start for Ireland at the World Cup in 1990 and stayed in the team for the next 11 years.
I sense there are players in this squad -- the likes of Darron Gibson, Shane Long and Jon Walters -- who believe they can do something similar. It all bodes well.
However, I do need to mention how awful it must have been for Kevin Foley to be told on the eve of the tournament he was going home. I remember in 1990, Gary Waddock had travelled with us to Italy.
As we waited to collect our bags off the carousel at the airport, Jack pulled him to one side and said he wasn't going to be in the squad as he had decided to call up Alan McLoughlin, who'd been playing for Swindon in the play-offs, instead.
Gary was devastated, it was a heartbreaking moment for him and for 24 hours the rest of us were stunned. I'd even been making arrangements with his family and friends to stay near mine when we got there. We couldn't believe how harshly he had been treated.
It's horrible to see that happen to one of your team-mates and we were shaken at how cruel it had been. It does cause some to be upset at first. But, the day after that, you move on and get on with making sure you prepare in the best possible manner.
There is sympathy for Foley, but I don't expect it to do any lasting damage to team morale.
Charlton and Trapattoni both had to make difficult decisions, but sentiment does not come into it: you have to be able to make those calls and move on. (© Daily Telegraph, London)