Slaven Bilic will leave his position as Croatia manager after the Euro 2008 finals with a job waiting as Lokomotiv Moscow boss and he would love to go out with a bang by winning this championship.
Spurs ace Luka Modric is set to pull the strings in Croatia's midfieldPICTURE: GETTY IMAGES
However, Bilic is a realist and just getting out of Group C will be tough for a team who needed a play-off success against Turkey to qualify having missed out on top spot to Greece.
Luka Modric will pull the strings in midfield and the excellent form of Nikica Jelavic, who was scoring for fun after leaving SPL side Rangers for Everton, gives Croatia hope but finishing ahead of Italy and Spain is going to be extremely difficult.
Ireland end a ten-year wait to return to an international tournament and they will have to upset the odds if the rank outsiders are to get through to the knockout phase in Poland and Ukraine.
Expect a shield of Ireland players in front of ace keeper Shay GivenPICTURE: GETTY IMAGES
Giovanni Trapattoni's team eventually made it through thanks to a comfortable play-off success over Estonia, although the veteran Italian will be under no illusions that things will be a whole lot tougher now.
Trap makes sure Ireland are solid defensively so expect ace keeper Shay Given to be protected by a wall of players and they will hope LA Galaxy striker Robbie Keane can nick something at the other end of the pitch.
At least Italy won't be able to perform any worse than they did at the World Cup when they were on the first plane home two years ago following a shameful draw with New Zealand and defeat to Slovakia.
Mario Balotelli is one of Azzurri boss Cesare Prandelli's forward optionsPICTURE: GETTY IMAGES
The new-look Azzurri are much more hopeful of a better show and rightly so after qualifying impressively with a trademark strong defence which conceded only two goals from nine matches after the Serbia game was postponed because of crowd trouble.
Cesare Prandelli's team should once again be solid at the back and players up front like Antonio Cassano, Mario Balotelli and Sebastian Giovinco could take Italy to the latter stages.
How can you bet against Spain? They are the current European and world champions and are looking to become the first team in history to win three straight major international tournaments.
Vicente del Bosque's men certainly deserve to be favourites given most of their team is made up of Barcelona and Real Madrid players and they qualified for these finals with a perfect record.
The injury to David Villa has been suggested as a negative but Fernando Llorente, the burly Athletic Bilbao striker, looks just the sort of character who can fill the boots of Spain's record goalscorer and give La Roja a major chance of rewriting the histo ry books.
Click on team names for team pages
Click here for EURO2012 Group C page