Luka Modric says it is imperative Croatia get off to a winning start against the Republic of Ireland in their opening Euro 2012 encounter today – but admits it will be tough to break Giovanni Trapattoni’s side down.

Croatia face a tough task if they are to make it to the knockout stages of the tournament after being drawn against both Spain and Italy along with Ireland in Group C – labelled the ‘Group of Death’.

The two teams met back in August and played out a 0-0 draw, with the result owing much to the defensive resilience instilled in Ireland by Trapattoni, a trait which ensured they conceded only seven goals in ten games during qualifying for Euro 2012.

Modric believes that if Croatia are to come anywhere near to replicating their efforts in 2008 when they made it to the quarter finals, they simply must beat Ireland with two tough games to follow.

"The first game is always difficult. There is a lot of tension, everyone wants to win and play well," the playmaker told Spurs TV Online.

"Whoever wins that game has a massive chance to go through. I hope we can win it. Ireland will be tough.

"We played against them last August and it was 0-0 and you could see at that time how hard it would be to beat them and break them down. They are very experienced, with an experienced coach.

"They have some very good players. It will be hard. Ireland are a nation, they like to fight, they have a strong, positive mentality. That’s why it will be hard for us but we have to win the game if we want to have a chance of going through," he added.

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Luka Modric