Though it’s only been a country for about 20 years, Croatia has easily the greater football pedigree of these two nations, having appeared in almost all major finals since rejoining UEFA in 1993 and finished 3rd in the 1998 World Cup. Nevertheless, as the smallest nations in the competition with ~4.5 million people apiece, both tend to punch above their weight in competition play, and this promises to be a very competitive group despite the presence of the last two World Cup winners, Italy and Spain.
Croatia: Rawbau – ‘Vatreno Ludilo’
It couldn’t really have been anything else, could it? Croatia manager Slaven Bilic, who bill bid farewell to the Croatian national side after six years in charge at the end of the championships, wrote this song for the nation’s last appearance at the Euros and reached #1 in his homeland. Rawbau have that kind of Rise Against vibe going on, where you can tell they have a strong punk influence but are still totally douchebaggy enough to make music that would sit well on an ad for a fast food restaurant.
Ireland: Sultans of Ping F.C. – ‘Give Him a Ball and a Yard of Grass’
I was tempted to go for the (possibly awful) Horslips-sampling classic ‘Put ‘Em Under Pressure‘ here, but have instead fallen back on the astonishingly underrated Sultans of Ping F.C. (see the football link here) and ‘Give Him a Ball and a Yard of Grass,’ a title based on the legendary Brian Clough’s assessment of the goalscoring instincts of his son Nigel (ex-Liverpool, current Derby County manager).