Ireland's chances of qualification from their Euro 2012 group were instantly written off as soon as the draw was made.
The daunting task of facing current champions Spain, a vastly experienced Italy and a technically gifted Croatian side loomed over Giovanni Trapattoni's team.
Although qualification looks difficult, Ireland thrive on being underdogs and seem to perform when it matters most. Having a good camaraderie and team spirit is half the battle in these tournaments and that is something Ireland have in abundance. It would be foolish to write off our chances.
First up for Ireland are Croatia. The Irish nation will look at this fixture as being our best chance of victory and that is why I fear this game most. I really hope that the weight of expectation doesn't get the better of us.
A Croatian team with Luka Modric pulling the strings in the middle of the park should not be taken lightly. Croatia are at their best when going forward and the fact that Everton's Nikica Jelavic isn't guaranteed a starting place in the team says it all. A positive result for Ireland in this game is a must because four days later we face the mighty Spain.
This is, without doubt, our toughest fixture. Spain are favourites for this tournament for a reason. A formidable force and an absolute joy to watch, they possess so much quality all over the pitch. If Ireland are to get anything from this game, we will need plenty of "the luck of the Irish" and similar performances from Shay Given and Richard Dunne as they showed against Russia in qualification.
Chelsea recently proved by beating Barcelona that beating the best teams around is possible by being well organised and with Trapattoni in charge that is one thing Ireland definitely will be. Having said that, realistically, the Spanish have so much talent and I expect them to claim maximum points here.
Our final group game pits Trapattoni against his home country Italy. The Italians have, to put it mildly, not had perfect preparations coming into this tournament.
Rocked by more match-fixing allegations and a pre tournament thumping off Russia, the Azzurri are looking extremely vulnerable. Ireland's chances of qualification, I imagine, will come down to having to win this game. This is why I hope Trapattoni ditches the negative tactics against the Italians and takes a more attacking approach.
With match winners like McGeady, Duff and Keane, we are capable of causing any team problems and with Trapattoni's inside knowledge of the Italian side, this is our best chance of three points in the group.
If we do manage to qualify for the quarter finals it would be an incredible achievement and enough to give a country, in need of a lift, a major boost. Once you get to that stage, as Greece showed in 2004, anything in football is possible. If all goes well, I just hope pubs in Temple Bar and around the rest of the country have plenty of the black stuff in stock!
David Van Zanten will be giving us his thoughts on Ireland's progress throughout the tournament. You can follow him on Twitter
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