Rusty Ireland draw blank with Croatia

DUBLIN - Ireland and Croatia played out an uneventful goalless draw in a friendly on Wednesday after plenty of pre-season rust blunted the intentions of the two near full-strength Euro 2012 qualification hopefuls.

Croatia looked the more dangerous early on and could easily have had two penalties in the opening 15 minutes after first striker Eduardo was impeded in the box and then lively full-back Ivan Strinic felt he was held back en route to goal.

Luka Modric created another half chance or two for the visitors before Ireland striker Shane Long, signed by West Bromwich Albion on Tuesday, finally forced Croatia keeper Stipe Pletikosa into rare action with a decent header.

Long's strike partner, record Irish goalscorer Robbie Keane, should have tested Pletikosa again just before the break but his tepid strike from the edge of the box summed up a mostly toothless first half.

Bar a dreadful header in front of goal by Irish defender Richard Dunne, Croatia looked more likely to score in the second period but the visitors, who lie a point behind Greece in their Euro 2012 qualification group with Israel close by, were unable to create any clearcut chances.

Neither side appeared to suffer any injuries however which will be particularly good news for Giovanni Trapattoni, whose stubborn Irish side face crucial qualifiers against Group B co-leaders Slovakia and Russia next month.