Spain ponder optionsAgence France-Presse . Gdansk, Poland
Ireland’s veteran coach Giovanni Trapattoni has said his team must show belief against defending champions Spain today as the Irish fight to keep their Euro 2012 dreams alive.
Having suffered a 3-1 defeat at the hands of Croatia in their opening Group C game on Sunday, Ireland are looking at an almost certain early exit unless they can get something from their game with the world champions in Gdansk.
The Irish are making only their second appearance at a European championship and Trapattoni says his team must concentrate and show belief if they are to avoid exiting after the group stages, as they did back in 1988.
‘We have another 90 minutes coming. We have
to believe. Every game in this Euro could be a surprise. We have to believe this,’ he said.
It has been a decade since the 2002 World Cup, the last time an Irish team appeared at a major finals - they exited in the second round beaten in a penalty shootout by the Spaniards - but Trapattoni’s team now have their work cut out as they face Spain, followed by Italy, who drew 1-1 here on Sunday.
Having taken charge of Ireland in 2008, the 73-year-old Trapattoni has acquired cult status in Ireland having produced such gems as ‘I am not Jesus Christ, I cannot work miracles!’ during his reign.
Certainly an Irish win over Spain would be little less than miraculous.
Trapattoni is coming under pressure from the Irish media to blood in-form Sunderland wing James McClean who only made his debut in May’s friendly win against Bosnia-Herzegovina.
Having played a 4-3-3 formation against Italy with Barcelona midfielder Cesc Fabregas up front, Spanish coach Vicente Del Bosque must decide whether to give striker Fernando Torres another chance after he impressed from the bench against Italy.
‘I am not happy about everything that happened against Italy - there are things we must improve,’ said del Bosque.
‘But I am not unhappy with the options we have, we had four options - the three everyone was aware of (strikers Alvaro Negredo, Fernando Torres or Fernando Llorente) and then that of Cesc.
Del Bosque said if it came to it he would do without a classic centre forward again.
‘The only thing that interests us is what is in the interest of the team. The opinions of others surely have interests distinct from our own.’
With Barcelona hitman and record scorer David Villa injured, it was Fabregas who scored the winner against Italy, but Spain noticeably raised their game when Torres came on for the final 17 minutes.
There are chinks in the Spanish armour for Ireland to exploit as the centre-backs Gerard Pique and Sergio Ramos looked out of sorts on occasion with experienced icon Carles Puyol missing Euro 2012 through injury.
But the Irish can ill afford to concede after only three minutes, as they did against Croatia, with Spain eager for goals to ignite their campaign.
Spanish midfielder Sergi Busquets has said the world champions must show some patience with Trapatonni expected to set out a defensive strategy.
‘If the Irish choose to stay bunched in front of their goal then the key for us will be patience,’ said Busquets.
‘But clearly we are not going to change our style one little bit. ‘If we can get an early goal then that would be an advantage as the Irish would then have to open up.’
The pitch at the Gdansk Arena is certainly a talking point after the Spanish football federation complained to UEFA about the state of the grass.
Several Spanish stars complained about the condition of the grass, including Xavi Hernandez and Fabregas, who claimed the surface was ‘a disgrace’ and bone dry.
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