What: Euro 2012 Group C
Who: Spain vs Republic of Ireland
When: Thursday 14th June, 2012, at 19:45 UK time
Where: PGE Arena, Gdansk, Poland

Glitch in the System

A 1-1 opening Euro 2012 draw against Italy has put the Spanish national side on high alert. With none of Spain’s traditional forwards deemed good enough to start the important clash, Vicente del Bosque opted to shuffle his pack and field a Barcelonesque 4-3-3 without a traditional hitman; Cesc Fabregas occupied the middle of the trident role.

While the Barcelona player eventually found the net minutes after Antonio Di Natale’s opener on the hour-mark, the rest of the team generally played in mediocre fashion, showing an untraditional lack of desire.

Andres Iniesta, one of the best Spanish players on the night, has urged his side to up their game, while believing that the champions will show a different face from now on. “Regardless of our opponents we need to worry about our own form. We had chances but we missed them ourselves and now we will come up against a different rival [Republic of Ireland]. The key is how we feel but I’m confident we’ll play a great match”, said the Barcelona schemer.

With Jordi Alba and Alvaro Arbeloa both receiving cautions against Italy, the duo will have to play a safe game at the risk of leaving Del Bosque with just Juanfran on the sides. Victory against Ireland is expected, but that does not mean it is guaranteed to arrive.

Getting Back Up

Defeated 3-1 by a Luka Modric-led Croatia, the Republic of Ireland need to get their act together as they attempt to write footballing history by recording a famous win over Spain. With their last participation at a major football event being the 2002 FIFA World Cup in South Korea and Japan – a competition they were ousted from by Spain – Ireland have little to lose and every moment to savour. And given Spain’s lacklustre opening display, may have some hope.

Renowned coach Giovani Trapattoni definitely played his cards wrong in the game against Croatia though, as his side dropped deep which allowed the Balkan side – led by talented playmaker Modric – to dictate proceedings. Despite cancelling out Mario Mandzukic’s third minute opener in the 19th minute, Stephen Ward’s horrific clearance enabled Nikica Jelavic to put Croatia on top, and from that moment, the Euro 2008 quarter-finalists never looked like losing the match.

As such, Trapattoni will surely ponder some changes against Spain, with the most likely being Aiden McGeady’s relegation to the bench in favour of other options. However, goalkeeper Shay Given will likely remain between the posts, despite having a night to forget against Croatia.

Recent form

Spain:
Spain 4-1 South Korea (30/05; Friendly)
Spain 1-0 China (03/06; Friendly)
Spain 1-1 Italy (10/06; Euro 2012)

Ireland:
Ireland 1-0 Bosnia (26/05; Friendly)
Hungary 0-0 Ireland (04/06; Friendly)
Ireland 1-3 Croatia (10/06; Euro 2012)

Players to watch

Spain – Andres Iniesta: The Barcelona midfield dynamo has looked impressive with La Roja recently, despite everything not going according to plan for the European champions. He was very lively against Italy and one of the few players that appeared capable of opening up the Azzurri. Spain will depend on him against the Irish.

Ireland – Richard Dunne: The defender was actually one of the top performers on show against Croatia, but should Spain come out at full strength, then his match against the Croats might be a walk in the park in comparison. Keeping the Spanish Armada at bay will be crucial for his team to gain something out of this clash, as Ireland’s position in the standings is far from ideal.

Match Prediction

Both sides underperformed in their opening games, and with one game to go besides this encounter, the fight for qualification is heating up. Ireland were hit hard against Croatia, while Spain saw their pretty football matched by Italy. Facing potentially dire consequences, Spain will outmuscle Ireland in this one, as they hope to re-establish themselves as favourites for the trophy. Spain 2-0 Ireland.

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