This game will kick off on Thursday 14th June at 19:45 GMT.
Team News and Line-Ups
Predicted Formation and Line-Ups:
Del Bosque has taken some stick in Spain for utilising the strikerless formation. A lot of the substance behind the criticism is pointed at the improvement in Spain’s attacking play once a natural striker had been introduced in the second half. For these reasons it looks very likely that Torres will start against the Irish with Fabregas being the player most likely to be dropped to accommodate him. No other changes are expected in the Spanish starting eleven.
The Irish are also have no major injury woes for this game either. A couple of the players are reported to be carrying niggling injuries but nothing that should prevent anyone from playing. Trapattoni has some tough decisions to make regarding his selection choice. Simon Cox put in a spirited display as a substitute against Croatia. Aiden McGeady’s disappearing act in the game was one of the most disappointing aspects of their matchday 1.
The direction this game will take should be on of the easiest to predict of the entire tournament. Expect Spain to control at least seventy percent of the possession, probably slightly more. Ireland will soak pressure and strike when the opportunity presents itself. It is difficult to see where the moment of magic will come from for the Irish. McGeady’s ability is in no doubt but his end product is the aspect of his game that is constantly under question. At times he also holds possession for too long which will slow down the transition into attack for Trapattoni’s men. The quicker you can counter Spain the better chance you have of scoring against them. Long and Keane will star as two isolated figures left to feed on nothing but scraps. Ward and O’Shea very rarely ventured forward against Croatia and will do even less so against Spain.
Spain’s tika taka style is as much a defensive measure as it is offensive. In the game against Italy both Arbeloa and Alba were quite cautious in coming forward but I can’t imagine it being the same against Ireland. Spain’s monopoly in possession coupled with their roaming full-backs will pin back the Irish wide men. And although comparisons of this Spanish side to Barcelona are in many ways fitting, Del Bosque is a far more conservative manager.
Key Player – Spain:
Spain will be playing an Ireland side who will be more than content to sit and soak up pressure all night. The Irish won’t want possession for too long as any attempts to maintain possession will distort their original shape that kept them solid in qualifying. The go to man for almost all of Spain’s attack against Italy was Andres Iniesta. Not only a very intelligent passer and someone who manages to find space when others can’t, he is also the most direct in the Spanish attack of taking on defenders. He is at his most dangerous when isolated with a defender one on one out on the left, dragging the ball with the soul of his boot in that manner we all know too familiar. Iniesta will almost certainly be up against O’Shea in this match and it will be the little Spaniards fleet-footed nature that may decide this match.
Key Player – Ireland:
Shay Given will have to have one of the games of his life for Ireland to hold any hope of walking away from this game with at least a point. I was tempted to choose O’Shea as the kay men because it will be his handling of Iniesta that will be crucial but no matter how well the Irish back four play, Spain will still create chances. So in this sense I opted for Given. Ireland could be given a three goal advantage and still many would fancy Spain bringing it back. Given’s saves will decide this scoreline.
Stranger things have happened but I cannot see Ireland getting anything out of this game. If Spain score first and early then it could be a massacre. The physicality of the Irish defence could prove a tough obstacle to break through but eventually they will find a way. McGeady will be the man expected to provide any out balls in the hope of creating chances but he only really thrives when he has an attacking full-back playing alongside him to distract opposing defenders and against Spain Ward will be solely restricted to defensive duties.
Spain 2-0 Republic of Ireland