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Tuesday, Sep 17, 2019

Misfiring Spain face Irish barricade

Spain's sizeable Barcelona contingent may be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja vu when they face Ireland on Thursday in their second Group B match at Euro 2012. Match box

sports Updated: Jun 14, 2012 01:52 IST

Coach-Giovanni-Trapattoni-center-talks-with-his-players-during-the-official-training-of-Ireland-on-the-eve-of-the-Euro-2012-soccer-championship-Group-C-match-between-Spain-and-the-Republic-of-Ireland-in-Gdansk-Poland-AP-Photo-Peter-Morrison( )

Spain's sizeable Barcelona contingent may be forgiven for feeling a sense of deja vu when they face Ireland on Thursday in their second Group B match at Euro 2012.

Just as Barca did in the Champions League semi-final against Chelsea, the European and world champions will likely spend huge chunks of the game with the ball at their feet, plotting and scheming a way through a forest of opposing defenders.

Ireland's intentions will be even more limited than those of Chelsea, who somehow managed to score three times against the Catalans over two legs having spent most of the tie watching the ball fizz around in front of them.

After misfiring in a 1-1 draw against Italy, when coach Vicente del Bosque refrained from using a specialist striker until Chelsea's unlikely Nou Camp hero Fernando Torres came on 15 minutes from time, Spain desperately need a win.

The prospect of a green barricade in front of them in Gdansk could be the source of unease, even more so because of the recent trend favouring teams who sit back in their own half and soak up punishment.

Chelsea also did it against Bayern Munich in the final, Denmark succeeded with it against the Netherlands and England, to a lesser extent, used the tactic against France as they eked out a 1-1 draw.

Persistence pays
Boxing great Muhammad Ali's famous “rope-a-dope” tactics that slowly extinguished George Foreman's fire all those years ago seems to be catching on in football and Ireland will be hoping to avoid a knockout blow after a 3-1 loss to Croatia.

Spain midfielder Sergio Busquets, one of the Barca players driven to distraction by Chelsea, knows exactly what to expect.

“Patience will be key,” he told reporters at Spain's training base in Gniewino on Tuesday.

“The most important thing is our style and philosophy. We will try to control possession and play the ball around quickly.

“Hopefully we can score an early goal to settle ourselves and maybe then they will have to open up a bit more.”

Giovanni Trapattoni's Ireland are 10-1 with bookmakers to win the game but Busquets warned against predictions of a one-sided contest.

“In the finals of a competition like this no team will gift you anything and there are not going to be any thrashings handed out,” he said. “At the last World Cup, for example, the matches were decided by one goal.”

Trapattoni, Ireland’s wily 73-year-old coach, expects Spain to operate with a striker, probably in the form of Torres, a former Liverpool team mate of Ireland’s record scorer Robbie Keane.

First Published: Jun 13, 2012 23:16 IST