EURO 2012: Irish need huge slice of luck against champs
GDANSK: Ireland's veteran coach Giovanni Trapattoni has said his team must show belief against defending champions Spain tomorrow 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 albeit with the huge consolation of a celebrated victory over England.
"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, but Trapattoni's team now have their work cut out as they face Spain, then Italy, who drew 1-1 on Sunday.
Having taken over at the helm 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, but Trapattoni's team will be at full strength as Aston Villa defender Richard Dunne was the only absentee from Monday's training with blisters.
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 needs to decide whether to give striker Fernando Torres another chance after he impressed from the bench against Italy.
With Barcelona hitman and record scorer David Villa injured, it was Fabregas who scored against Italy, but Spain noticeably raised their game when Torres came on for the final 17 minutes.
The Chelsea star slotted in well enough, yet his finishing was off when chances came his way, especially when he fired a chip over the crossbar with the goal at his mercy late on.
'El Nino' is still not back to being the player he was when his goal defeated Germany in the 2008 final.
Del Bosque has other options at his disposal up front with Seville's Alvaro Negredo and Fernando Llorente of Athletic Bilbao waiting in the wings.
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.
Ireland can ill afford to concede after only three minutes, as they did against Croatia, with Spain eager for goals to ignite their campaign. AFP