Upbeat Ireland insist opening loss will bring out their best


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The Independent Football

It's the moments after Ireland's defeat to Croatia and there is a flatness in the dressing-room. Barely anyone is speaking.

It could not have been more different at the team's training camp in Gdynia yesterday. Almost everyone wanted to speak. All had the same message: that the disappointment of Sunday night has fired the team. They are determined to make amends.

Because, if the mood around the camp ahead of the Croatia game was about readiness, this week it is one of redemption. As assistant manager Marco Tardelli says, "the players know. It's the last chance."

Shay Given struck a similar note. "We can't change what happened [against Croatia]. We can change what happens against Spain. We've got to look forward because Croatia has gone."

The goalkeeper also pointed to rallied responses from the team in the past, not least the performance in the 2009 play-off in Paris after they had lost the first leg 1-0.

"We hope this situation will bring the best out of us... sometimes in the past when everyone has given up on us, we've come out fighting and proved we're a decent team. We have to do that again."

Tardelli, meanwhile, had an interesting – and idiosyncratic – description for Ireland's situation: "Cinderella." But, while there is an obvious joke here about Ireland not seeing much of the ball tomorrow, Tardelli insisted no extensive makeover is needed to ensure they do not have to leave the party early. Giovanni Trapattoni's deputy continued the management team's overly positive spin on Sunday's display against Croatia.

"We need to see the performance and not the defeat because we conceded three goals in a strange way," Tardelli said. "In that game, we were very unlucky. I think we played a good match."

With many external observers shocked at the sloppiness of a team that had come into the tournament with one of the best defensive records of all its competitors, Given agreed with Tardelli that they were simple aberrations.

"It wasn't like us at all and nor were the goals we conceded. Two were from corners and the other one was from a cross. We're usually more solid than that."

As Tardelli said, "it was the little situations [that defeated us]". As such, there are unlikely to be big changes. "We have other solutions, or maybe we can play the same team," Tardelli said. "We have two days to decide."

If the rumblings from the camp are to be taken at face value, though, Trapattoni has almost made his decision. One of the more bustling Jon Walters or Simon Cox will come in for Kevin Doyle in order to congest the midfield a little more but still not overly compromise the 4-4-2 the players have become so used to.

Doyle himself, meanwhile, was prepared to accept any change for the benefit of the side.

"We put each other under pressure but it's a friendly rivalry. If [Walters] plays or Longy [Shane Long] or Coxy, I won't mind. I want us to get something against Spain, no matter what," he said. As to how that can be done, John O'Shea explained some of the preparation: "The team shape is going to be so important. We're going to have to keep our shape because they can cut you open. Staying with the runners, not following the ball with the one-twos are going to be massive things."

O'Shea admitted, however, that team had not yet studied Switzerland's victory over the Spanish in 2010 – the world champions' last competitive defeat.

If Ireland provide another, it will speak louder than anything uttered since Sunday.