Giovanni Trapattoni backs Irish 'heart' to pull off shock of the tournament against Spain

 

Gdansk

Giovanni Trapattoni came out smiling at the PGE Arena yesterday. As did Robbie Keane.But, when you put Ireland's task today into a certain context, it's difficult not to wonder whether that was just the serenity derived from a situation where things really cannot get any worse.

On Sunday, after all, they lost the most winnable game in their Euro 2012 group. Today, Ireland play what is probably the most difficult game in their entire history. If they don't get a result, they're out.

Worse, in the last 11 years, Ireland have only beaten one team that were ranked above them in a competitive game. That was Slovakia at home in 2007, let alone the world champions and one of the greatest teams of all time.

What's more, Spain excel in exactly the kind of football that has given Trapattoni's team most of its problems: quick interchanges and exchanges through the centre.

The manager accepted that with a certain amount of understatement. "For this game, our objective is to be offensive, to try and win the game but, at the same time, we need also to find a way to help the midfield because sometimes it has suffered in this situation.

"It will be very important not to give them space, particularly in midfield. I've been thinking about the best solution for us."

But here's the thing. The best solution might already be there – or, at least, in place. Because, as much as Spain have perfected the method that generally causes Ireland such misery, the Irish are actually one of the few teams that regularly practice the only repeatedly proven way to beat Spain.

Since Jose Mourinho's Internazionale set the template against the Barcelona style in the 2009-10 Champions League semi-final, opposition teams have had most joy against Spain by sitting very, very deep, congesting all space around the box and simply looking to maximise rare opportunities. That, essentially, describes Trapattoni's Ireland. At least, then, there is hope.

So there was perhaps a little more to the knowing smiles. For one, although Trapattoni refused to name his first XI – explaining he "can't always give the opponent the advantage" – Keane effectively let slip he will play as a lone front man.

"We obviously spoke before so we know what's going on. If I do play as a lone striker, it's something different but something I enjoy too."

The expectation is that, in order to aid the midfield but not completely compromise the 4-4-2 formation Ireland have become so accustomed to, the industrious Jon Walters will replace Kevin Doyle and shuttle between midfield and Keane.

As for Spain, Trapattoni predicted they would drop Cesc Fabregas and introduce one of Fernando Torres or Fernando Llorente up front – something Vicente del Bosque refused to discuss other than calling it "an opinion".

Xabi Alonso, meanwhile, accepted the prospect of a frustrating afternoon."If they do play with two banks of four, it will be tough to find space. We will have to be patient. We are working on shooting from long distance. The first goal is key."

As a rallying call, Trapattoni ran through them again."I repeat what I sometimes say. I am proud to be the manager of the Irish players, because the Irish players have heart. We play our football. Spain is more creative but football is not only creative. It is balance and strength, with attitude. There is also luck.

"I think, also, we can win. Why not?"

Despite the exact scale of the task, that really explains the smiles.

Suggested Topics
News
A 1930 image of the Karl Albrecht Spiritousen and Lebensmittel shop, Essen. The shop was opened by Karl and Theo Albrecht’s mother; the brothers later founded Aldi
people
Arts and Entertainment
Standing the test of time: Michael J Fox and Christopher Lloyd in 'Back to the Future'
filmA cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Arts and Entertainment
Flora Spencer-Longhurst as Lavinia, William Houston as Titus Andronicus and Dyfan Dwyfor as Lucius
theatreThe Shakespeare play that proved too much for more than 100 people
News
exclusivePunk icon Viv Albertine on Sid Vicious, complacent white men, and why free love led to rape
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Arts and Entertainment
Stir crazy: Noel Fielding in 'Luxury Comedy 2: Tales from Painted Hawaii'
comedyAs ‘Luxury Comedy’ returns, Noel Fielding on why mainstream success scares him and what the future holds for 'The Boosh'
Life and Style
Flow chart: Karl Landsteiner discovered blood types in 1900, yet scientists have still not come up with an explanation for their existence
lifeAll of us have one. Yet even now, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Arts and Entertainment
'Weird Al' Yankovic, or Alfred Matthew, at the 2014 Los Angeles Film Festival Screening of
musicHis latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do our experts think he’s missed out?
Sport
New Real Madrid signing James Rodríguez with club president Florentino Perez
sportColombian World Cup star completes £63m move to Spain
Travel
Hotel Tour d’Auvergne in Paris launches pay-what-you-want
travelIt seems fraught with financial risk, but the policy has its benefits
Arts and Entertainment
booksThe best children's books for this summer
Life and Style
News to me: family events were recorded in the personal columns
techFamily events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped that
Caption competition
Caption competition

Bleacher Report

Daily Quiz
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

Career Services

Day In a Page

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy': A land of the outright bizarre

Noel Fielding's 'Luxury Comedy'

A land of the outright bizarre
What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

What are the worst 'Word Crimes'?

‘Weird Al’ Yankovic's latest video is an ode to good grammar. But what do The Independent’s experts think he’s missed out?
Can Secret Cinema sell 80,000 'Back to the Future' tickets?

The worst kept secret in cinema

A cult movie event aims to immerse audiences of 80,000 in ‘Back to the Future’. But has it lost its magic?
Facebook: The new hatched, matched and dispatched

The new hatched, matched and dispatched

Family events used to be marked in the personal columns. But now Facebook has usurped the ‘Births, Deaths and Marriages’ announcements
Why do we have blood types?

Are you my type?

All of us have one but probably never wondered why. Yet even now, a century after blood types were discovered, it’s a matter of debate what they’re for
Honesty box hotels: You decide how much you pay

Honesty box hotels

Five hotels in Paris now allow guests to pay only what they think their stay was worth. It seems fraught with financial risk, but the honesty policy has its benefit
Commonwealth Games 2014: Why weight of pressure rests easy on Michael Jamieson’s shoulders

Michael Jamieson: Why weight of pressure rests easy on his shoulders

The Scottish swimmer is ready for ‘the biggest race of my life’ at the Commonwealth Games
Some are reformed drug addicts. Some are single mums. All are on benefits. But now these so-called 'scroungers’ are fighting back

The 'scroungers’ fight back

The welfare claimants battling to alter stereotypes
Amazing video shows Nasa 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action

Fireballs in space

Amazing video shows Nasa's 'flame extinguishment experiment' in action
A Bible for billionaires

A Bible for billionaires

Find out why America's richest men are reading John Brookes
Paranoid parenting is on the rise - and our children are suffering because of it

Paranoid parenting is on the rise

And our children are suffering because of it
For sale: Island where the Magna Carta was sealed

Magna Carta Island goes on sale

Yours for a cool £4m
Phone hacking scandal special report: The slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

The hacker's tale: the slide into crime at the 'News of the World'

Glenn Mulcaire was jailed for six months for intercepting phone messages. James Hanning tells his story in a new book. This is an extract
We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

We flinch, but there are degrees of paedophilia

Child abusers are not all the same, yet the idea of treating them differently in relation to the severity of their crimes has somehow become controversial
The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

The truth about conspiracy theories is that some require considering

For instance, did Isis kill the Israeli teenagers to trigger a war, asks Patrick Cockburn