Spains 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. 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.
Irelands 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 Chelseas 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 in the final,Denmark succeeded with it against the Netherlands and England used the tactic against France as they eked out a 1-1 draw.
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. We will try to control possession. Hopefully we can score an early goal to settle ourselves, he said.
Giovanni Trapattoni,Irelands wily 73-year-old coach,expects Spain to operate with a striker,probably in the form of Torres,a former Liverpool team mate of Irelands record scorer Robbie Keane. He is a great player and great guy too, said Keane at Irelands training base in Gydnia.
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