If there ever was a case of little versus large, this is certainly it. 2008 European Championship and World Cup 2010 winners Spain are clear favourites ahead of this clash, as they prepare to take on an Irish outfit who generally struggle to even qualify for major tournaments. However, with the Republic of Ireland bringing tens of thousands of supporters with them, the Spanish will at least be at a disadvantage in the stands.
While an opening fixture against Italy was never going to be easy, deep down the Spanish will have been quietly confident of victory in their game against the Azzurri and they will now be bitterly disappointed they only managed to rescue one point from the clash. It has to be said that Vicente del Bosque’s side deployed some extremely questionable tactics in that encounter, with the Spanish starting the game without one recognised striker on the field. Even though the team continued with their passing game that we have become so accustomed to, it was clear something was missing and it would be an exceptionally strange move if the nation attempted it again. Still, despite the dropped points, the Spanish remain in a strong position and most would say that they have now got the hard task out of the way and can now concentrate on two “easier” fixtures.
The Republic of Ireland on the other hand may find themselves going home early should they suffer defeat in this encounter. Coincidently, they were also sent packing by the Spanish in the last major competition they participated in, back in the 2002 World Cup. Still, despite being beaten 3-1 against Croatia in their opening game of this tournament, the Irish put in a very good account of themselves and some would class them as very unlucky to lose. Even though they lost by a two goal margin, all three of Croatia’s goals were exceptionally unfortunate and included degrees of offside, rebounds and just general bad luck. Of course, as the Republic of Ireland approach this game, they’ll need plenty of luck on their side if they are to remain in Euro 2012.
Even though it was hardly a roaring success in their last clash, it is thought that Spain will try and keep changes to a minimum for this game and not play with a recognised striker. This will depend on the fitness of Cesc Fabregas though, with the Barcelona midfielder a slight doubt for the encounter due to a thigh issue. The Republic of Ireland meanwhile look to have been handed a massive boost, with Richard Dunne recovering from a foot problem and being declared fit for selection. Elsewhere, Jon Walters is likely to start as a striker following an impressive substitute appearance.
While, from a neutrals perspective, we would love it if the Irish managed to stay in the tournament, we just can’t see it happening here. Even though they are unlikely to play with a striker, Spain will prove too hard to cope with for ROI and for that reason our tip will be a 2-0 victory for the Spanish.