/ Euro 2012

Dave reports from Gdansk ahead of the date with Spain

Updated: Thursday, 14 Jun 2012 09:44

An alternative version of 'Stand up for the Boys in Green' was warmly received in Gdansk
An alternative version of 'Stand up for the Boys in Green' was warmly received in Gdansk

Mission impossible? Maybe not, but tonight the Republic of Ireland face the toughest task of any Irish soccer team at a major tournament. The World's top ranked team, World Champions 2010, European Champions 2008, and with a record of two defeats from the last 46 competitive games, Spain are a class apart.

I'm sure Giovanni Trapattoni has a phone number for Ottmar Hitzfeld, if so perhaps a phone call in the build up to the game tonight may have been made. Hitzfeld's Switzerland team beat Spain at the last World Cup, it can happen it seems.

In a break from the norm, Trapattoni did not announce his starting XI at yesterday's pre match press conference in Gdansk. This would seem to indicate that change, or changes, could be made from the team that started in Poznan against Croatia.

We will have to wait until a little over an hour before the game before the side to play Spain is made public.

Robbie Keane is clearly not having his best run of form in Irish shirt of late, five games without a goal is his poorest return in 11 year. I was impressed by the way Keane answered questions in the pre-match media conference yesterday.

Down the years he has been among a select group of Irish players more or less guaranteed of a starting place. He didn't dismiss the possibility that he could be dropped tonight, however the body language between the captain and the manager at the PGE Arena would suggest Keane will once again lead out the team.

Keane's experience alone will be crucial on an occasion of this magnitude. Kevin Doyle was singled out for praise by Vicente del Bosque last night, but it seems the Wolves striker could be among the subs, if as seems a real possibility, Jonathan Walters comes into the team.

Before our attention turns to Gdansk, Italy meet Croatia in the third Group C match. From an Irish perspective it's tough to know what we should be hope for in this one.

A win for Croatia would see them through to the quarter-finals with a game to spare. That game is against Spain and Slaven Bilic would surely then take the opportunity to rest a number of players for the quarter with a game in the last eight to come.

An Italian win would move Cesare Prandelli's side on to four points, they would then have qualification in their own hands going into Monday's game with the Republic of Ireland.

A draw in Poznan tonight would move Croatia on to four points and leave the Italians with two. I think it's safe to assume every Irish fan would settle for a point against Spain, given that scenario an Italian win over Croatia would leave Ireland needing a win against Italy to make the last eight. Sounds simple really.

A classical rendition of 'Stand up for the Boys in Green' was not what we expected to hear from two busking musicians in Gdansk yesterday afternoon. Darragh and I were compiling a report for the news on the influx of Irish fans into the city. We knew it was a long shot but we wondered if they knew any Irish football songs?

Straight away they launched into a wonderful version of the chant which has become such a big crowd favourite. A group of Irish fans soon joined in to create a somewhat surreal musical moment. The locals seemed to love it, and two Polish friends soon had a cello case full of coins and notes.

As was the case in Poznan on Sunday the Irish fans will be out in force again tonight. A number of supporters that were only in a position to attend one game at Euro 2012 quite rightly chose this one.

Dublin Airport was full of Irish fans this morning, travelling in hope rather than expectation. Just to be in Gdansk tonight will be special.

Whatever happens it's going to be an occasion to savour. For the Irish players it also doesn't get much better than this. They get chance to test themselves against some of the true greats of the modern game with the entire nation behind them. It's not a bad way to spend a Thursday evening.

Live!
Powered by NewsWhip