/ Soccer

So how do you beat a team like Spain?

Updated: Wednesday, 13 Jun 2012 10:37

Media interest in the Spanish team is considerable
Media interest in the Spanish team is considerable

by Dave Kelly

Just for a moment allow yourself to imagine what would happen if the Republic of Ireland beat Spain On Thursday.

It would be the greatest ever result achieved by the national team, and the scenes of celebration across the country could even top the iconic images of mass euphoria at Euro 88 and Italia 90. On the other hand how would such a result go down in Spain?

I made the journey an hour up the road from Sopot to Gniewino yesterday to cover Spain's penultimate training session ahead of the game in Gdansk. There, I spoke to a number of Spanish journalists to get a sense of how, all be it such an unlikely result in Gdansk, would be greeted in their country.

The reaction was extreme. '”A national tragedy” is how Franciso Villalobos of marca.com described such an eventuality. That put me in my place.The Spanish press would then engage in what he described as "a war” with manager Vicente Del Bosque and the players.

I was also a little concerned when I asked my Spanish colleagues which players they would regard as the danger men in the Irish team, not one of Trap's team was name checked.

Such a response is hardly surprising. This is after all a golden era for Spanish football. So often the underachievers of International football, Spain are now looking to win a unprecedented third successive major championship.

As my cameraman JJ and I picked out individual players at the training session the task facing the Republic of Ireland night began to hit home. So how does a manager send out a team to face Spain?

Franciso told me that in Spain, Giovanni Trapattoni is known as 'the old fox'. He will need to be at his most cunning tomorrow night to keep Ireland in the tournament.Trap himself is taking inspiration from Chelsea's win over Barcelona in their recent Champions League semi-final.

The first leg game at Stamford Bridge in particular saw the home side somehow manage a win despite being outplayed.

In the morning we were in Gydina for the Republic of Ireland's latest training session. We always try to second guess the Irish boss when we see the team line-ups in the end of session training match.

Against the Spanish, we speculated that the manager might go with Jonathan Walters up front with Robbie Keane and Darren O'Dea and Stephen Kelly in the back four at the expense of Sean St Ledger and John O'Shea.

Turns out it was a 'Dubs v Country' selection. There does seem to be a feeling here that Trapattoni could make at least one change from the Croatia game, if so Jonathan Walters for Kevin Doyle seems to the most likely option.

The post session mixed zones, where we try to convince the players to head our way for a few brief words, are becoming busier by the day.

As the tournament games get bigger so too does the media interest, although we still have a way to go to match the 150 plus Spanish media pack covering their team.

Manoeuvring the microphone into just the right position when the media scrum is at its most competitive can be real test of balance and dexterity.

I myself was on the wrong end of a stray elbow while a colleague of mine almost inadvertently strangled a cameraman with a cable. It will be a lot more civilised tonight at the PGE Arena when both the Irish and Spanish press conferences are held in the formal media area.

Today I'll be back on Fan Zone duty in Gdansk. It should be interesting to see if the mood has changed now that the dust has settled a little after the defeat to Croatia. I think the majority of football fans by their very nature are optimists at heart, although there will also be a sense of realism about what lies ahead tomorrow night.

Powered by NewsWhip