Euro 2012: Spain can’t afford to underestimate Ireland, says Alonso
Xabi Alonso advises Spain to take the Republic of Ireland's challenge seriously ahead of their Group C clash on Thursday
Xabi Alonso has warned Spain not underestimate a spirited Republic of Ireland side ahead of their Group C clash in Gdansk on Thursday.
Spain came from behind to secure a point against Italy in their opening group game last Sunday, while Giovanni Trapattoni’s side suffered a demoralising 3-1 defeat by Croatia.
Alonso spent a summer studying English in Ireland as a 16-year-old, even trying his hand at Gaelic football, an experience which the former Reds midfielder credited with helping him adapting to the physicality of the Premier League.
And the former Real Sociedad captain is expecting a similarly “combative” test against Ireland, and urged his team-mates to remain patient in their bid to break down a resilient defence.
“If they play with two banks of four players it will be tough to find the space between the lines,” said Alonso.
“Because of that we know that we will have to be really patient and look for the best chance to score and whenever you have the chance to shoot from long distance. We are working on those things.
“We have to be aware of their qualities as well in set-pieces and counter-attack. They are a really strong and combative team. They showed in the last game that they were behind in the scoreline but kept trying until the last minute.
“I think that they have a great spirit. With Irish teams we know they are very proud. They will fight ever since the first minute to last minute and they try to play together as team. It will be a very difficult match because they know us very well and we know them.
“We will have to be very patient. We will try to score early goal, which makes things easy afterwards. It will be a very difficult match. Anything can happen and they will fight from the beginning.”
Pre-match facts: Spain v Republic of Ireland
• Spain have yet to lose in six European championship fixtures against Ireland – all of them qualifiers – with their record in those games reading W4 D2 L0. This will be the sides’ first meeting at a Euro finals.
• Their most recent contest was at the 2002 World Cup finals, with Spain beating Ireland 3-2 on penalties after a 1-1 round of 16 draw.
• Spain are 15 competitive games without defeat, since their 1-0 loss to Switzerland at the Fifa World Cup. They have lost four of their 14 friendlies in that time, however.
• At 73 years and 85 days, Giovanni Trapattoni became the oldest coach to grace a European championship against Croatia, breaking the record of Otto Barić (71yrs, 2 days), Croatia’s coach in 2004.
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