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Parking the bus could get Irish on track

Published: Tuesday 12 June 2012, 14.20CET
How to stop Spain? This is the question Republic of Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni is asking himself right now and Garry Doyle wonders what his options might be.
by Garry Doyle
from Gdynia
 
 
Published: Tuesday 12 June 2012, 14.20CET

Parking the bus could get Irish on track

How to stop Spain? This is the question Republic of Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni is asking himself right now and Garry Doyle wonders what his options might be.

For a team who have gained a reputation for playing with so much desire, it will be intriguing to learn how the Republic of Ireland recover from having their hearts broken on Sunday night. Having lost 3-1 to Croatia in their opening game of UEFA EURO 2012, Ireland's players have become trapeze artists without a safety net.

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Giovanni Trapattoni faces the daunting task of finding a plan to stop Spain

Defeat on Thursday against Spain – something most analysts had pencilled into the equation before the tournament began – will signal the end of the party. How to avoid it is the conundrum facing Giovanni Trapattoni, who spoke again today about his reputation as a conservative tactician. "My teams at Juventus and Inter always scored more goals than the opposition yet people wrote, 'Trapattoni's teams never attack'. Here in Ireland it is the same, yet I play Aiden McGeady, Damien Duff, Kevin Doyle and Robbie Keane. What else can I do?"

Recent history offers a couple of examples of how to stop Spain. When Switzerland achieved a shock 1-0 victory over the Spanish at the 2010 FIFA World Cup, their coach, Ottmar Hitzfeld, took a strategy that was straight out of the 'Trap' schoolbook and positioned his players narrow and deep, using his sole centre-forward as the first line of defence.

Trapattoni's native Italy gave their own example in Gdansk, meanwhile.  "I was at the Spain-Italy game on Sunday," said the former Ireland manager, Brian Kerr, "and the Italians reworked their system to counteract the Spanish, putting an additional defender. And that's Italy. Quite simply we have to do something similar, either by playing another midfielder or, less likely, another defender."

Back in Ireland the case for James McClean's introduction is growing stronger by the day, though 'Trap' is likely to favour the merits of playing Stephen Hunt, an energetic winger who 'does the work of two men'. In the meantime, another football cliche comes to mind: 'park the bus'. The Ireland team coach sits outside the Sheraton Hotel in Sopot, Ireland's home for the week. Moving it from there and parking it in front of the penalty area Spain are attacking in Gdansk this Thursday is a reasonable choice to make. Sometimes you have to be brave to be cautious.

Last updated: 24/06/12 4.59CET

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