Ireland Camp Focus – Ireland look to build from the back to make Euro 2012 progress

In their final warm-up game before Euro 2012, the Republic of Ireland drew 0-0 against Hungary in Budapest. It took their unbeaten streak to 14 games, which spans a full calendar year and has seen only three goals conceded. The run highlights Ireland’s defensive strength, and they will need to be tough to beat in order to progress out of Group C in this summer’s championships.

The players have been informed that the line-up at the Ferenc Puskas Stadium will be the same for the opening game of the tournament against Croatia. Manager Giovanni Trapattoni openly revealed his starting XI, barring any “strange circumstances”.

One such circumstance could concern goalkeeper Shay Given, who has problems with a calf strain to add to the knee injury and blisters on his feet that have affected him in the build-up to the Euros. Ireland will be hoping that the country’s most capped player will be between the sticks in their opening fixture against Croatia, and able to help organise the team from the back.

Slaven Bilic’s side have injury problems of their own, and will be missing Bayern Munich forward Ivica Olic, who has been ruled out of the tournament. Ireland can take this as a positive, but Croatia still boast a number of dangerous attacking players in the form of Luka Modric, Niko Kranjcar, Nikica Jelavic, Mario Mandzukic and Eduardo da Silva. The Boys in Green will need to keep their shape and work hard defensively to give themselves a platform upon which to get a foothold in the game.

Another of Ireland’s opponents, Italy, find themselves in disarray after being engulfed in a second major match-fixing scandal in six years. This is coupled with a 3-0 defeat against Russia in their final warm-up game. The Azzurri begin against defending World and European champions Spain, and should Croatia manage to upset the 2006 World Cup winners, Ireland could face a side that has no chance of qualification in their final group game.

In order to still be in with a chance themselves, the Irish will need to be a compact and well-drilled unit. Trapattoni will work hard on this in training, and it has already been noted by some players that he is quite the taskmaster when it comes to the hard work.

Aiden McGeady complained of fatigue after the game against Hungary, revealing that a number of his teammates felt like they had heavy feet at half-time. This is an issue that needs to be resolved before the inception of the tournament, as Ireland face the distinct possibility of long periods without the ball in their group games against opponents that could be said to be stronger in possession than them.

Ireland’s arrival in Poland was marked by an open training session that saw more than 13,000 spectators welcome them at the stadium in Gdynia. Group C’s underdogs will need to draw on all the support they can to inspire them to some big performances.

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