Defiant Del Bosque prepares for aerial battle against Irish

Spain’s dominance of world football over the past four years isn’t simply down to having fairly decent players and not allowing anyone to play with their ball.

There’s also a huge amount of insecurity from fans and the media, which helps keep the team on their tiqui-taca tippy-toes and ensures that every opponent is treated like a potential vegetarian restaurant – the metaphorical equivalent of a minefield for the ham-happy Spanish.

From LLL’s humble perspective, Spain have already picked up a handy point against an Italian side who traditionally come away with a victory in that particular fixture, and can feel confident about winning their two remaining matches. The game-plan of keeping things tight for 70 minutes before letting a striker loose on the opposition would have come together nicely, Hannibal-style, were it not for the whole Fernando Torres not being able to score issue.

Indeed, the normally placid Vicente Del Bosque gave a moustache twitch of irritation this week in response to the criticism his line-up has received from many quarters - including Luis Aragonés and José Mourinho - and cancelled media interviews on Tuesday. The Spain coach was obliged to speak a day later to announce that Spain’s morale was intact and that “everyone can have their opinion, the difference is that I’m the one who makes the decisions.”

Marca have continued their cheerleading though, and have warned that “it is forbidden to doubt the Champions,” on the front cover of Thursday’s paper, despite articles this week suggesting that the no-striker policy was a long, uphill jog up a blind, dog-dirt laden alley.

Nonsense gossip and stories about Neymar and two of the areas in which the mainstream football papers in Spain excel. The other is analysis of the opposition, despite all the fluff and nonsense elsewhere, which is why there has been much fretting about whether Jonathan Walters will be playing for Ireland in Thursday night’s match. However, there’s not too much discussion on whether that will alter the opposition’s strategy. “Their virtues are reduced to a powerful aerial game,” note Marca.

AS have gone on a similar tangent, not that the paper is suggesting that opposition managed by a member of the dreaded Italian species is to be taken lightly.

“The Irish are coarse, booting balls 50 metres up the pitch looking for a miracle. For them tiqui-taca must be a crag located off Easter Island,” froths the wonderful Tomás Roncero. “But experience tells me to take them seriously. They are honest representatives of another kind of football.”

Xabi Alonso certainly feels the same way. “Irish teams are always proud,” said the midfielder, who is also fond of the odd hopeful 50 metre welly up the field. “We know them well, many are playing in the Premier League and we need to be patient.”

Moans about a dry, slow pitch and whether or not a Fernando of some sort should start against Ireland will no doubt dominate the build-up to the game for Spain, but it is a lot of fretting over nothing, as Spain really shouldn’t have any troubles against an Ireland team who are set for a long night of deep, deep, defending.

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