herald

Sunday 17 December 2017

Del Bosque - Irish will launch assault

SPAIN coach Vicente del Bosque didn't flinch when asked time and again the big question: will he or won't he field a striker against Ireland?

Del Bosque faced some criticism for deploying midfielder Cesc Fabregas in an advanced attacking position in a 4-5-1 formation aginst Italy.

The match ended in a 1-1 draw with an equaliser from Fabregas, but it was the first time in five years the defending champions had failed to start without a traditional striker with Fernando Torres, Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo all available.

Tonight, anything less than victory against Ireland could jeopardise the world champions' chances of advancing.

At last night's pre-match press conference, Del Bosque admitted he had selected his team, but kept it under his hat.

He said: "Our morale is high. We're in a good moment of form. But I've never given out the lineup on the eve of a game and today will be no exception."

The veteran coach is certainly not taking Ireland lightly in the first meeting between the pair since the 2002 World Cup, when Spain reached the quarter-finals with a penalty shootout victory. He claimed Ireland would not play defensively because they had "quality players, with two wingers who play very well.

"We have to be ready for whatever rival is in front of us. I don't think they will just sit back, they have players with the capacity to attack," he added.

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