WARSAW (Reuters) - European champions Spain return on Thursday to a Gdansk pitch they bemoaned as being “too dry” when a defensively-minded Ireland look to emulate Italy and frustrate the Euro 2012 favorites.
Spain hit out at the PGE Arena’s surface after they labored to an opening 1-1 draw against Italy, although they will fancy their chances of breaking down an Irish defense that was resilient in qualifying, but had an off night in losing 3-1 to Croatia on Sunday.
However, Group C underdogs Ireland are up for the battle, defender John O‘Shea said on Wednesday, and with Spain coach Vicente del Bosque unlikely to field a recognized striker again there could be a sting in the tail.
Spain, 2010 World Cup winners, have the added pressure of looking to become the first team to win three successive international titles.
Croatia’s meeting in Poznan with Italy (1600 GMT) in the earlier Group C clash should be an intriguing battle.
Bilic’s in-form frontmen will give him no selection headache whereas all eyes will be on which strikers Italy manager Cesare Prandelli picks, the talented but unpredictable Mario Balotelli a possibility to drop to the bench.
Editing by Justin Palmer