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Fri Apr 18 20:13:35 SAST 2014

Del Bosque won't say whether striker will start

Sapa-AP | 14 June, 2012 10:200 Comments
Spain's Fernando Llorente sits on the pitch after a training session at Gniewino during the Euro 2012 June 12, 2012
Image by: Juan Medina / REUTERS

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque didn’t flinch when asked time and again about the big question: Will he or won’t he field a striker against Ireland? 

In Spain’s first European Championship match against Italy, Del Bosque faced some criticism for deploying midfielder Cesc Fabregas in an advanced attacking position in a 4-5-1 formation. The match ended in a 1-1 draw with an equalizer from Fabregas, but it was the first time in five years the defending champion failed to start with a traditional striker with Fernando Torres, Fernando Llorente and Alvaro Negredo all available.

On Thursday, anything less than victory against Ireland could jeopardize the world champions’ chances of advancing. Croatia leads Group C with three points. Spain and Italy each have a point while Ireland is bottom with zero.

Del Bosque faced a barrage of questions about who would be in the starting 11 to face the group underdog. The coach said he had already decided on the lineup, but wouldn’t give any details despite repeated attempts to coax it out of him.

“Our morale is high. We’re in a good moment of form,” he said.

“But I’ve never given out the lineup on the eve of a game and today will be no exception.”  He did acknowledge that he had indeed already selected his team to face Ireland, but insisted on keeping it a secret despite repeated attempts by journalists to coax it out of him. He replied curtly to numerous questions on the subject and also on suggestions that his job may be in jeopardy.

“I’m the one who has to take the decisions, everything else is just opinion,” Del Bosque said. “I have no enemies.”  Del Bosque wasn’t taking Ireland lightly in the first meeting between the pair since the 2002 World Cup, when Spain reached the quarterfinals with a penalty shootout victory. He said that Xavi Hernandez’s lingering calf problem wasn’t a worry.

But with Carles Puyol missing, that leaves Sergio Ramos and Gerard Pique playing together in central defense for only the third time. Jordi Alba is playing in his first major tournament and is carrying a yellow card alongside fellow full back Alvaro Arbeloa and Torres.

The coach didn’t think the Irish would play defensively because they have “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.” 

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