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Ireland will 'fight from first moment to last,' says Alonso

The Real Madrid midfielder says he has a “special appreciation” for the Irish.

Alonso has praised the Ireland side's spirit.
Alonso has praised the Ireland side's spirit.

ABOUT HALFWAY THROUGH Xabi Alonso’s second statement of the Spanish press conference, the lights went down in the PGE Arena.

The optimistic line about that, as regards Ireland’s chance, is obvious. As was the next question.

Because, of course, Alonso was asked about his time as a Spanish student in Meath as a 13-year-old… and even whether he picked up any Irish.

“I have a special appreciation for Ireland. I spent a summer there. I loved it. I have many friends in Ireland. But I had a hard enough time speaking English, let alone Irish.”

Alonso’s regard for his time in Ireland was generally in-keeping with the respect the Spanish players showed Giovanni Trapattoni’s team.

“The Irish teams have a lot of spirit. They fight from first moment to last. They try to play altogether, as a unit, make it a complicated game. They know our characteristics, we know theirs. Many of them play in the Premier League. We have to have patience.

“If they play with two banks of four, it will be tough to find space. We will have to be patient. We are working on shooting from long distance. As I said before, the first goal is key. It’s going to be helpful to control the game as much as possible.

“Most of the games we have seen, they have played with two strikers but we know one will drop to make it tougher, more compact in midfield. Whoever plays, if it is Keano who plays up front, that’s the option we are working on. Trap has said before they will have a clear idea of how to approach the game. We have to be aware of their qualities as well. They are a really strong, really combative team. Even the last game, when they went behind [against Croatia], they kept fighting until the end. It’s a team with great spirit.”

With Alonso up in front of the media along with Jordi Alba and Cesc Fabregas, the next most obvious question was about Spain’s attacking system – both against Italy and, tomorrow, against Ireland. Were the players happy with it?

“Yes, we have used this tactic several times,” Alonso said. “We know it works in a different way than when you are playing with a reference in attack. If you keep moving, it can work very well. Cesc scored a great goal, not being a striker, but he gave great movement. It’s not about what system, it’s about how you play the system. If the result is good, usually you say the tactic was fantastic. We are quite pleased with the performance.”

Fabregas, meanwhile, said he had no problem with the system. For one, it means he’s a certain starter.

“This is the first time I’ve started a tournament in this situation and I hope it can go on like that. I’m at an age where I want to have these opportunities.

“It [the position] is basically the same thing as my midfield role but a little more forward. I’m getting balls a little bit more behind, with my back to goal. But, basically, it’s a position I have been using a lot this year. I’ve very happy here because I have a lot of mobility. I can go wherever I feel is the most dangerous position. I can’t say I dislike it… I really like it.”

One thing Spain didn’t like, though, was the state of the Gdansk pitch. Ever diplomatic, Alonso sought to draw a line under the issue… for the moment.

“We didn’t really complain. It was a fact that the pitch didn’t help our game but we don’t want to keep looking for excuses. We want to think about what’s coming in the next game. We address our opinion and if something can improve with the pitch it will be much better for us and for the spectacle of the game.

Read: Ireland have more than just an ‘aerial game’ – Del Bosque>

Read: Your deification of Trap picture of the day>

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