Del Bosque insists Spanish morale intact
© EFE

Spain coach Vicente del Bosque insisted Wednesday his side's morale is high as the defending champions prepare to take on Ireland in Thursday's UEFA EURO 2012 Group C clash after their rather laboured opening 1-1 draw with Italy.

"Our morale is intact. I think we are in a good moment and in a good position following the draw with Italy," Del Bosque insisted.

He added that his men would respect an Irish side coached by wily Italian Giovanni Trapattoni - despite their loss to Croatia. "We have to prepare ourselves for the difficulties they will set us and not underestimate them," said the former Real Madrid manager, who led Spain to the 2010 FIFA World Cup™ trophy.

"If we look at past results there was never a really clear Spanish victoey against Ireland. I don't think they will get everybody back behind the ball the whole game. They know how to attack and have some talented players," he added.

"Ireland have more weapons than their aerial game. They play a lot of football down the flanks, are good and aggressive in defence and up front," he went on. "We know what we are up against," he opined, saying his men would get their heads down and look for the win which eluded them against the Italians.

They know how to attack and have some talented players.
Del Bosque on the Irish

Italy made use of their right not to have the Gdansk pitch watered before the opening match and the Spanish, playing without a recognised centre-forward, found the going hard on a dry pitch with long grass.

Del Bosque was therefore pleased to hear that the Irish had accepted the pitch be watered beforehand as they themselves wanted a fast surface. "I don't think this debate is about whether it is good for us [to have a faster surface]. It is good for football and also benefits the spectator," said Del Bosque.

He nonetheless would not be drawn on whether he would start with a striker this time - having kept Fernando Torres in reserve in the first game until the final 20 minutes. Torres faces competition from Sevilla's Alvaro Negredo, who scored a fine goal in training Wednesday, but Del Bosque said that would not necessarily sway him.

"I am more worried that there are ten players who did not play even a minute. That pains me. But I have confidence in all the players who are here," he said. "For example, deploying [Athletic Bilbao's Fernando] Llorente at a certain point [in the World Cup second round win over Portugal] helped us to become champions."

Del Bosque meanwhile asserted that midfield star Xavi Hernandez was fit despite having been troubled recently by a calf strain. "I think he's fine. Nobody has told me he's not," Del Bosque said.