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Rakitic: Irish need luck against Spanish

CROATIA'S spy in the Spanish camp believes that Ireland need a huge chunk of luck to get a result against the reigning world and European champions in Gdansk tomorrow night.

Midfielder Ivan Rakitic was one of Croatia's key players in Sunday's 3-1 win over Ireland in Poznan, as the 24-year-old went very close to making the score 4-1 when his shot 12 minutes from time went just wide of Shay Given's goal.

Rakitic earns his corn playing for La Liga side Seville so he has a good insight into the Spain squad which comes up against Ireland on Thursday, even down to the fact that two of his Seville team-mates are in the Spain squad.

He knows how good the Spanish side are, but the Swiss-born player has also seen weaknesses that Ireland can exploit, yet only if a bit of fortune comes Ireland's way.

“It's hard to beat Spain. You need to play a perfect game for 90 minutes and you can't make any mistakes, you need a lot of luck, and Ireland have to get that bit of luck against Spain,” Rakitic told the Evening Herald.

“So Ireland can get a result against Spain but it's not easy. I know Alvaro Negredo and Jesus Navas from my club, I train with these guys every day and play with them all the time, so they are not the big names in the Spanish side and maybe they are the guys that the Irish players or fans won't know, but they are top players so I know how hard it will be for Ireland.

“This game between Ireland and Spain on Thursday is very important. Spain can have things in their own hands if they win the game but if they lose, they could have a problem.

“Spain were expected to beat Italy on Sunday but this is the Euros and it's not so easy, it's a huge game for both countries.

“I think that Ireland have a good team, they didn't play too well against us on Sunday but I think they can put up a challenge against the Spanish,” added Rakitic, scorer of eight goals in 42 games for Croatia.

The Croats are still basking in the glory of last Sunday's superb win over Ireland, a win that gives them a real chance of topping the group.

While moans from the Ireland camp complained about refereeing decisions such as the penalty claim by Robbie Keane and a foul on Stephen Ward in the build-up to Croatia's second goal, but for Rakitic there is no debate.

“The better team won the game on Sunday. We played well and we didn't let Ireland play their game,” he said.

“We had a perfect start with an early goal, it was the perfect moment to score, and our strikers played well, now we move on to play Italy and I think we can give them a good game and keep up our nice start to the Euros.”