Steven Reid: Del Bosque's selection more important for us than Trap's
THE spotlight has been on Giovanni Trapattoni this week, but I fear that Vicente del Bosque is the man who will decide our Euro 2012 fate.
For me, it's quite simple. If Del Bosque selects the same team that started against Italy on Sunday, with six midfielders and no striker, then we've got a chance of taking the point we need to stay in the competition. Although they had the ball for long periods against Italy, they didn't really play through them. It would work in our favour if they adopted a similar policy.
But if Del Bosque switches and goes with a lone striker, then it could be a long evening. I'd imagine he will have studied Ireland and realised that, unfortunately, teams with one up front can drag us out of position.
Why? If all the play is in front of us, then we can deal with it a lot better. Keith Andrews and Glenn Whelan can just patrol ahead of the back four. I've played in that position for both Ireland and for West Brom, and if you keep the shape, you'd be surprised how hard it is for the team with the ball to break you down, no matter how much quality they have.
But there was an obvious difference when Fernando Torres came on the other day. He can get in behind the centre-halves and stretch our defence. That's when the midfielders start making runs from deep to support, and it's much harder to keep track of them, especially with the ability they possess. It just creates space, and that's the last thing we need to give guys like Iniesta, Silva, or Fabregas.
Still, if Del Bosque opts for that switch, I'd prefer if it was Torres on the team sheet than the superb Fernando Llorente or Alvaro Negredo. Torres still doesn't look anything like a £50m player.
It's obvious that he is lacking confidence when he finds himself in goalscoring positions and our boys will know that. Llorente is a quality performer. He looks the full package from what I've seen of him at Athletic Bilbao, and he could really unsettle Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger.
There were positives to take from Italy's performance against Spain. If you do get into the final third, the Spanish will give you chances. They don't have many weaknesses, but if there's anywhere we can hurt them, it's the heart of defence. I'm not convinced by Sergio Ramos at centre-half. He needs to be pressurised.
So, there's a balance to be found here. I wanted us to get in Croatia's faces from the outset on Sunday, and I really don't think we did. It was too easy for Luka Modric. We allowed him to dictate the game and get into a rhythm. If we sit off Spain too much, then we could be in for another tough evening.
But, at the same time, we have to accept they will own the ball. You can't lose your patience with that. The lads have to be composed, and know when to put in a tackle, and attack at the right times. We didn't get Duffer and Aiden McGeady on the ball in the right areas against Croatia. I felt for them. Really, there wasn't much they could do to impact on things.
I see that Trapattoni decided not to name his team the day before the game. That's probably a wise move, but I'm not entirely sure what he can do differently.
I believe that the team that started against Croatia is his strongest XI. We're hardly blessed with a depth of options, so it's hard for him to rotate. Potentially, you could bring Shane Long in -- he can play high up the field and upset their defenders.
But I think the real variety has to come with the substitutions. I said after Croatia that he should have brought James McClean into that match, and I still hold that view. And I'd be inclined to throw him in from the bench tonight if we're chasing the game. He will be full of confidence and has no fear. The manager seems to think otherwise, but I can't understand that point of view from what I've seen of James.
But, look, it's going to be difficult no matter what we do. The boys have to come out and be positive. They have to believe they can do it, and I'm sure, come kick-off, with the buzz and the anticipation, they will be fired up. Sometimes, when you get into a situation where a defeat means you are out of a competition, a team can find a new level. And that's where we are now. This is as difficult as it comes, though, and we're going to need a lot of things to go our way. I desperately want to be wrong, but I'm not feeling optimistic.