Posted on 14 Jun 2012 at 17:49 PM by Match of the Day
An Irish supporter interviewed live from Poland earlier today summed up the situation for tonight's match perfectly in the space of one short and memorable sentence.
"Never mind Xavi, Fabregas and Iniesta - we've got Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews and Paul McShane!"
Fifteen enthusiastic words, accurately summing up a ridiculous gulf in class that even the most optimistic Irish supporter doesn't really believe can be bridged. This makes it all the more surprising that while the World and European Champions are obviously the strong favourites tonight in the betting market, best priced at 2/7 with Paddy Power, the odds on offer don't really reflect the fact that player for player, these two squads inhabit different worlds. Spain's squad is almost entirely drawn from clubs at the top of La Liga, while Ireland will start the game without a single player who is a regular in any club that will play European football next year. Damien Duff, a regular but not perennial sight on the Fulham teamsheet, is the only player that featured consistently for a top ten Premiership team. If Spain were given the option of picking 100 players to bring to this tournament, chances are that all 100 would have been more highly rated than any Irish player.
And yet, look at the handicap betting. Spain are freely available at 5/6 minus 1.5 goals on most Asian handicap betting markets.
Everyone knows that this Republic of Ireland team is greater than the sum of its constituent parts, but at some point you just have to draw the line and say that a big win is a very real possibility here. Against Italy, Spain went out somewhat half heartedly and only by the end did they really find their attacking rhythm. Yet the purists were hugely enthused about the quality of play in that game. High quality football is not enough to give us a winning wager all of the time, but there must be a very real possibility that Spain will run rings around Ireland tonight.
We could say wait for the in play market to form and let the price drift a little, but if we had given the same advice in advance of the Croatia vs Republic of Ireland match, our bet would never have got struck since the Croats took the lead very early in the game. Another similar start tonight is highly possible. Get on early, and go in hard. Just like Whelan, Andrews and McShane would do.