Fernando Torres faces a fight to appear against Ireland at Euro 2012 after being dropped from Spain’s squad to face Venezuela last week. While Kevin Doyle has also suffered this season, there’s little danger of the Wexford man missing out, highlighting the gap in quality Giovanni Trapattoni must bridge in the summer.
Torres, the £50million Chelsea striker, has not scored since October, a drought of 20 games for his club. The Euro 2008 (he scored the only goal in the final) and World Cup 2010 winner has not scored for the Spanish – who face Ireland in their second Group C game in Poland – since September 2010.
Barcelona’s David Villa, Spain’s all-time top scorer, is out with a broken leg but Head Coach Vicente Del Bosque still left out a fit Torres for the first time in more than five years. Valencia’s Roberto Soldado was instead promoted to the national team-ranks scoring a hat-trick in the 5-0 rout. Athletico Bilbao’s Iker Muniam and Sevilla’s Alvaro Negredo were also called up while Real Madrid defender Albiol and Barcelona forward Pedro were omitted.
The dropping of a player such as Torres demonstrates the strength in depth of the World and European champions and is the type of selection dilemma Ireland can only dream of. It can only serve to remind manager Giovanni Trapattoni what he is up against this summer. Torres has scored four goals in 31 appearances for club and country this season, which is not a million miles from Kevin Doyle’s four in 29, but it would take something along the lines of an ill-considered expedition in front of a bus by the Wolves striker before the 28-year-old would be left behind this summer. Even then, one suspects, it would be rash to rule the Wexford native out completely.
The order of the games in June has done little for Ireland’s prospects. Playing Spain first or, ideally, last would have been better as the defending champions might just be caught cold in their opening fixture or could well have qualified ahead of their third. The ever-defensive Italians are much more likely to need a win in game three, whilst Croatia will be looking for victory in what is most likely to be their only possibility of three points against Ireland.
With the news that centre-half stalwart; Richard Dunne will miss the rest of the club season – and thereby becoming a doubt for the Euros; a betting man would predict a first round exit for the Boys in Green. However, the odds have been proven wrong time and again by Republic of Ireland sides in the past. It’ll take a monumental effort to do the same this summer. The incentive is huge though; qualification from the group stage would almost certainly mean facing England in the quarter-finals.