By Bill George, Seoul
MICK McCARTHY yesterday said that Ireland’s match against Spain in Suwon on Sunday could continue the World Cup pattern so far and produce goals.
He pointed to Ireland’s facility in creating chances against Cameroon, Germany and Saudi Arabia and to the scoring potential within his team.
McCarthy recalled a comment he made when he arrived in Seoul on Wednesday when he pointed to the fact that Spain had conceded at least one goal in each of their matches as an encouraging sign for Ireland.
“It was a bit of a joke when I said it, I had my tongue in my cheek,” he said. “Yes, I have suggested they would concede against us because we’ve created chances against every team we played against.
“We scored in the three games which gives us a bit of confidence and you always look at some part of a team’s armoury, at what they’ve got, what they haven’t got. I think Spain are a very strong team but, if they concede a goal, who knows, especially as everybody has done that?”
He bristled, however, when a Spanish journalist suggested that Spain had more skilful individuals than Ireland, but remained composed: “I think in qualifying we played against a very, very skilled Holland and Portugal. Not too much damage was inflicted there I thought. We played against a very good German team and played very well.”
McCarthy became irritated, however, when several questions were asked of his assessment of the arrangements in Seoul by the Kawoc organisation and how they compared with those provided in Japan by Jawoc.
“Excellent,” he said of the facilities. “I have had no problems with the training centre. I had a choice of three. Turkey have one, I looked at the other two and chose the second one. The training facilities are fine.”
The Irish have no choice but to accept the hotel facilities provided and, while their hotel is top class, there were suggestions that, because it was situated in the middle of Seoul, it was not ideal. He was asked whether the Irish had complained to FIFA.
“We had a great result the other day,” he responded. “We qualified for the last 16 of the World Cup finals and I am here talking about ‘bull’ again. I have not made any complaints to FIFA. The only complaint I made was about a guy who suggested we had fans on the bus which was resolved.”
He welcomed the fact that Ireland would go into the game as underdogs and stressed how important it was to retain possession to save energy: “having watched Spain I think we might have to do a bit of chasing from time to time because they are very good. They pass the ball about well, they are very slick, one two touch, lots of movement in the team. I won’t change the way we play. To qualify I didn’t change the way we play. I’ve told you, for the last two weeks, our strength is in the way we play and not in changing to what the opposition plays. That’s got us to the World Cup, it’s got us to the last 16 of the World Cup, why the hell anybody should want me to change now is beyond me.”
Anyone who did not see a change in Ireland’s approach in the second half against Saudi Arabia and Germany cannot have been watching too closely, however.
McCarthy’s determination to protect any inferred criticism of any of his players is entirely understandable, it is this loyalty which has served the team so well to date.
He extended this commitment to his players when a questioner mentioned the word ‘fear’ and he said: “I know it is only a word but fear always rankles with me. We don’t fear anybody. We respect Spain as a very good side.
“There are too many shocks in football around the world to suggest we can’t win this game and anybody who suggests that we can’t must be crazy. Our results have been too good, our performances have been too good over a long period of time now to suggest that we just turn up here and play Spain and Spain are going to beat us. It’s nonsense if anybody thinks that.
“But I’ve seen it too often against the Irish teams when teams turn up and they’re very confident and they go away with a bit of a spanking. “‘The bigger they are the harder they fall’ might be ‘the smaller they are the farther they go’.”