ANDREWS UNFAZED BY SPAIN SHOWDOWN

Keith Andrews insists he will lose no sleep over rubbing shoulders with Spain's superstars.

Last Updated: 11/06/12 at 16:11 Post Comment

Keith Andrews: Ready for Spain test

Keith Andrews: Ready for Spain test

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Keith Andrews insists he will lose no sleep over the prospect of rubbing shoulders with Spain's superstars.

The Republic of Ireland head into Thursday night's Group C showdown with the reigning world and European champions knowing defeat would end their Euro 2012 campaign with a game still to play.

Indeed, even a draw could end their hopes if the result of the Croatia v Italy match goes against them after a 3-1 defeat by Slaven Bilic's men in Poznan.

The game in Gdansk will prove a particular test for Andrews and his midfield colleagues as they attempt to contain and overhaul the likes of Andres Iniesta and Xavi, although he is adamant the challenge holds no fears.

Asked if the prospects would give him sleepless nights, the 31-year-old said: "No, I don't think so. We are obviously against top teams - the three teams are fantastic sides.

"Croatia showed that at times last night and Spain will be probably an even sterner test.

"But I think we can play better than we did last night as well and hopefully we can do that on Thursday."

Ireland's task always looked a steep one when they were drawn in such a tough group, but the gradient of the incline has grown dramatically as a result of last night's defeat.

However, while the thousands of Irish fans who filled the Municipal Stadium with such noise and colour left fearing the worst, Andrews will not give up hope that Giovanni Trapattoni's men can get the points they need to secure a prolonged stay in Poland and Ukraine.

He said: "We have to believe we can or else we might as well go back to Dublin now.

"It was always going to be a difficult group and it certainly proved that last night. The way we have started, we have given ourselves an uphill task."

That in essence is what the Republic did in their opening game.

They fell behind after just three minutes when striker Mario Mandzukic headed past Shay Given and, although defender Sean St Ledger levelled with a 19th-minute header, the respite was short-lived.

Everton striker Nikica Jelavic restored Croatia's lead two minutes before the break when, having initially looked to be in an offside position, he was perfectly placed to benefit from Stephen Ward's sliced clearance.

Trapattoni claimed afterward Jelavic had been two yards offside, but Andrews, who raised his arm immediately in a bid to attract the attention of Dutch referee Bjorn Kuipers, revealed that had not been his concern.

He said: "I wasn't appealing for an offside, I was appealing for a foul on Stephen Ward, which a few of us were.

"I didn't have an angle for an offside. Some people have said it was, some have said it might have come off our player.

"But I thought there was a foul on Stephen Ward, their player clipped him and the ball broke to Jelavic.

"It was just a reaction at the time. Whether it was or wasn't, I'm not too sure."

Mandzukic made it 3-1 within three minutes of the restart when his header went in off a combination of the post and Given, and while Ireland probably should have had a penalty for Gordon Schildenfeld's crude challenge on skipper Robbie Keane, they were well beaten on the night.

Andrews said: "It was very difficult. Basically, we conceded goals at the wrong times.

"There's never going to be a good time to concede goals, but certainly in the first three minutes and then just before and just after half-time are probably cardinal sins in football.

"You are taught that at schoolboy level. We shot ourselves in the foot.

"We were under no illusions - they are a fantastic side. It wasn't a case of us being over-confident.

"Our preparation was spot-on, our build-up, we were going in full of confidence, but with the utmost respect for the team.

"We felt we could achieve a result and unfortunately, we weren't able to do that."

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