Ireland defender Sean St Ledger was critical of his side after an embarrassing 3-1 defeat to Croatia on Sunday, and rightfully so. St Ledger, arguably his country's best player, told ITV that the side gave up "sloppy" goals, per Goal.com.
Ireland is going to need to step it up on defense if it wants any chance of upsetting heavily favored Spain on Thursday. The Spaniards are coming off a 1-1 draw with Italy, which is certainly disappointing by their standards. With the reigning champions looking to rebound, the Irish will need to regroup, and fast.
St Ledger, of course, will be key against the Spanish strikers, along with fellow defender Richard Dunne. Dunne plays a pivotal role in the center himself, but the 32-year-old will have to battle through blisters and tired legs to do so.
The Irish do have one thing going for them, however.
Fernando Torres has been a shadow of himself this season. He missed three prime opportunities to score against Italy, which is remarkable given his scoring prowess. In fact, it was Torres who scored the game-winner for Spain in the Euro 2008 final.
Whether Torres struggles or not, Ireland can't play like it did against Croatia. The side looked listless and lost, playing timid on the pitch. The Irish must play fearless if they are to upset Spain—it's that simple.
It's not looking good for Ireland right now, but if St Ledger can rally his troops and pull off an improbable draw, the Irish will be right back in it.