|Ireland's Euro lives are on the line today. (AP photo)|
We're about a half-hour from the start of a make-or-break game for Ireland soccer. If the Irish can pull out a win over defending world champion Spain in the Euro 2012 tournament, they will put themselves in great position for an what could be the most unlikely advance to the knockout round in recent memory. If Ireland loses, then the tournament will be all but over (Italy still remains on the schedule).
It's an immense task, but the Irish can pull out the miracle result.
The keys to victory are simple (at least on paper) but many for Ireland. First, the defense needs to play leaps and bounds better than they did in the opening loss to Croatia. They need to play just like they did during qualification, and then some. Goalkeeper Shay Given, in possibly his last big competition, needs to have the game of his life. If Spain gets shots on net, Given has to come up big.
On offense, Ireland needs to create chances, attacking the ball and playing for nothing less than goals. They need to convert on every shot on goal, because their won't be much. Set pieces will be huge, and Ireland needs to make them count. Ireland might have to score twice to keep its dream alive.
Croatia and Italy played to a 1-1 draw in the early game, giving Croatia four points and Italy two. If Ireland beats Spain, the Irish will have three and Spain one. If the two teams draw, Ireland will have one point and Spain two. Then it would come down to the Ireland-Italy and Croatia-Spain final games, but the Irish might not advance even with a win over Italy.
It's truly do-or-die time for Ireland. Win and survive. Lose and it's over.