Tag: Republic of Ireland

Euro 2012: Group C – The Final Day

Despite Group C containing three of its best teams, the tension of the final games nearly unravelled the quality with which Spain, Italy and Croatia have sprinkled this tournament to date. Spain’s light blue kit was, dare I say it, a bit scruffy, i.e. it suited players such as the Sergios Ramos and Busquets. They produced, for them anyway, a performance to match. And this made for one of the flattest games of the tournament to date. It was well-documented that a 2-2 draw would have knocked Italy out regardless of their result, just as it did in 2004 when Giovanni Trapattoni’s team went home despite being unbeaten with five points. But if Croatia and Spain had finished 2-2 after that first-half the fix would all-too obviously have been in. Among Spain’s best first-half efforts were long-range strikes by Ramos and his centre-back partner Gerard Pique, which spoke volumes. And Croatia would have gone into the break thinking “job well done,” especially with the shock news that Ireland were still 0-0 with Italy after five minutes. Indeed, Slaven Bilic’s side should have been ahead. The tournament hasn’t overly-suffered from officious officials. But their mistakes have been doozies. And Ramos’s studs-up leap at Mario Mandzukic was one of those tackles which “would have been a free-kick anywhere else on the pitch”, as ITV’s Craig Burley dutifully noted. Actually, Burley’s first...

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Euro 2012: Spain 4-0 Republic Of Ireland

Like they needed the help. Spain were only ever going to be denied victory over Ireland by the sort of rearguard action Giovanni Trapattoni’s men produced in the qualifying group game against Russia in Moscow. But whereas in Moscow the ball usually ended up rebounding off centre-back Richard Dunne’s arse, in Poznan, centre-back Sean St. Ledger ended up on his arse so often that you suspected he was wearing plimsolls. It’s these little details which make the difference at international level. Having spent much of the day pondering the incongruity of midfield match-ups such as Andres Iniesta against Keith Andrews and Xabi Alonso against Glenn Whelan, what transpired in Gdansk should not have been any sort of shock. Ordinarily, I’d have been admiring the speed and fluidity of Spain’s passing. Iniesta’s runs at Italy’s defence are probably my highlight of the tournament to date. But here, my reaction was frustration and fear, not least because the breathtaking close control Iniesta produced against the Italians simply wasn’t required against Ireland, his opponents simply didn’t get near enough to him. If you were in the mood for national stereotyping, you’d imagine that of all the languages in the world, Italian must have the most words for “keep it tight at the back in the early stages.” Yet they must all have deserted Trapattoni in Poland. It is easy to describe all...

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Euro 2012: Croatia 3-1 Republic Of Ireland

If only Robbie Keane’s singing voice had been the low point of the evening. The lyricism of the Irish language is not exactly enhanced by the Dublin accent. When you add Keane’s atonality – and the dirge which is Amhran na Bhfiann, Ireland’s national anthem – you are in a form of hell. And there Ireland’s followers stayed. In parts, Ireland weren’t that bad. But in the parts either side of half-time, they were. Croatia’s passing was slick in the build-up to their third goal. And Nikica Jelavic’s finish for their second was the classiest act of the night. However, if Spain press the ball against the Croats as poorly as Ireland did, their manager Vincente Del Bosque might have to give his marquisate back. Ireland conceded only nine goals in twelve qualifying games, three at Italia ’90 and only two at Euro ’88. So three in forty-eight minutes might have been worth a “bet in play, naaah (now)” with that doyen of gambling adverts Ray Winstone. Mario Mandzukic’s third-minute opener was a slow-motion nightmare. You wait expectantly for a defender or goalkeeper to get there…and you wait…. Mandzukic only stretched to head the ball somewhere towards the target in the hope that a colleague might get there too. But there was no need. In Moscow, when Ireland held Russia 0-0 (a result which looked fabulous on Friday after...

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Come On You Boys In Green! A Second-Generation Irishmans Euro 2012 Perspective

It’s a difficult choice. Are Italian boss Giovanni Trapattoni’s “well-drilled” Ireland team more difficult to beat, or to watch? Such is the quality of Ireland’s Group C opponents in Euro 2012 – numbers one, four and nine in the last FIFA world rankings I saw – that ‘Trap’s’ team could be difficult to watch in a “hide behind the sofa” manner rather than because of their reliance on Keith Andrews and Glenn Whelan for central-midfield creativity. I’m not letting out any state secrets when I say that Ireland haven’t been “easy” to watch very often since the Republic of Ireland became “my” international team, after I was given a copy of the Jimmy Conway Football Annual back in the mid-1970s, the “Fulham and Eire (sic) star” being an occasional member of our parish church’s congregation. The annual was dominated by features of Ireland player-manager Johnny Giles’s dashing young team, which had beaten the Soviet Union 3-0 in a European Championship qualifier at Dublin’s ‘homely and traditional’ (trans: small and ramshackle) Dalymount Park in 1974. A hat-trick by QPR’s Don Givens had seen off the Soviets, who had been finalists in the previous European Championships. And Conway’s annual was full of black-and-white photos of that game, with a terrifyingly young-looking international debutant Liam Brady featuring as heavily as the hat-trick hero and the manager (television footage includes Brady turning two...

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Euro 2012: The Runners & Riders – The Republic Of Ireland

It’s almost a quarter of a century since the Republic of Ireland made their debut in international tournament football, when a first round exit in the European Championships was ameliorated somewhat by the pleasure of beating England in the group stages. Since then Ireland have reached the quarter-finals of the World Cup finals twice, but 1988 has proved to be the country’s sole appearance in the finals of the European Championships until this time around. This summer, however, they are back but the scale of the task ahead of the team is massive, with both Spain and Italy in the same group as them. All, however, is not lost, especially when we consider that they’ve never embarrassed themselves in the finals of a major tournament before – no matter who the opposition – and could face opposition with a history of occasionally stumbling when expected to do better. The History: So, were Ireland under-achievers who found their level after 1986, or a relatively small nation (and one in which football was not, historically, the national game) that has made huge strides forward in recent years, particularly in the World Cup finals since the start of the 1990s? The answer to this question is probably a little from column A and a little from column B. Prior to 1988, despite occasionally generous sprinklings of very talented players, Ireland couldn’t get...

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