The Tactical Foul: Ireland Show… Something
World Cup qualifiers grip different countries in different ways. England have high expectations, Germany are efficiently confident, San Mario await the almost inevitable onslaught and Spain wait for Spain to do what they do so well. And Ireland? Well, Irish fans are often gripped by both resignation at our coming failure, and unfailing hope. Disappointing campaigns in both tournaments and qualifiers have not helped these feelings. But this week showed some hints of a good future. Ireland’s performance against Sweden was impressive and earned a well deserved point from one of our main rivals for second place in a tightly contested group. And it was the showing against Austria that gave real hope.
The absence of key players through injury might have worried many fans, but it gave our younger breed their time to shine. Frankly, Robbie Keane should no longer be considered a key player, Richard Dunne’s career is coming towards its end and Kevin Doyle’s ‘controversial’ omission was based on poor form, so the line-up we saw was likely (hopefully) what we’ll be seeing for a few years. Result aside, Ireland showed some real class and determination against a good Austrian side.
Ireland started a little nervously and this wasn’t helped by conceding a cheap goal from a silly mistake. But after the goal, the team did settle and showed something we haven’t seen for a while: passing through the midfield. Once McClean, McCarthy, Long and Walters got going they really showed what they can do and up until the 70-minute mark each one staked his claim for further consideration. McClean provided some great wing play, while McCarthy and Long showed touches of class we haven’t seen in Irish green for an age. Walters’ two goals showed we have a finisher and a penalty taker. He works much harder then Keane and should get the nod ahead of him from now on. Sammon was also impressive. He ran all night, worked extremely hard and caused enough problems among the Austrians that he’s sure to play his part against the Faroe Islands.
Long and McCarthy will both miss the game against the Faroes but it’s unlikely Ireland will miss them to much. Better to get the suspension over now and keep them ready for the games to come. Both players excelled last night. They showed the ability that made them names, albeit small names, in the Premier League. If Long had scored with his back-healed attempt this writer would likely be very hungover trying to type this report. It wasn’t to be and Ireland dropped deep, couldn’t get the ball and eventually conceded. The story of Ireland’s campaigns over the last decade or so. ‘Get a lead and protect it’ is our failsafe that keeps on failing. It’s not a manger issue; it’s a mental issue bred into Irish players.
The Austrians deserved their draw after some good play in the second half. The equaliser, when it inevitably came, was a cracker from Alaba who had been influential in Austria’s best play. The draw was devastating in the familiar manner it came about. But there are five games left and everything to play for, so keep the faith.
If you want to keep the faith, we have one suggestion for you: turn off the RTE panel. The negative talk would destroy the untainted souls of the innocent, let alone the already depraved soul of the football fan. Watching Giles age before our eyes is saddening and his relevance to today’s game has all but gone. As for Dunphy’s brand of toxic, verbal diarrhoea, the less said the better.
Time to cast an eye over the other World Cup qualifiers. We’ll get England out of the way quickly. Their natural, inbuilt arrogance showed again this week. This isn’t in reference to the players or the coaching staff, but to the media who seem to think England deserve to win every game. Not so against Montenegro where they drew 1-1. Montenegro are two points clear at the top of the group, but England are more then capable of overhauling them.
Scotland ended their journey to Brazil in
Serbia, losing 2-0. Wales, sharing a group with Scotland, lost 1-2 at home to pretty much leave them dead in the water. Northern Ireland have been dead in the water for a while and sank lower, losing 0-2 at home against Israel. Netherlands, Portugal and Czech Republic all recorded easy wins while an Italian side, inspired by a Balotelli brace, beat Malta. There weren’t any real shocks with Germany strolling over Kazakhstan and securing the group ahead of Ireland, Sweden and Austria. Belgium and Spain were both made to work against Macedonia and France respectively, but both recorded 1-0 victories.
Back to league action this weekend and a mouth watering FA cup replay between Chelsea and Manchester United on Monday.
Happy Easter everyone! Remember, Jesus died for our sins and is all for forgiveness, so if you miss Mass for a some sport/egg-eating/sleep, Himself and his gang won’t mind!