If there was any hope of a miracle for Ireland in Gdansk it was quickly put to bed with not even 5 minutes on the clock.
A Fernando Torres brace and goals from David Silva and Cesc Fabregas completed the 4-0 mauling of the Irish. It was hard to watch for any Irish fan including myself.
Spain boasted 76% of possession and 27 shots on goal. It really was men against boys. There is still a final group game with Italy to come to try to establish some pride or maybe even experiment for the future. It is worth taking a more in-depth look.
It only took two games to realize how far Ireland really were out of their depth in Group C. It was alarming.
In Spain you have the reigning European and World Champions. In Italy many claimed it to be the worst Italian side for quite some time and with the scandal of match fixing again there were question marks how it would affect the team.
There was still quality in the squad with Mario Balotelli, Claudio Marchisio and Andrea Pirlo to name a few. Written off quite dangerously. Croatia made up the group viewed as a dark horse in the competition with the French and the Russians.
Did Ireland really stand much chance?
Many people laugh and wonder how the Ireland team as limited as it is got to the European Championships standing toe to toe with the likes of Xavi, Andres Iniesta, Luka Modric and Pirlo. 54 teams try to qualify for the European Championships. 14 teams get there + 2 hosts. It is not an easy task as some suspect.
In qualification Ireland had the much fancied Russians, Armenia, Slovakia, Macedonia and minnows Andorra. They won 6 of those games drawing 3 and a narrow 3-2 loss against the Russians at the Aviva stadium. It wasn’t pretty (that dreaded 0-0 in Russia) but they got there.
The team deserves some credit having been the first major competition Ireland have qualified for since the 2002 World Cup in South Korea and Japan.
Giovanni Trappatoni himself has done well to get the Irish to the European Championships with the limitations within the squad. His stubbornness and poor selections have in particular been horribly exposed in Poland and Ukraine. The shackles were off in Paris for the Republic to play with a bit of freedom and it was undoubtedly the best Irish performance under the Italian.
Since then it was reverted back to a disciplined system. The players are instructed to play a certain way. Is this getting the best out of the Irish team? I don’t think so. There is talent within the Ireland team but the question is will Trappatoni the man to showcase this? In my opinion he is not. He’s not willing to take risks. He’s not willing to dare. Until this changes it will the same story again and again.
This team is capable of better. Much much better!
A New Era
Some players who have been great servants for the team may well have played their last game in an Ireland shirt. Shay Given stated after the Spanish game :
‘’It’s probably time for some or the younger lads to give it a go’’.
Will more follow suit? Probably.
Given is 36, Robbie Keane is 31, Damien Duff is 33, Richard Dunne is 32 , Keith Andrews is 31 and John O’Shea is also 31. The World Cup is 2 years away and will culminate in possibly a few retirements. Players such as Paul Green, Paul McShane and the likes are simply not good enough to be in the squad. It's time for some of the new generation to be introduced. Keane, Duff and Given can't go on forever. They have been the focal point of the Irish team for quite some time but they are ageing and it is quite clear to see with their performances.
Shane Long already offers much more than Keane or Kevin Doyle, James McClean has taken the Premier League by storm and looks to be a future Irish star, Seamus Coleman seems to be constantly overlooked. There’s also James McCarthy of Wigan, Wes Hoolahan and Anthony Pilkington of Norwich and Ciaran Clarke of Aston Villa. These are all decent young players with potential. The problem is using them. Give them a chance. Trust in them. Let these lads have a go. Let these lads play football.
Ireland have World Cup qualification coming starting in September and by then everyone would like to see a change in style and these new players given a chance and given some freedom to express themselves.
The future isn’t all doom and gloom for Irish football. Let’s dare.
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