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Euro 2012 analysis: Reality bites as Ireland exposed on the world stage

If you’re going to sit back and invite teams onto you, the most important objective is not to commit the kind of errors that sabotage that, writes Miguel Delaney in Poznan.

A dejected Irish fan after the game.
A dejected Irish fan after the game.
Image: INPHO/James Crombie

ON THE HIGHEST stage, the deepest fears about Giovanni Trapattoni’s system sadly came true.

And, for all the talk of replicating Greece’s feat of 2004, Ireland now look much likelier to repeat their performance of 2008: out in the first round.

Certainly, it’s now going to take a sequence of results that is absolutely unprecedented in the country’s football history for Ireland to reach the quarter-finals. And it might also take a tweak in approach.

Because,  last night against a good Croatia who still weren’t completely convincing themselves, two inherent issues brought about the defeat.

One, a system that is absolutely based on defensive stability produced too many slips. If you’re going to sit back and invite teams onto you, the most important objective is not to commit the kind of errors that sabotage that.

Of course, certain allowances can be made for referee calls and the difficult conditions.

But this is also the fundamental point.

Since the approach is based on reaction and blocking out the opposition, it is always on the edge and inherently hostage to fortune.  Last night, unlike in Moscow, it went against Ireland.

It can’t be denied, however, that Croatia created their own luck. Just as Slaven Bilic said they would, they altered their approach and took the game to Ireland.

What’s more, they fully exploited the potential opening’s in Trapattoni’s rigid system.

That, to be frank, is the ultimate truth about this performance: it was Moscow without the luck. Just like against Russia, Ireland were carved open by a more modern, innovative approach. Unlike against Russia, they got none of the luck.

Croatia, to be fair, got a good amount of it — the contentious offside call, the rub of the green from Mario Mandzukic’s excellently-worked first header, the bounce off Shay Given’s head for the second one and, finally, the Robbie Keane penalty call.

But, equally, it cannot be denied that Croatia tried to make their own luck. They did what Ireland’s couldn’t and properly seized the opportunity for victory in their most winnable.

What’s more, they illustrated that — at this level — it really is taking a risk to play a rigid two in the middle when so many of the best sides play a fluid, modern three.

Will Trapattoni regret not making the changes he suggested after the Hungary game? Will Ireland regret not being a bit more proactive here?

Because, really, there was only one spell in the match when Ireland looked truly in contention: the minutes leading up to Sean St Ledger’s equaliser.

Trapattoni rues ‘offside’ decision against Irish

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