Ireland lost all three group matches at Euro 2012. AP/Press Association Images
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5 things we can learn from Ireland's Euro 2012 campaign

Ireland scored just one goal and lost all three games in Poland.

1. We all need to have realistic expectations

There is no doubt that Ireland were dealt one of the toughest possible groups for Euro 2012, having been drawn with the two teams who would eventually contest the final in Italy and Spain, as well as a technically-accomplished Croatian team.

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In the end, it was the manner of the defeats which irked the fans most, rather than the actual results but the sense of optimism surrounding the team entering the tournament was unfounded considering the opposition.

Belgium come into Euro 2016 with a team full of superstars including Kevin De Bruyne, Romelu Lukaku and Eden Hazard. Italy are still regarded as one of the best teams in the world despite their mixed performances at major tournaments in recent years, while Sweden were one of the most difficult teams Ireland could have drawn from Pot 3. Martin O’Neill’s men face a big challenge to qualify.

2. Can’t underestimate the importance of the opening game

Ireland started their Euro 2012 campaign with what felt like a must-win game against Croatia, but the crushing 3-1 defeat left Ireland with an almost insurmountable task against the reigning World Cup winners Spain in the next game.

Although the threat of a Zlatan Ibrahimović inspired Sweden is a dangerous prospect this time round, Ireland should have nothing to fear, knowing that a win in the Stade de France could inspire the team to further success in the competition.

3.  Be flexible with formations and tactics

Trapattoni was never likely to surprise anybody in Poland with a new brand of free-flowing attacking football, but his lack of desire to change from his rigid system were detrimental to Ireland’s chances.

Soccer Euro 2012 Spain Ireland Ireland were often outnumbered in midfield. Michael Sohn Michael Sohn

O’Neill must continue to demonstrate his willingness to change formations and tactics should the occasion call for it, whether that be playing five across the midfield or play a diamond formation in the recent friendly against Slovakia.

4. Make use of the 23-man squad 

Trapattoni only started with 12 different players across the whole tournament. Even when the possibility of Ireland qualifying from the group was over, he failed to give the other players in the squad an opportunity.

Soccer - UEFA Euro 2012 - Group C - Italy v Republic of Ireland - Municipal Stadium Stephen Hunt, James McClean and Shane Long were among the squad members that failed to feature at Euro 2012. PA Archive / Press Association Images PA Archive / Press Association Images / Press Association Images

If Ireland are to progress from the group stage, O’Neill must show he is willing to rotate the team when required.

5. Know when it’s time to quit

After Damien Duff earned his 100th cap for Ireland in the 2-0 loss to Italy, the then 33-year-old winger probably knew his time in the green jersey was over, despite delaying the announcement of his international retirement until the following August.

Shay Given chose to quit the national team too, but decided to return to the international scene in 2014.

It was the perfect time to step away from Duff, and it would have been the ideal time for Trapattoni to leave his post too even though he had signed an extended contract just over seven months earlier.

Players such as John O’Shea (35), Kevin Doyle (32) and Robbie Keane (35) should take note.

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