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Italian legend Marco Tardelli says Ireland lack football intellect

The former assistant boss of the Boys in Green claim the team struggles to manage games.

Marco Tardelli was Ireland assistant boss between 2008 and 2013.
Marco Tardelli was Ireland assistant boss between 2008 and 2013.

- Paul Fennessy reports from Lille

ITALIAN FOOTBALLING LEGEND Marco Tardelli has suggested Irish players lack footballing intellect and often struggle with game management in the wake of the team’s comprehensive 3-0 defeat against Belgium at Euro 2016 on Saturday.

Tardelli, who between 2008 and 2013 was assistant to Giovanni Trapattoni during his tenure as Irish manager prior to current boss Martin O’Neill’s appointment, also reserved praise for a number of Ireland’s players.

In an interview with Italian publication La Gazzetta dello Sport, Tardelli gave his thoughts on the Irish team ahead of the match against the Azzurri tomorrow.

“I know them very well, we coached pretty much all of them. I can tell you that they’re hopeful. They’re used to playing all of their games at 100% so they can’t imagine that anyone may approach a game differently.

“And they know that the so-called reserves have to prove their worth to (Italy manager Antonio) Conte.

Their collapse against Belgium? They made too many mistakes, one after the other, but all for the same reason: they have trouble handling the game tactically. They don’t get that football is also an intellectual matter, and not just about attacking and going forward.

“They conceded two of their three goals on counters. It seems like an enormous paradox, but for them it’s normal to play without stopping to think.

“They have great qualities in terms of character and physical build, a great drive to learn, and not very much attention to tactics. They always want to play, even when they’re training.

“So we had to invent new ways of getting them to practice tactics even as they played.”

Tardelli, who was one of the most decorated players in Italy’s history, having won five Serie A titles, the 1985 European Cup and the 1982 World Cup, also made some interesting observations when asked to list five outstanding Irish players.

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Republic of Ireland v Sweden - UEFA Euro 2016 - Group E - Stade de France Tardelli is an admirer of Robbie Brady among other Irish players. Source: Mike Egerton

Perhaps tellingly though, the 61-year-old chose to omit Wes Hoolahan, who was largely ignored by Trap during his time as Ireland manager, but has gone on to become a key player under Martin O’Neill.

I’ll start from (Shane) Long, my pupil. Sometimes he flunks some sitters before the goal because he’s completely exhausted, but one of my best memories from that time is his incredible header against England, in a friendly in Wembley, in May 2013. I was so happy!

“Robbie Keane is the captain because of his football qualities as well as the human ones. Very often he gave money for people who work behind the scenes.

“(James) McCarthy had a Scottish and Irish passport. I went to speak with him to see if he could play with us. I don’t know if I was the one who convinced him, I certainly made it very clear to him just how badly we needed him.

“As for (Jeff) Hendrick, we picked him up at Derby County, in the Championship. I was there to see a central defender, but I was struck by him.

He’s what you’d call a player of the past, but the truth is a bit different. He is modern in ways that aren’t immediately perceived, but they emerge when you really need them. I offered him to some Italian teams, but maybe he wasn’t expensive enough.

“(Robbie) Brady started out as a trequartista (a withdrawn forward), now he can play as a high or low winger, or even more centrally. He developed a lot, and he can still grow. He is the perfect image of this Ireland. In fact, let me add another name.

“John O’Shea, a fantastic lad with a fantastic character. He reminds me a bit of (legendary Italian defender) Gaetano Scirea, and I need say no more.”

h/t Football Italia

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Paul Fennessy

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