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Dublin: 7°C Wednesday 28 October 2020
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5 things learned from Ireland's defeat to Spain

Giovanni Trapattoni’s side were beaten 2-0 in the Bronx.

Image: INPHO/Donall Farmer

Why couldn’t we play like that in Gdansk?

Ireland produced a far more determined, gutsy and intelligent display in the opening 45 minutes of tonight’s end-of-season friendly against Spain than in the entire 90 minutes of the dismal Euro 2012 defeat to the same opposition. Trapattoni’s players showed what can be achieved by a cohesive, defensive effort coupled with a willingness to break from defence in numbers when the opportunity arises.

Apart from conceding two goals, Trapattoni’s oft-criticised orthodox 4-4-2 formation worked well with two banks of four putting their bodies on the line to thwart a succession of Spanish attacks.  Yet last night’s performance raises the question why a similar effort wasn’t delivered during the 4-0 drubbing in Gdansk during Euro 2012 with a far more experienced squad.

Ireland’s full backs are useful attacking weapons

Seamus Coleman and Stephen Kelly spent much of the 90 minutes repelling a constant stream of Spanish attacks but also showed brief glimpses of their ability to stretch opposing defences when afforded the opportunity to get forward. Coleman gave Alba a torrid time whenever the Everton player ventured into Spanish territory while Kelly linked well with Keogh on the opposite wing.

What a pity then that Trapattoni doesn’t permit his full backs to venture beyond the halfway line more regularly as Coleman and Kelly showed Ireland can trouble quality back fours like Spain’s when the defensive shackles are removed.

Chasm in quality

Granted Spain are building towards the Confederations Cup and Ireland at the end of a long international season, minus a host of first team regulars, but a quick comparison of the starting benches underlined the chasm in quality at each country’s disposal. Ireland’s substitutes at kick off were Randolph, Delaney, McClean, Keogh, Quinn, Cox, Meyler and McCarey while Spain were able to call upon Casillas, Albiol, Azpilicuetta, Monreal, Martinez, Fabregas, Mata, Silva, Cazorla, Navas and Torres.

Is it any wonder Spain do so well at international tournaments while Ireland struggle to qualify.

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And yet there is hope…

Stephen Quinn’s half-time introduction was a neccessary change following Jeff Hendrick’s insipid display. With Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews struggling with injuries of late and Wes Hoolahan rarely trusted in the centre of the park, Quinn certainly put his hand up for consideration in future selections with an eye-catching display. Darren Randolph’s introduction was also a welcome move with the goalkeeper gaining some much needed first team experience not that David Forde has made the number one jersey his own.

Spain are contenders for Brazil 2014

Even in second gear Spain will defeat the majority of opponents they come across between here and next year’s World Cup in Brazil. Iniesta and Xavi have lost none of their magical ability to carve defences apart, Soldado looks hungry and a talented U21 side are coming through. Spain will be there or thereabouts next year.

Ger McCarthy is an Irish-based freelance sports journalist and published author. A regular contributor to Irish daily national the Irish Examiner, he also pens weekly columns for both the Evening Echo & Southern Star newspapers. Has written extensively for the Setanta Sports, NewsTalk, and Shoot! Football magazine web sites and is a regular member of Back Page Football’s Hold The Back Page football podcast.

His first book ‘Off Centre Circle’ about a lifetime spent toiling in the amateur football leagues of Ireland received critical acclaim including an endorsement from RTE (Irish) football pundit Richard Sadlier.

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Ger McCarthy

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