Sunday, October 10, 2010

Caught in our Trap

Friday 1st October 2010 and Ryan Tubridy is chatting to a charming old Italian man on The Late Late Show. Giovanni Trapattoni , along with his translator Manuela Spinnelli, have a light hearted conversation with Ryan, a few jokes are made and chuckles are the order of the night. What a nice man. On the business side of things Trapattoni has led our senior soccer side to a 100% start in the first two games in our 2012 European Championships qualifying campaign. One of our main rivals, Russia have already dropped three points at home to Slovakia. All of a sudden this group looks very winnable. The ‘Ole Ole Brigade’ are furiously printing new membership cards, the brigade certainly seem to be plentiful in number among the audience in Montrose as every half quip in broken English is met with excited laughter. The cover is taken off the bandwagon, the bonnet is up and the oil levels are being checked. Life is good.
Friday 8th October, 49 minutes into our vital qualifier with Russia. A strike from Shirokov deflects off Richard Dunne, Shay Given is wrong footed and the ball squeezes in at the post to Givens left. Republic of Ireland 0 - Russia 3, oh dear.  At this stage no one really could have begrudged Russia three goals, in fact it could have been four or five. Ireland’s central midfielders have well and truly been taken to school by their Russian counterparts. Glen Whelan and Paul Green who are both utilised by Trapattoni as defensive midfielders, however on Friday night they resembled and were equally effective as The Maginot line.  They continually took up a holding position just on the Irish side of the centre circle. The Russians simply passed the ball around or through them, once the ball was goal side of the Irish centre midfield they lacked the ability or mobility to turn and chase, turn and retrieve the ball. Our Maginot boys had been figured out by the Russians, this was too easy, this could be a long night.
Arshavin, Shirokov, Zyryanov et al flooded in between our midfield and defence, so many passes were on, so many options, too many for the Irish back four to deal with for ninety minutes. It was Kevin Kilbane who was sucked infield to cover one of these options on 27 minutes, the ball was whipped out wide as Kilbane’s absence opened an ocean of space. The ball was crossed in, a delightful step over was followed by a tidy finish by Dzagoev and the visitors are two up. Russia’s first goal on 11 minutes scored by Kerzhakov owed equally to inept defending by Ireland and some luck on the part of the Russians. Shay Given who now relies on the national side for competitive action made a poor effort at organising his defence to deal with the in-swinging free kick from the Russian left flank. The Donegal native compounded matters by not dealing with the ball when it came his way. Shay Given’s lack of first team action at Eastlands was not the reason Ireland shipped three goals and dropped three points at home. When Irelands defensive midfielders cannot defend and protect their back four they are largely ineffective. Playing against Russia was always going to be a challenge, when Ireland had to do it with 8 effective outfield players it was going to be near impossible. This was a long way from the summer friendly against Algeria in the R.D.S. for Paul Green. It all looked so promising back then as he gave a somewhat impressive display and even chipped in with a goal. Summer friendlies are one thing, Autumn qualifiers are the real deal. His poor touch in Yeravan may have been excused as nerves, he would settle into this role given time. His poor touch on more than one occasion in the Aviva may highlight a tougher truth, he might be out of his depth at this level. Our here to fore ‘solidity’ in midfield was now a straightjacket that was restricting our response to the Russian approach, Ireland were caught out by their own approach to the fixture.
If Ireland been torn apart by the Russian midfield was tough to watch then the response was torture most cruel. The artillery barrage launched from within the Irish half made Jack Charlton’s approach to the game look like an intricate game of chess. The fact that this approach produced two goals highlights the visitors deficiencies in defence, and for all they are going forward they are far from classy defending their own goal area. This allied with Akinfeevs part in Shane Long’s goal should give Ireland some hope for the return fixture in Moscow. The Russian goalkeepers poor flap at Aiden McGeady’s shot gave Long something to fight for, something we scarcely deserved, a second goal. Ireland could do worse than employ a shoot on sight policy when we next encounter the CSKA Moscow custodian.
All is most certainly not lost. With regard to the potential of this side we will always have Paris, reproduce that display and we should have enough to top this group.  Experience will tell us that these qualifying campaigns are a marathon and not a sprint. Giovanni Trapattoni’s long experience in the game should stand Ireland in good stead at this time, he has been in tighter spots in his career – tighter spots and had achieved a positive outcome. Roll on Zilina on Tuesday, Operation Restore Hope.


Will said...

good article... hooky doing the editing?

October 11, 2010 at 2:13 AM

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