The worst possible start for Ireland but even those of us that were mildly optimistic at the outset were not too surprised. It was something we had seen before. Croatia had their homework done and were able to shift seamlessly from attacking to a more reactive style. They also barely broke sweat in outpassing Ireland, whose distribution looked clumsy and one-dimensional in comparison. After all Trapattoni’s talk of dropping Keane back to counter Croatia’s triangular passing, he did no such thing, and, despite the best efforts of Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews, they were essentially struggling to contain Luka Modric, who was at the heart of most of Croatia’s better moves.
It was yet another failure on Trapattoni’s part to prepare adequately for a game against a fluid, technical, counter-attacking side. In a way it was the third installment of the two qualifying matches against Russia. Little was learned from those games, one of which was a fiasco similar to last night and the second a miraculous draw that could easily have been very different. Last night, Trap’s men were hard done by on a number of bad refereeing decisions but luck has been on their side often enough on the way to Poland to not feel too sorry for themselves.
Ireland now have a nigh-impossible task ahead of them to get out of the group. Even a miraculous four points from the next two games is unlikely to be enough, particular if we finish level with Croatia. Spain were also very impressive in the second half of their match against Italy, suggesting the fatigue everyone thought they might fall victim to has not materialised. There is a possibility Trapattoni might have a better level of organisation instilled in the players on Thursday and Richard Dunne will have regained the form that deserted him last night. It’s also very possible though that it could get very nasty for the Irish.
Posted by Oliver Farry