So there we have it. Game one down and many Irish fans will feel very disappointed. But I don’t think this should be the case. Ireland were far from disgraced. Sure mistakes were made. Three to be precise and one from the referee of course. But should Ireland feel aggrieved really? Croatia’s midfield comprised of Luka Modric, the Spurs midfield maestro who is touted for a £32 million move to Manchester United this week and Ivan Rikitic, a young talented player who has been tipped by many to be one of Europe’s next big stars. By comparison, Irelands midfield pair was Keith Andrews who only managed 14 appearances for West Brom and GlennWhelan who managed similar stats for Stoke City. How could Ireland expect to do so well really and yet were beaten by three goals that arguably could easily have been avoided.
The most glaring problem with Ireland in this Group C encounter was the midfield tactics. When you have two top class midfield generals who love possession, the only option left for a team like Ireland is to close them and hassle them to within an inch of their life. Whelan and Andrews really couldn’t have done anything more opposite. Every time Modric picked up the ball, usually on the left or the inside left, Whelan and Andrews just stood back and allowed Modric to move, to look up and to pass. This resulted in the green heart being completely bypassed in every sense. This in turn allowed constant pressure on the Irish defence forcing them to drop deeper and deeper. Thus mistakes were made.
What’s left ahead of Ireland is what can only be seen as an insurmountable uphill battle. Italy and Spain, two of the world’s biggest International teams boasting some of world’s greatest players. But this is Ireland. The ultimate underdogs. All is not lost, and as long as we learn from our mistakes and yes maybe drop a forward into midfield to try stop their excellent passing and technique, Ireland still can get something from this group. Maybe not a place in the next round, maybe not a win, maybe not even a point but Ireland can sure come away with some pride. Really the worst Ireland can come away with, is what everyone in Europe thought they would get anyway.