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Ireland at Euro 2012 Finals
After ten years since their last appearance at a major football championship finals the Irish senior team finally qualified for the Euro 2012 finals in Poland and Ukraine. After the heartbreaking disappointment of the 2010 World Cup play-off match in Paris Irish manager, Giovanni Trapattoni guided his charges to second place in the Euro 2012 qualification group.
It had been generally accepted that Ireland had been lucky in drawing Estonia in the play-offs but that luck deserted the Irish when the draw for the Euro 2012 finals was made in Kiev on 2nd December 2011. Ireland was in Pot 4 of four and was the lowest ranked team amongst the 16 qualifiers.
For many football pundits and Irish fans the opening match against Croatia in Poznan would determine whether Ireland could progress to the knockout stages of Euro 2012. A win in this match would set the Irish up for a heroic campaign but a loss would make it almost impossible to make it out of the group. One possible positive omen was that Ireland's match against Italy was scheduled for the 18th anniversary of the famous and well-deserved Irish victory over Italy at the 1994 World Cup finals at Giants Stadium in New York.
While the draw was anything but favourable to Ireland the fact the the team was based in Poland made travel arrangements for the Irish fans was far easier than if the team had been drawn to play in the Ukraine.
At the time of the Euro 2012 Finals draw the following were the vital statistics of Ireland's (FIFA World Ranking 21) opponents in Group C:
As the Euro 2012 finals kicked off the FIFA World rankings for the teams in Group C were as follows:
Ireland's Performance at Euro 2012
Ireland's participation at the the Euro 2012 finals proved to be a huge anticlimax and disappointment. Three bad defeats, nine goals conceded and just one scored. Poor form by many of the players, sterile tactics by Irish football manager Giovanni Trapattoni, and three high quality opponents ensured Ireland's worst ever performance at a major championship. Ireland began the campaign with a 3-1 loss to Croatia and this was followed by a football lesson from World champions Spain, who ran out 4-0 winners. In the final dead rubber the Irish succumbed to the Italians by two goals to nil.
Most unusually the normally well organised Irish defence conceded goals from corner kicks in each match. To compound that the Irish posed hardly any goal threat in any of the matches and scored just one by Sean St Ledger from a set-piece. It may not be a coincidence that the matches at Euro 2012 formed part of Robbie Keane's poorest run of form in front of goal for Ireland. The last group match against Italy made it eleven out of twelve without a goal for Ireland's record goal scorer.
It is a fitting indictment of the Irish performances on the pitch at Euro 2012 that the high point for the nation was the prolonged and defiant rendition of the Fields of Athenry by the Irish fans during the final moments of the 4-0 drubbing by Spain in Gdansk. A tribute by the thousands of travelling Irish fans to the efforts of the players notwithstanding the dreary tactics employed by Irish football manager Giovanni Trapattoni. The Italian's stubborn reluctance to release the tactical straight jacket, and his unwillingness to introduce more creative or impact substitutes, such as James McClean, Darron Gibson, or Stephen Hunt, left most observers baffled.
Ireland's performance at Euro 2012 equalled the worst ever performances at any European Championships since the competition began. [For the record: The following nations all lost their three group matches and ended with a minus 8 goal difference - The former Yugoslavia in 1984; Denmark in 2000 &; Bulgaria 2004]
Euro 2012 Group C Irish Match Statistics
The Irish match statistics at Euro 2012 go along way to telling the tale of the Irish performance in Poland. Over the three matches Ireland had just 40% possession of the ball and the statistics make it clear that this possession was not very effective. In three matches Ireland won a total of just eight corners. This is the same number as Spain won in their match against Ireland and four less than Italy won in their one match against the Irish. Spain and Italy had 26 and 27 goal attempts respectively in their matches against Ireland. This contrasts with just 25 attempts on goal by the Irish in their three matches. Of these attempts just 11 were on target - in three matches.
Euro 2012 Group C Final Table
Player Stats at Euro 2012
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