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Ireland v Spain - Euro 2012
In the PGE Arena in Gdansk, the reigning World and European champions gave the Republic of Ireland a master class in possession football as they inflicted the heaviest defeat on Ireland with Giovanni Trapattoni as manager. Spain exposed the Italian's style of play for what it was i.e. an outmoded, negative, and sterile form of football.
Trapattoni's football philosophy clearly allowed Ireland to come close to, as in the 2010 World Cup qualifiers, and to ultimately, as in the Euro 2012 qualifiers, qualify for major football finals. However his approach to football did not allow the Irish to truly compete with the top teams in Europe and the World on the biggest stages.
From an Irish supporters point of view perhaps the most disappointing aspect of the Trapattoni approach to football is that it deprives the Irish players of the ability and opportunity to express themselves.
The Italian's approach even denies the team of the normal spontaneous passion that Irish players have always shown down through the years. Such was the control of the system over individual expression it appeared to deprive the Irish of one of their main strength that has been evident in most Irish teams - physicality driven by passion and desire.
Anyone that witnessed Andy Townsend upending the great Franco Baresi in Rome in the quarter final of the 1990 World Cup or the crunching tackle by Roy Keane on Dutchman Marc Overmars at Lansdowne Road (Aviva stadium) in the 2002 World Cup qualifier will understand this point. If teams 'fannied around', as Jack Charlton once phrased it, in the Irish half the way the Spanish did in Gdansk, one or two heavy tackles by Irish midfielders would have given them something else to think about other than the completion of the perfect pass.
Early Torres Goal Sets the Tone
As they did against Croatia in the first Group C match the Irish found themselves a goal down within minutes of the kick-off. Richard Dunne did well to snuff out the initial threat but as he struggled to get to his feet Fernando Torres pounced. Rounding Stephen Ward as though he wasn't there, Torres drove home from a narrow angle over Irish goalkeeper Shay Given's hands. 1-0 after four minutes. For the remainder of the first half the pattern was: overwhelming Spanish possession; some clear cut chances for the Spanish; meagre and ragged possession for the Irish; and the odd half-chance attempts on the Spanish goal. It could have been three or four nil to Spain but, aginst all the odds, the Irish were still in the game at half-time.
Spain Converts Possession to Goals
In the second half once again history repeated itself. As in the game against Croatia within minutes of the restart the Irish conceded a goal. Five minutes into the second half Given parried a shot to David Silva near the penalty spot in the Irish box. Silva's control and poise allowed him to pick his spot as he shot past a line of three Irish defenders and the despairing dive of Given. There was no way back after this for Ireland. Starved of possession, with no creativity in midfield, and with a system that is not designed to chase games, the result was inevitable.
Further goals in the 73rd and 80th minutes from Torres, and the player that came on as a substitute for him, Cesc Fabregas, gave a truer reflection of the gulf between the two teams. If the truth be told a final score of 4-0 in no way flattered Spain. It could easily have been a record Irish defeat [one which was referenced by RTE football pundit Liam Brady on the night] if the Spanish had been a bit more clinical in front of goal.
If Carlsberg Did Football Fans...
While the football from the Republic of Ireland on the pitch may not have been typical Irish fare the support from the many thousand fans in the stands was very much what we have come to expect - especially from the travelling fans. They were simply magnificent. They sang their hearts out and urged on their team throughout the entire ninety minutes. Even at 4-0 down and with a humiliating defeat certain, the fans kept supporting the team and the full time whistle was accompanied by a lusty rendition of the Fields of Athenry ringing out around the PGE Arena in Gdansk. The Euro 2012 finals may not have been sad to see the back of the Irish style of play but the colour and atmosphere of the competition was definitely poorer [despite the views expressed by football pundit Roy Keane about the Irish fans on ITV on the night] with the inevitable departure of the Irish fans.
Euro 2012 - Republic of Ireland V Spain Statistics
Irish & Spanish Teams
Republic of Ireland Team
Date: 14 June 2012 Venue: PGE Arena, Gdansk, Poland. Attendance: 39,150, Referee: Pedro Proença (Portugal).
2012 Euro Group C Table After Second Round of Matches
Ireland & 1990 World Cup Finals - Irish Squad World Cup 1990