Irrational exuberance gives way to despair
ANALYSIS:WHILE A mountain of copy is filed back to Ireland from the media hotel in Sopot each evening because the consequences of it not arriving are far too grim to contemplate, the flow of information in the other direction is not always what it might be.
So word of some social media poll or other back at home in which more than 90 per cent of respondents expressed the view that Giovanni Trapattoni’s team would reach the quarter-finals of these championships only arrived here a day after the Boys In Green’s voyage to the last eight had been blown badly off course by defeat in their opening game.
The enthusiasm of Irish supporters in places like Poznan is a genuine marvel to behold. But the level of expectation the night before Sunday’s 3-1 defeat was alarming and, just as the long unbeaten run contributed to the players’ sense of shock and disappointment in the aftermath of the game according to their manager, it appears only to have deepened the levels of despair to which fans plummeted in the immediate aftermath of the third Croat goal.
Lest the process of absorbing Ireland’s real status at this tournament has not completely sunk in, though, let us ask ourselves a few simple questions. How many amongst us think that the English team which drew with France the other night are serious contenders for the title here? How many of the Irish players from Sunday night’s game would you put in that team? How many of that English team would get into the Spanish team?
And if the English had been drawn in Group C last December in Ireland’s place, how many Irish fans would have scoffed at the idea of them getting any further.
I really don’t seek to use England as an example other than because most people will be, for obvious reasons, better equipped to make comparisons between their players and ours.
The rather grim reality is that in football the quality of the results achieved in a tournament or league tends to fairly accurately reflect the quality of the players.
Lay out a few league tables alongside tables of the wages the clubs pay and the correlation will have a dispiriting effect.
Of course, there are, for all sorts of reasons, upsets; especially in one off games. But even in shorter, cup competitions things have gone increasingly the same way as disparities have grown within the game.
People in England, for instance, used to talk endlessly about the romance of the FA Cup, which generally takes about as many games as a European Championship to win, but Chelsea, after spending close to €1 billion on players during the Roman Abramovich era, have won three of the last four; not exactly something that would bring a lump to the throat.