‘It’s certainly not over, but it’s going to be a tough task,’ says defiant Keane
Disappointed players rocked by defeat but in no mood to concede dream over
Anders Svensson of Sweden celebrates his winner at the Aviva Stadium. Photograph: Getty Images
World Cup qualification is not impossible, but it’s certainly improbable. And the realisation of that was etched on Irish faces last night, not least those players who braved the media after the 2-1 defeat to Sweden.
Another bright start faded badly after Robbie Keane’s 22nd minute opener. Ireland surrendered possession and the ascendancy to be pegged back by Johan Elmander’s header 11 minutes later. They came out swinging after the break but Anders Svensson sealed an away win after the home side tired. A chorus of boos greeted the final whistle and a grim night was complete.
“We are very disappointed,” said captain Robbie Keane afterwards. “There is not much you can say about it . . . To not get anything out of the game was obviously disappointing. It was a great start and I think in the first half hour we played well; we placed pressure on them high up the pitch and we had chances. We had a lot of shots from outside the box . . . The last 15 minutes of the first half they started getting the ball down and playing it a bit – and they continued to do that in the second-half. We didn’t capitalise on our goal.”
‘Tough to take’
“We had a lot of energy. You can’t fault the lads’ effort and desire. To be fair they scored two good goals; two good finishes and good build-up play. You can’t take that away from them. We had a lot of energy but at the end of the day that means nothing when we don’t have the points,” he added.
It was all pretty tough to take in but the skipper sounded a defiant note when asked if there was still something to play for.
“It’s definitely not gone,” he replied. “Never say never. Is it going to be difficult? Of course. You can’t be naive to think it’s going to be easy. But Sweden are going to a tough place in Kazakhstan and it’s certainly going to be tough over there. But we have a tough game too and for us on Tuesday we have to win. It’s as simple as that.
“It’s certainly not over but it’s going to be a tough task. No way are we going to give up. No chance. Of course it’s disappointing because of the importance of the game and the fact that we had to get a result. I said we couldn’t lose because of the situation with the points. It’s very disappointing and hard to take.”
James McCarthy saw the game pass him by somewhat, after early promise and controlled aggression gave way to old habits and Ireland bypassed the midfield. The new Everton signing clearly had had better nights and he wasn’t hiding afterwards.
“It’s very disappointing,” he said. “I thought when we went 1-0 up, we just sat in, we invited pressure on ourselves. It was just a poor, poor performance from each and everyone of us, myself included.”
He too thinks there is still something to play for.
“No, we’re still in it. We’ll go to Austria, obviously, and we need to go there and try to take maximum points. But it’s obviously very disappointing.”
Road to Rio
Richard Dunne, meanwhile, was similarly determined to look on the bright but no more convincing as he sought to identify a route by which he and his team-mates can still get themselves to Brazil.
“We have to stay positive,” insisted the Dubliner. “We go to Austria on Tuesday and hopefully we can win that. Hopefully we can open the group up again.”
He added: “It’s been very disappointing tonight,” he acknowledged before seeming to claim that the home side had been hard done by.
“After taking the lead a draw would have been harsh on us but the fact is that we lost, two sloppy goals we conceded. Elmander just got in ahead of me and scored and then they got another. We watched them on video and we knew they were good but it’s disappointing
“It’s just one of those things. Ibra’s pass was just weighted perfectly but I know that from our point of view that doen’t change the fact that it is still disappointing that we conceded.
“Of course it’s disappointing but there are still games to play and we have to pick ourselves up.
“It’s going to be hard,” he continued,” but we still have to believe otherwise there’s no point in carrying on. It will be a tough game on Tuesday night but if results go our way we can still get back into it.”