Statistics reveal predictable and ponderous Republic
ANALYSIS:The facts, sadly, speak for themselves and underscore the main problem: lengthy build-up and defence, writes BRIAN KERR
WHEN THE hopes and dreams of a wonderful odyssey in Poland were rocked early in Poznan, then smashed completely in Gdansk, all we were left with was the chance at some form of redemption against Italy. And then nothing at all.
Meeting disenchanted, long-suffering supporters as they headed for home, their annoyance and frustration was palpable. But at least they left a positive impression on the tournament.
Sometimes I wonder how accurate their view and subsequent analysis of the games can be, given the extent of their pre-match alcohol in-take. But in sober mode they are, for the most part, knowledgeable and knew where the blame ultimately lies.
Like many, I feared the team would be outplayed against these three group opponents. The Croatia game was always going to set the tone. The 3-1 defeat overshadowed some pretty positive statistics. Croatia had 55 per cent possession with a pass completion of 68 per cent to our 61 per cent. Goal attempts are even closer: 13 for us, 14 for them.
Who knows how it all may have gone had we not conceded so disastrously, especially the Croats’ crucial third goal early in the second-half.
Also, coughing up goals at set pieces went against all Trap’s theories. But the warning signs were there much earlier. The frequency of chances created by Hungary in our last warm-up game was unsettling to say the least. The general lack of energy in the team indicated tiredness or overtraining. It’s hard to know which, but the last week of training before Croatia did not cure the problem.
I presume these would have been low-key sessions, set piece details and working on sharpness. But mainly resting.
Yet, we lost almost every 50-50 ball against Croatia. That said, I wouldn’t be too convinced by suggestions that the players were overcooked. Players are always likely to whinge about something – training, facilities etc – when confined to barracks for a prolonged period.
I just think the little details, which Trap always refers to, didn’t work out so well.
The additional staff were not held as a priority either; the shortfall in compensation for five weeks in camp did not do anything for staff morale. At least the players divvied out some of their bonus for qualification.
Just another little detail. The big detail of the manager’s qualification bonus wasn’t an issue.
Anyway, once the Croat game was lost the rest was inevitable. We have to be realistic: the greatest Spanish side to date and a resurgent Italy were always going to be massive tasks.
It is easy to be critical after the event. The achievement of qualification after four near misses since 2002 was admirable. But the experience of Trap and Tardelli left me hoping they would see the essential need to alter our system against Spain.
Everyone knows that 4-4-2 simply does not have a chance of holding off the intricate Spanish or Barca raids. Italy and Croatia (and Chelsea) changed from their normal style to counter them. We altered nothing.
The statistics are damning. Mostly the numbers just confirm what I, or any coach worth his salt, would have seen. Astoundingly high numbers for passes completed by Spain are nothing new: 779 passes against us for an 84 per cent success rate. Italy hit a 78 per cent success rate.