We'll sift through the wreckage for the positives
ANALYSIS:Keith Andrews’ red card shouldn’t obscure the fact he has been our best player, by far
CHANGE THE colour of the opposition shirts and we could have been watching the 3-1 defeat to Croatia or 4-0 drubbing by Spain during last night’s opening 45 minutes.
In fairness, this was a desperately tough group, with Italy looking close to their regal best up to half-time.
Then everything changed. They went into their shells, in typical Italian fashion, sitting on the 1-0 lead, while we went out and had a right old go, producing our best showing in the tournament.
Thankfully, we also had a better start than against Croatia and Spain. It’s just unfortunate we were unable to get a grip on the game, even though there was plenty of space through the heart of the Italians.
They abandoned their 3-5-2 structure to come out and secure the three points that puts them through.
It meant Aiden McGeady and Damien Duff got on the ball more but we didn’t create any real chances. I’d love to see how many shots Robbie Keane has had over the three games. I can only remember the one until his sky rocket into the brilliant Irish fans last night.
But still, it was going okay for a half-hour. We were almost creating chances. It was the lack of familiarity with possession that hurt us.
The goal was another jolt and the energy levels seemed to dip. I feared the worse but 2-0, unfortunately, is an improvement.
Yet again, we were guilty of conceding avoidable goals. Same problem, different game. Unable to maintain basic possession, we coughed up a corner and were caught on the near post by Cassano.
It was terrible to witness; set-pieces are supposed to be our forte – both as an attacking weapon and in defence, with the physical presence of Richard Dunne in particular.
When you concede a goal from open play it can usually be put down to quality build-up play or someone being skinned in a one-on-one situation. Both Italian goals came from corners. That is not like the Republic of Ireland. The defenders are assigned to the opposition’s major aerial threats. You can get close to them. Even get a hold of them.
Goal one: Cassano got in front of Keith Andrews and his header beat Shay at the near post. Goal two: Balotelli held off John O’Shea for a smashing finish. Plain and simple.