Robinson says Ireland 'cannot win this match'


FORMER REPUBLIC of Ireland international Michael Robinson, who is now a television presenter and leading football pundit in Spain, has compared this evening’s game in Gdansk to “Muhammad Ali fighting a dwarf”, and insisted Giovanni Trapattoni’s side “cannot win this match”.

In an interview with the Spanish newsagency EFE which Trapattoni might well stick up on the dressingroom wall prior to kick-off, Robinson, who has lived in Spain for a 25 years now, says he will be supporting Spain for football reasons and because of all that the country has given him since he moved there.

His assessment of Trapattoni and the Ireland team, though, is completely damning with the former Preston, Brighton and Liverpool striker describing their game plan as outdated and the players as essentially second rate. He predicts if the defending champions produce anything like their best form then they will run out very comfortable winners.

“There’s no threat from Ireland; Ireland cannot win this match,” he says. “It’s like Muhammad Ali fighting a dwarf. Ireland are going to try to be an irritating obstacle, but if Spain play at 80 per cent of their ability, they’ll thrash them.

“I’m supporting Spain,” he continued. “I hope Ireland go out of the tournament unscathed, that they play like gladiators. I hope Ireland finish the game with dignity, with the glory of competing with this great Spain side.

“But I’ve lived in Spain longer than I’ve lived in England. Spain has given me so much. And if I think about what’s best for football, I want beautiful football to prosper and be imitated. I really hope Spain win this tournament because children need to watch Spain and focus on them. Spain have returned the emphasis on playing with the ball, it’s brilliant.”

Asked if he feels the Irish game has moved on since his time in the side, primarily the early ’80s when he contributed, from the margins, to a Liverpool side that won the league, League Cup and European cup, Robinson is scathing.

“No, not at all. Perhaps that’s the problem. If I spoke to you about England, I’d say the same thing. On the British Isles football is going through a Darwin-style evolution; a slow one. I don’t think football over there has changed much despite the influx of so many foreign players to the Premier League. The league has involved, but the England, Wales, Ireland, Scotland and Northern Ireland teams have not. I read that Ireland was going to adopt catenaccio because Giovanni Trapattoni is their manager; what a load of nonsense! Ireland’s players don’t know how to play that way.”

His interviewer then suggests that under Trapattoni Ireland in fact play “super catenaccio” prompting further derision. “That’s wrong. Doyle, their number nine, tries to play off the back of the full back. He’s been doing this all his career . . . It’s the same with Keane, he couldn’t adapt to playing at Liverpool. Ireland could be playing against Spain, Iceland or Mars, it’s the same, they wouldn’t have much of the ball. People associate them with catenaccio because they don’t know how to use the ball, but it’s not catenaccio.”

He is, meanwhile, indifferent to the effect Trapattoni has had on the team, suggesting the veteran coach neither brings anything new to, nor gets anything extra out of, his players. “I don’t think he’s been particularly good or particularly bad,” he says. “Has he taken something from Ireland? No. Has he brought anything new to Ireland? No. You’re a man who likes to watch good football, do Ireland play good football? Ireland do what they can, I respect that. I think that football in Ireland is respectable because it’s honest.

“But football on the British Isles is a bit old-fashioned . . .They try and give their best, but it’s possible trying their best isn’t enough to call it good football. It’s because they don’t wish to play good football, it’s because they don’t have the technical ability to do anything else.”