Marco Tardelli questions footballing intellect of Ireland players
‘They don’t get that football is also an intellectual matter, and not just about attacking and going forward’
Former Republic of Ireland assistant manager Marco Tardelli has fond memories of working with John O’Shea. Photograph: Donall Farmer/Inpho
Former Republic of Ireland assistant manager Marco Tardelli has given a pretty damning assessment of the Irish team to Gazzetta dello Sport with the 61-year-old claiming that the defeat by Belgium was in no small part because the players struggle with tactics and don’t understand the “intellectual” side of the game. He lavishes some pretty impressive praise on the likes of Jeff Hendrick and John O’Shea, however.
“I know them very well, we coached pretty much all of them,” he told the Italian paper in an interview. “I can tell you that they’re hopeful. They’re used to playing all of their games at 100 per cent, so they can’t imagine that anyone may approach a game differently. But they know that the so-called reserves have to prove their worth to (Antonio) Conte.”
Asked about Saturday’s defeat he was scathing. “They made too many mistakes,” he said, “one after the other, but all for the same reason: they have trouble handling the game tactically. They don’t get that football is also an intellectual matter, and not just about attacking and going forward.
“They conceded two of their three goals on counters. It seems like an enormous paradox, but for them it’s normal to play without stopping to think. They have great qualities in terms of character and physical build, a great drive to learn, and not very much attention to tactics. They always want to play, even when they’re training. So we had to invent new ways of getting them to practice tactics even as they played.”
Tardelli, who played 81 times for his country and won the World Cup in 1982, lists Shane Long, Robbie Keane, James McCarthy, Hendrick, Robbie Brady and O’Shea as his favourite players with different reasons in the various cases. In the case of Hendrick, who he clearly rates highly, he says he recommended the Dubliner to various Italian clubs but there was no little interest because, he suspects, he wasn’t a big enough name.
“I’ll start from Long, my pupil,” he said. “Sometimes he flunks some sitters before the goal because he’s completely exhausted, but one of my best memories from that time is his incredible header against England, in a friendly in Wembley, in May 2013. I was so happy!
“Robbie Keane is the captain because of his football qualities as well as the human ones. Very often he gave money for people who work behind the scenes.
“McCarthy (who was first capped by Ireland at under-17 level in 2007) had a Scottish and Irish passport. I went to speak with him to see if he could play with us. I don’t know if I was the one who convinced him, I certainly made it very clear to him just how badly we needed him.
“As for Hendrick (who also played for Ireland from under-17 level up), we picked him up at Derby County, in the Championship. I was there to see a central defender, but I was struck by him. He’s what you’d call a player of the past, but the truth is a bit different. He is modern in ways that aren’t immediately perceived, but they emerge when you really need them. I offered him to some Italian teams, but maybe he wasn’t expensive enough.
“Brady started out as a trequartista (literally “three quarter” forward, a more central attacking midfielder playing behind the strikers), now he can play as a high or low winger, or even more centrally. He developed a lot, and he can still grow. He is the perfect image of this Ireland
“John O’Shea, a fantastic lad with a fantastic character. He reminds me a bit of Gaetano Scirea (the great Juventus and Italy defender of the 70s and 80s), and I need say no more.”