Where do we go now after this Spanish inquisition?


ANALYSIS:AFTER THIS cutting Spanish inquisition maybe the revolution in Irish football can truly begin. So where do we go from here? For starters, we must not compare ourselves to last night’s opponents as it’s not relevant to the debate.

They are a collection of the world’s top players.

It felt like one of those FA Cup third round matches we’ve grown up watching. The Division Four club is stuck in the mud as household names pass them into oblivion. We just needed one chance. It never came.

This never became anything close to the giant-killing story of our wildest dreams. Our brief attacking moments were ever so faint, too much in need of Spanish error. Their back four was never questioned, their muscle never tested.

We hung on in there by our fingertips until David Silva’s goal killed us. Most disappointing of all was the timing of the first two goals. Again.

Every coach the world over drums into his players, when faced by better opponents, to keep it tight at the start of each half.

In that regard, we failed miserably.

But, just as we feared, we were outclassed by men from a different footballing realm.

I think they will prove too majestic for everyone in the end. Unless the Germans blitz them. It’s too early to say.

But it’s time for us to leave this party. We have been eliminated. That hurts.

It’s to the bigger picture we must look. That is the only debate that matters now.

The technical deficiencies of this group of players won’t be cured in the short term by any new individuals or dramatic changes in shape.

We will struggle for a while yet. But the development of a shape that suits modern international football is needed. With that will come the selection of more technically gifted players.

I hope it will anyway.

The current attitude seems to be suspicious of retaining the ball with all the focus on graft and tackling. Players like Paul Green represent our future at present.

Green replaced Glenn Whelan. At no point was there a creative midfielder introduced. Green has been injured for much of this season but was always going to be selected. We are never going to outplay the top five or six countries but we can work towards including creative players that will trouble them when combined with our spirit and battling qualities.

I can’t see the debt on Lansdowne Road being alleviated with our loyalty to 4-4-2.

The game has moved on. We have not.

The selection of Simon Cox at least meant there was five green shirts in the midfield and we weren’t exposed as blatantly as has occurred against inferior passing teams. Like Russia.

But nothing can be done about that Iniesta pass in the fourth minute or the football brain of Fernando Torres. He pick- pocketed a grounded Dunne to finish a mere glimpse of a chance.

We helped Torres more than anyone last night. We gave him the platform to regain his scoring touch at international level. He looked like that thrilling striker of a few years back again.

There were some really dark moments late on. I thought they had eased up at two-nil but they never ease up. Their philosophy doesn’t permit it.

The tackle by Portuguese referee Bertino Miranda on Keith Andrews at least provided a much -needed moment of levity. The handful of Irish faces around me in Poznan, where Italy and Croatia just broke even, were going awfully pale. We needed a reason to smile, to relax and to accept the reality of our situation.

Spain are the greatest team of the generation. Perhaps of the last 30 years. They were toying with us from the very start, saving themselves for the next game and the knockout stages. They’ll probably only be disappointed with Xavi Alonso picking up a yellow card.

In contrast, this Republic team are not a patch on previous Ireland teams who have competed in major tournaments. Honest and hard working, yes, but they lack anything near the required technical ability to trouble Croatia, never mind Spain.

That said, Aiden McGeady ran his heart out while Andrews has come out of these two games with a new-found respect at the highest level.

I feared a hammering before kick-off but I am too passionate about Irish football to admit it could happen. I didn’t even whisper it.

Considering Italy need three points now to qualify, it could get really ugly on Monday.

I fear Trap will see the last game as a personal crusade to maintain his reputation as a tactical master among his own people.

I expect he will devise another negative plan. But maybe, no hopefully, the players will take over, like they did in Paris in November 2009. That night they played with passion, adventure and almost snatched a famous win.

If it is to be the end of the international road for some of our longest serving players they deserve the chance to express themselves. Over to Duffer, Richard and Robbie.

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