IN THE 70th minute of last night’s match, Aiden McGeady launched a rare Irish attack down the left flank. For a moment, all sorts of possibilities opened up. Ireland had a two versus two scenario. A goal then would have made the score 2-1 and would have handed Ireland a boost.
But what happened?
By the time McGeady reached the edge of the penalty area, there were six Spaniards back within the box to defend Iker Casillas’ goal. McGeady won a corner. That was as good as it would get.
And if any one incident stands out from last night, that was it. Attacking prowess is something we have come to expect from a bunch of technically excellent footballers who have brought the game onto another level. The industry, though, often goes unnoticed.
But when you are present at a Spanish game, you get to understand just how much graft accompanies their craft. Such as early in the first half, when Ireland had dropped so deep that nine players were positioned within yards of Shay Given’s penalty area, Given considered it prudent to build from deep. Two quick throw outs resulted in Ireland managing two passes in succession the first time and three, the next. Spain, having adopted such a high offensive line, ignored the consideration that you have to return to your own half in order to defend. Instead, they trusted their instincts and reclaimed possession inside the Irish half, nearly scoring each time.
That’s what stood out – that work ethic as much as the 820 passes – which you would never see an Irish team manage unless they entered Mastermind and chose ‘Take the High Road’ as their chosen specialist subject.
Quite simply, watching Spain in 2012 is what it must have been like to experience the Dutch in the 1970s and Real Madrid in the 1950s.
And yet, despite all this, we still feel short-changed.
No matter what team Giovanni Trapattoni had have put out – Ireland would have lost.
But you cannot ignore the fact he played the wrong team – and also the wrong system earlier this week against Croatia.
Quite how Simon Cox – a forward – can be expected to do a job as a midfielder is beyond everyone’s comprehension. And quite how Darron Gibson can remain motivated to play for Trap – after being overlooked for two successive games, behind Glenn Whelan, Keith Andrews and then, tonight, Paul Green of all people, is simply bizarre.
Just as bizarre is Trap’s view that Ireland cannot play any other system than 4-4-2 – which is outdated a tactical system as they come. Had James McCarthy been promised some action then he could have acted as a link-player. Andy Reid and Wes Hoolahan are further options for this position. Each were overlooked.
How Ireland could have used them this week. And how they could have profited from a manager with a greater belief in his side. Trap, without doubt, has been a great find and has done a fine job with Ireland since his arrival. He pushed this team as far as he could. Yet the man who wins the war should not necessarily be the one to win the peace. Britain turned against Winston Churchill. Ireland should do the same with Trap.