EURO 2012 Day Three: What the Opening Game Defeat Means for Ireland

Patrick SpeckContributor IJune 10, 2012

Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle kick off with agitation after conceding.
Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle kick off with agitation after conceding.Jamie McDonald/Getty Images

Heartbreak in Poznan 

Following the earlier Spain-Italy draw and tonight’s 3-1 defeat to Croatia, the Republic of Ireland is now bottom of their group. Much is said of the opening game in major tournaments, and indeed Trappatoni will have wanted his team to set out a strong foundation in their EURO 2012 campaign. Having lost their opening game, however, against some would say the “easiest” team in Group C, is there any hope for progression for the determined but lacking Irish squad?

Maintaining the Hope

The Republic of Ireland always knew they had a tough task before them ahead of this year’s European Championship. The Irish squad has plenty of recognizable names, but no stellar stars of the same class as Ronaldo, Rooney, Iniesta or Arshavin. In order to get to this year’s finals, the Republic made it to second place in qualifying against the likes of Russia and Slovakia, and many Irish fans are hoping for an unlikely and amazing EURO 2012 win in lieu of Denmark or Greece’s remarkable victories in 1992 and 2003, respectively. The team, along with the fans, will have to retain that hope and those aspirations in order to have a chance at progressing to the knockout stages.

Galvanizing the Team 

Pundits and critics alike have praised the great team spirit and camaraderie within the Irish camp. The majority of the 23-man squad have been together in every game getting to the finals, and despite a relative lack of quality in the players, the teamwork and companionship between Duff and Keane is far superior to what has been seen from Van Persie and Robben of the Dutch. This team spirit is often the stuff of cliché remarks and not tangible football results, however, it holds true for Ireland in this case—this is what makes the Republic so strong, so capable, and what still gives them a chance versus their higher-rated opponents throughout the tournament. 

Expectation Versus Result 

Both the bookmakers and media have long odds on Irish success in the tournament. As stated, Robbie Keane is no Karim Benzema. The team just doesn’t have the same depth in quality and class. Ireland are true long shots at any rate. What the team (and the fans) need to keep in mind, however, is that football is a sport that either of the two teams can win. Egos are rampant in the Spanish and Italian camps, and if Denmark’s win against World Cup runners-up Holland proved anything, it’s that at this level, with stakes so high, any team can go out and compete and see a result as well.

In Trapp We Trust

The oldest manager in the history of the tournament is therefore also the most experienced. This man, Trappatoni,  has seen Ireland get this far, and will know the intricacies of his team and what he can do to try to get success for the team in the coming games. The novelty t-shirts read “In Trapp We Trust” and rightly so. Don’t pick apart the substitutions, tactics or players. Get behind the manager and the team, as they will too. Ireland still has a hope and a dream for this tournament. Get behind the Boys In Green.