Euro 2012: What the Irish Need to Work on After Their Elimination
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After starting the tournament with a little bit of hope, Irish eyes weren't smiling tonight after their third consecutive defeat at Euro 2012.
Heading into the tournament, Ireland had only lost one match in 12 competitive games and conceded just eight goals on the way.
With Italian genius Giovanni Trappatoni at the helm, it seemed that Ireland's strong defensive record would stand them in good stead.
Italians are notorious for working on defensive shape and with the hugely experienced Trappatoni in charge, it seemed like the Irish wouldn't be pushovers.
Their squad was full of talented young players and with experienced heads like Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane involved, there was definite hope for the traveling Irish fans.
Sadly, it never quite worked out that way. Ireland's performances were shaky at best.
The normally reliable Shay Given seemed out of sorts, probably because of the injury he suffered just before the tournament started. Their defence gave away cheap, early goals in the matches against Croatia and Spain, which didn't help their cause.
In midfield, they couldn't keep possession of the ball and too often, they were over-run. Aiden McGeady doesn't have much to offer. Too often, he loses possession instead of looking for a teammate and it puts his fellow players under unnecessary pressure.
Up front, there wasn't really much for Kevin Doyle and Robbie Keane to feed on. They were feeding off scraps at best and often found themselves working the channels.
On rare occasions where Ireland managed to get in behind their opponents, it was the strikers who were doing the work out wide, leaving nobody in the middle to get the ball to.
There's no immediate reason for Irish fans to be disillusioned, despite being knocked out at the group stage.
The future is bright, particularly in the form of James McClean. He'll have a massive part to play in their World Cup qualifying campaign, which gets underway in September.
It could just be that they had a bad three games, but if they're to get to the next World Cup in Rio, Ireland need to make sure that they cut out the silly defensive mistakes and find an effective midfield that will create chances for the strikers.
The Irish fans looked like they had a great time in Poland and Ukraine, but imagine how much better it would have been if they'd had more than one goal to shout about.
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