Wednesday, 18 November 2009

Le final countdown…

Well people,

Many moons ago the start of Sports Stadium on RTE 2 was heralded each Saturday by the opening bars of The Final Countdown. In amongst the opening montage of sporting highlights (scoring the odd point against England in the rugby, Charlie Haughey ‘winning’ the Tour de France with Stephen Roche, Eamonn Coghlan looking absolutely fecked and Pat Spillane looking more red faced than usual) there was that wonderful image of Gerry Peyton, number 22 in that gloriously grey Irish keeper’s jersey, rushing to celebrate with the rest of his teammates, joining the mountain of bodies surrounding David O’Leary after he’d secured our place in the World Cup quarter finals in 1990.

We’re an odd footballing nation – our greatest tournament performance involved five games, two goals scored and no wins – but the possibility of repeating those scenes from 19 years ago may need to involve our oddest twist yet. Can we change from defensive pragmatists to eager goal getters on a huge night in Paris? Well, maybe.

First off, like nearly everyone else who watched the game at the weekend I’d be happier if there was less of a reliance on the long ball game. As I mentioned to a friend the other day who was also lamenting the manner in which our full backs gave the ball away constantly in Saturday’s defeat, it seems that the long ball isn’t even about building a quick attack. Instead, it seems to be a quick route to creating a 50/50 chance of a foul being given against a defender going for the header, creating a dead ball chance for us.

It’s great if it works but most of the time on Saturday, France either won the long ball or the referee waved away the appeals of Kevin Doyle and Robbie Keane when they went to ground. The less long ball the better but while I’m sure Trapattoni will ask his side to remain a little calmer, I fully expect to see a more than a few punts up front as the 90 minutes pass.

All in all, I don’t really have any complaints about the defence; that we can’t produce a natural left back is a concern for another time. In midfield, Andrews and Whelan were unspectacular but hard working, words which no doubt be passed down through generations when discussing their partnership, and in fairness to them they played an awful lot more football in the first leg of this tie than they have done in previous outings when they seemed to operate merely as defensive shields. They’re growing into international football and hopefully that growth gathers a burst of pace in Paris.

Liam Lawrence however looked knackered after 50 minutes, the pressure of creating chances while trying to keep up with the greyhound on two legs that is Patrice Evra clearly getting to him. It looks like he’ll start but hopefully if McGeady comes on it’ll be a little earlier to make a real difference. Duff too looked tired but you get the feeling that there could be one huge performance from the Ballinteer man to come on Wednesday night. Too often the frustrated bystander, this may be Duff’s chance to seize the moment and hopefully he can create a few chances for the front two.

And with that we move on to Robbie and Kevin. While Jim Beglin may never speak to me again (though, he’s been avoiding me for about 30 years thus far so it won’t be a major life change), and while it’s far more fashionable to pick on Robbie Keane’s moaning and missed chances, Kevin Doyle just has not been doing enough up front for Ireland of late. I can’t remember this supposed physical dynamo holding the ball up all that often, winning too many high balls or even – and remember what his job description is – testing the bloody keeper in any internationals of late.

Doyle needs a big performance, but not a toiling one where he sweats, gets clapped off by the crowd but has no highlights reel expect for some willing running. In short I suppose, if we are to have any chance of getting our first win in Paris since the 1930s, all our big players have to have big games.

Yes the head says Paris will celebrate the French going through, but there is enough of a chance there to be hopeful. Not confident, just hopeful. Cheesy as it sounds, nothing is impossible – remember Bulgaria in 1993 winning in the French capital. Remember any number of football miracles in this decade and indeed French collapses on the big stage (’02 v Senegal, ’04 v Greece, ’08 v everybody). It doesn’t happen often but it does happen.

Just remember Gerry Peyton lads, all he did was run from the centre circle slower than anyone else and he’s remembered still (even if it is only by unashamed obsessives like me and always to the finest tune of a dodgy hair metal band).

Make some chances, make some history, make Lassana Diarra cry, make Ireland very, very happy.



Anonymous said...

Just hope they don't fold meekly without at least giving the French something to think about. There'd be no shame in losing out to France, the real shame would be to do so without a fight. C'mon lads, even a brave defeat would at least be worth watching. (Unlike the rest of this poxy campaign).

Anonymous said...

I take it was agony to watch.....Fucking cheating French cunts. The two French pricks I hate the most too......Henry and Gallas:((

Mark said...

Henry = a fucking cunt