Poor old Ireland. I haven’t seen people in green suffer that badly since the military invented bullets. 27 shots, over 800 passes, 78% possession, two goals for Torres – all very embarrassing reading for Irish fans.
Sure, Ireland forgot to start the game, instead choosing to watch the pretty team of midfielders tiki and taka the ball all over the shop. Indeed, the green defence gave it their all in trying to be worse than they were against Croatia, although sadly couldn’t concede quicker than three minutes after a half started, instead racking up two +4 minute goals.
And sure, they probably put in one of the worst performances at the back, and rarely the front, ever seen in this tournament:
1. Give Torres the ball 18 yards out and allow him to control it until he feels comfortable to shoot, let him turn you so you can get in his head.
2. Allow Silva to stand still watching in mirth as three of you do your best impressions of amputee deer on a frozen lake, don’t forget to open wide so his snail pace shot can go through you all. Under no circumstances press him, this goal won’t be the turning point.
3. Lose the ball right up against your backline and let Torres run through on goal, I’m sure Richard Dunne will catch him.
4. Ah a corner, Spain are notoriously weak from these. See, they have only put Fabregas in the box out of fear of our mighty six defenders. Somehow it’s a trap though, so don’t mark him. He’ll never beat Given from there anyway.
The list goes on; trying to make one-twos in the Spanish box when you struggle to connect in your own half, looking for the perfect cross when you have yet to get one in, yaddayadda…
Basically, every team has a goal. Spain’s goal is to win the Euros, the Republic’s goal was to reach the Euros. What did we honestly expect? The very best in the world struggle with this Spanish team’s endless pressure, patience, and precision. Ireland are a way off being good enough to struggle, so it becomes messy – you’re just gonna have to accept it Roy Keane.
Elsewhere in Polkraine, Italy went up against Croatia. Once again Italy deployed their much practiced sweeper formation (don’t know why I was surprised, it is great), and it worked well. It’s beauty is in really getting the most out of a player like De Rossi, his awareness and control are testament to his manager’s tactical nous.
Balotelli started the game sharply and was linking play nicely with Cassano and the ‘I’m here now I’m there’ attacking mid Claudio Marchisio, while Italy as a whole were producing some great moves.
At the center of all this was the veteran maestro Pirlo. Twas only fitting that his lethal free kick was the first half decider, as he was dictating the play of the entire game. Producing a 45 minute masterclass, Pirlo was always open and delivered some great diagonal balls to the channel running strikers. Italy probably should have been leading by more at the break.
In the second half however, someone had a brainwave and though it might be a good idea to maybe limit the amount of time Pirlo had on the ball. The game then began to change as Croatia started to dictate some play of their own.
The problem with Italy’s formation is that Christian Maggio and Emanuele Giaccherini are relied on heavily to always be in the right place out wide without the ball, something which isn’t natural for the latter. Against a team like the Croats who have big aerial threats like Jelavic and the free moving Mandzukic, the key is to stop the supply line which usually come in the form of crosses. Despite the uncharacteristic mistake from the Easter Island stone faced Chiellini, that cross, like many others, was too easy.