Overall, not a bad first game for the Republic of Ireland. Their history was against them after their last appearance at the European Championships, with Trapattoni trying to turn the Republic into his own mini Italia; setting up to be tough defensively, stifle the opposition before snatching the three points didn’t got too well…they lost all three group matches.
But in this new, impossible to predict romance between Martin O’Neill and Roy Keane, Ireland have become a rather impressive force, qualifying despite being in a group with Poland and Germany. Maybe this practise against facing big name players became useful, with all the hype pre-match as usual focused on Zlatan Ibrahimovic. The Swede was back on home soil, or would be home had Paris renamed it the Zlatan Tower.
— Ali ÇEVİK (ibrAli) (@CevikDesign) June 9, 2016
Ireland were a force. They weren’t Ireland, but more like the Brazil of the past. Robbie Brady tore down the left like Roberto Carlos. Long was as tricky to handle as Ronaldo. The fat one, not the sculptured sex symbol. Only in Dublin, and maybe Southampton to some obsessed or drunk fans, is Shane Long a sex symbol.
Minutes into the second-half, Seamus ‘Cafu’ Coleman burst down the right, and delivered the perfect ball for Wes Hoolahan to belt home. The Norwich midfielder had ran the midfield, and was the perfect example of a player who had transformed with this Irish team, to lead fans questioning whether these were 11 imposters.
Glenn Whelan and James McCarthy had certainly been listening to their maniac assistant manager. Like pit bulls at a Royal Mail delivery centre, the two midfielders went in with full commitment, without care for the wellbeing of Swedish legs. The spirit of Roy Keane was inhaled by the pair, leaving behind the grumpiness and bitterness in the grey beard of O’Neill’s helper/bodyguard. Tackles went flying in, as they sprinted across the width of the pitch like the laser canon from Space Invaders, frantically covering the ground to halt Swedish assaults.
Ironically, the Irish lacked the luck of the Irish. A phrase not many of their fans could say five times quickly after their pre-match pints. Ciaran Clark, playing without the comfort and reassurance of being alongside walking legends in Richards and Lescott, looked overawed, and lost. The 26-year-old channelled his inner Richard Dunne, and perfectly powered a header into his own goal. If only he listened to Irish hero Patches O’Houlihan, who’s vital lesson to ‘Dodge, Dip, Duck, Dive and Dodge’ may have seen the ball safely cleared away by a colleague.
Luckily, he would get a tweet from his Villa teammate, telling him it’s a weight off his shoulders to score an own goal, although Lescott would later go on to claim it was a pocket tweet again.
Aston Villa fans sing “it’s just a weight off your shoulders” after comments from Lescott last week pic.twitter.com/7OUTG4OJlJ
— Football Away Days (@footyawayday) April 25, 2016
But despite Clark’s moment, the Irish were impressive. Keane still probably scalded them all by throwing every cup of tea in the changing room at them, but it would be a harsh punishment. They took the game to Sweden, they looked to be aggressive, and had chances to go ahead multiple times. A few tweaks on the training ground, and maybe the Republic will go on to secure three points next match.
Not bad for England’s B team!