Belfast Telegraph

Steven Beacom: Republic of Ireland Euro 2012 flops simply got what they deserved

So, the Republic of Ireland are the first nation to be eliminated from the European Championship finals. Appropriate really as they are the worst team in the competition.

Can't say I'm surprised by the early exit. Once the draw for the Euro 2012 groups was made it was as clear as Xabi Alonso's 20/20 vision, that Giovanni Trapattoni's team would be dumped after a couple of dates.

Prior to a ball being kicked, of course there was huge optimism in Irish ranks that they would enjoy a long love affair with this tournament.

The Republic fans, especially the thousands who travelled to Poland, were talking about who they would play in the knockout stages, the dream scenario being a quarter-final meeting with old foes England.

Even some of the players got into the act — brashly predicting that they would create waves. I love a bit of optimism, but perhaps the Irish should have travelled with more realism in their bags.

Being unlucky to be placed in the same section as Croatia, Spain and Italy, Trapattoni's squad were always going to find the mountain impossible to climb.

As I said last week if the Republic earn a point before going home they'll have done well. Their final chance of achieving that will come next week against an Italian side needing a victory to have a chance of staying alive in the show themselves.

Whipped by a Croatian side far better than Irish supporters gave them credit for, the Republic were given a footballing lesson by the Spanish last night.

Mind you, they aren't the only country to have experienced that in the past five years.

Even the best Republic of Ireland XI in history, containing, say iconic figures like Paul McGrath, Johnny Giles, Roy Keane, Ronnie Whelan and Frank Stapleton would have struggled against this lot.

Spain are the World and European champions and are one of the greatest teams we've ever seen with majestic, magical footballers like Xavi, Iniesta, David Silva, Cesc Fabregas and Alonso.

Such was their dominance last night Spain really ought to have scored 10.

In the end they happily settled for four as Fernando Torres netted twice. Silva and substitute Fabregas were also on target.

For all Spain's brilliant play, though, from an Irish standpoint all the goals could have been avoided.

Just what is it with Trapattoni's team at the start of each half? They conceded early in the first and second against Croatia and did it again last night. Criminal.

Surely after what happened

on Monday, alarm bells should have been going off in the heads of Shay Given and his defence when the referee blew his whistle to get the action under way.

Once again though the goalkeeper and his back four were asleep allowing Torres and Silva to deliver classy finishes at crucial periods in the game.

After that, it was a case of how many with Torres and Fabregas, taking advantage of more defensive howlers, piling on the pain against opposition who frankly were out of their depth.

Of course the Republic put in plenty of effort, but there was precious little quality on the rare occasions when they actually had the ball.

Aiden McGeady again disappointed, Damien Duff was even worse and was captain Robbie Keane even on the pitch? I didn't see him.

Distinctly average midfielders Glen Whelan and Keith Andrews were ran ragged and then there was the defence, who folded in the face of vastly superior footballers.

Londonderry man James McClean saw some action, making his competitive international debut as a late replacement, but he did about as much as the other men in green. Nothing.

The Republic came into this tournament with great hope.

They'll leave it knowing they simply aren't good enough at this level. Not even close.

Belfast Telegraph


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