Belfast Telegraph

Pure torture: Former Ireland internationals criticise Martin O'Neill's tactics as Republic smashed in World Cup play-off

Former Ireland internationals Keith Andrews and Niall Quinn have criticised the tactics of manager Martin O'Neill after Denmark won 5-1 in Dublin to ease past Ireland in the World Cup play-off.

Just three days after the Ulsterman was praised for his part in master-minding a staunch defensive display and a 0-0 draw in Copenhagen, his decisions were called into question by the duo on Sky Sports.

Andrews, who made over 30 appearances for the Republic between 2008 and 2012, said the second half, when Denmark bagged three goals without reply, was 'pure torture.'

With the Danes leading 2-1 at half-time, Ireland brought off central midfield duo David Meyler and Harry Arter, bringing on attacking talent Aiden McGeady and Wes Hoolahan.

Asked about the tactics, Andrews replied: "Clueless. Absolutely clueless - to allow players like they have the space, the time in the key areas of the pitch. The substitutions; even Ciaran Clark coming off, unless he's injured, and Ward going centre-half. I really don't know what I've witnessed tonight - no holding midfielder. Lack of cohesion. It was gung ho football and there was only going to be one winner.

"That half was pure torture. I can't believe what I've witnessed. We talked about getting the balance right. I've just witnessed gung ho football.

"It hurt me watching that.

"The subs - I'm working out who's going where. We highlighted Eriksen on Saturday as the key player. We kept him so quiet and sang the staff's praises as to how well they marshalled him. To witness what we've seen tonight beggars belief."

For Quinn, who made 92 appearances for Ireland between 1986 and 2002, the tactics were troublesome from the off - even though Ireland took a sixth minute lead through Shane Duffy.

He said: "I don't know where to start. Our inspiration from the manager and the coaches was all over the place tonight. As much as I want to give Denmark the credit, I can't get away from the fact that it looked like there was too much space for Denmark to control.

"Even though we got the goal, we were saying it doesn't feel right. It's too much of a sea change from where we were the other night to think we can play them. A couple of mistakes came, lack of confidence and they wipe the floor with us.

"Well done Denmark but I am so surprised that Martin O'Neill went from his tried and trusted way.

"Even if you go back to the Wales game when we were under pressure to win, we did that defensive side of it so well. What we did tonight; the gameplan wasn't there."

The pair admitted that the pressure was on O'Neill to make a 'positive' change at half-time but Quinn said that the withdrawl of both holding midfielders allowed the Danes 'party time' and admitted fingers would be pointed at the coaches' direction.

"He did have to be positive but we had no holding midfielder against one of the best attacking midfield players in world football," said Andrews of hat-trick scorer Christian Eriksen. "He could slot into Barcelona or Real Madrid seemlessly, he's that good.

"We have to go back to basics. We still have to edge into the game. Everybody wants us to play open expansive football, we're not good enough."

By full-time, a large amount of the Ireland support had left their seats, a scene Andrews found tough to take in.

"Disillusioned, disappointed in the performance, I'm sure questioning tactics and substitutions," he said of the support. "It was a bleak place. At 75 minutes the place started the empty and it's a sad, sad thing to see."

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