Subtlety, strategy and a star player too much for O’Neill’s men
The Republic will be missed in Russia but were blown away by Denmark’s talisman writes Louise Taylor
They may have long since traded their longships for charter flights from Copenhagen but the red and white bedecked army marching towards arrivals at Dublin airport yesterday morning suggested the Viking spirit lives on. Across town at the Aviva Stadium a few hours later those Danish fans celebrated unrestrainedly as Age Hareide’s team pillaged the Republic of Ireland’s World Cup dream. Substituting their ancestors’ blood-curdling violence with footballing intelligence, Denmark offered the sort of strategy and subtlety Martin O’Neill’s players could not match. Along the way Christian Eriksen registered a gorgeous hat-trick. What Ireland would give to have an Eriksen on their team-sheet.
The post mortem is bound to involve a painful dissection of the tactics – or lack of them – deployed by O’Neill and his assistant Roy Keane but perhaps this side should be praised for the bloodymindedness which carried them this far.
Considering they are all about defying the odds, all about confounding
doubters, O’Neill could not have named a more emblematic captain last night.
Seven years on from rupturing every ligament in his right knee and being warned by a leading surgeon he might struggle to walk normally again, David Meyler strode purposefully towards the centre circle, his armband highlighted by the floodlights.
Its presence emphasised his feat in winning O’Neill’s trust. In an earlier incarnation as Sunderland manager, O’Neill moved Meyler – still recovering from debilitating operations – on to Hull City and suggested his tackling left the midfielder dangerously open to injury.
Collective trust binds Ireland but the togetherness proved insufficient. Stopping opponents – as O’Neill’s players demonstrated while holding Denmark on Saturday – may be their forte but here they needed goals.