I would like to see Hoolahan play in the middle, getting close to Long, feeding Long and the wingers and full backs where possible. I think we should do what we always do when we’re at our best – we should harass them, harangue them and make life uncomfortable. And when we have the ball we should be direct and aggressive. This, of course, is the hallmark of all Martin O’Neill teams – directness coupled with aggression.
Direct doesn’t mean long-ball, mind. It means you look to play the ball forward as soon as possible, you hit your wide men quickly, they get down the line, you follow-up on crosses and win the dropping ball. They call this kind of thing all sorts of names these days but fundamentally football is about getting to the goal as quickly as you can. That means passing effectively (not just aesthetically) and running a lot. And when you lose it, you get up off your arse and you get after the opposition. I think we’ll do this and I think we’ll get a positive result.
First half concluded. Time for a pie and a cup of tea.
Please note the second half will commence promptly in roughly twelve hours – when the game is over and the kids are in bed. (The Blogger would like to unreservedly apologise for any confusion caused by the contradictions in sentence just past.)
Ireland 1-1 Sweden.
The verdict? Played really well, I thought. Did all of the above but once we scored the plan seemed to go out the window. That’s not tactical, I don’t think. It’s either psychological or the Swedes raised their tempo and we couldn’t stay with them. I think we just lost our shape a little and backed off; afraid of the lead. Which is classic flaw in all underdogs.
It feels disappointing but might prove otherwise. Italy v Belgium has just kicked off and I hear it in the background. I may live to regret these words but I’m not at all sure about this Belgium side and what exactly they’ve done to merit their reputation. Admittedly, their individuals when down on paper seem like they should be formidable but to date they’ve done nothing as far as I can see. They’ve not been a team. They may well evolve into one, and if they are to achieve this, this tournament is certainly their moment. They floundered at the World Cup and their relative youth made that just about forgivable, but potential stops being potential and starts being wasted opportunity at a certain point. And I think Belgium might just be at the juncture in their evolution and I’m not fully convinced, based on what I’ve seen, that they have the balls to take on that responsibility.
So the verdict on our result then? If Belgium flop like I think they might, I think there might just be a win there for us somewhere in this group. And a stalemate against the Italians.
Sorted. Knock-out stages here we come.