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Faulty In Basel

Ireland’s display in Basel was disappointingly lacklustre.

Tony Cascarino, 28 Oct 2003

Given that it was such a big game, I thought our display in Switzerland was extremely lacklustre.

The worst Ireland performance I was involved in was against Holland in the play-offs for Euro ‘96, but at least they were quality opposition. I’d be extremely surprised if the Swiss make it past the group stage in Portugal, which emphasises just how poor we were against them – not only in Basel but at Lansdowne where the real damage was done.

I’m not saying it’s all Brian Kerr’s fault, but tactically I don’t think he got it right on the day. Bringing Steve Finnan and Mark Kinsella on wasn’t what I’d call attack-minded, and Gary Doherty, a player who’s scored a couple of important goals for Brian, didn’t figure at all.

As I’ve said before in hotpress, Niall Quinn is just as big a loss to Ireland as Roy Keane is. Whatever about starting with Doherty, he should definitely have been brought on when David Connolly failed to cause them problems up front.

I like what I’ve seen of him at left-back, but I’m yet to be convinced that John O’Shea’s aggressive enough for the centre-half role. He was definitely at fault for the first goal when instead of taking a touch he should’ve just got rid of it. Generally, he had the look against Switzerland of a player who wasn’t sure of his job.

The Swiss starting with their backs bombing down the wing confused us and caused the game to get stretched. In those circumstances you have to close players down, but we didn’t do that. I don’t want to rub salt into the wound, but we needed the type of performance that England produced against Turkey. Their work-rate and putting the opposition under pressure from the start was superb.

Brian will have to take some flak for our game plan not being aggressive enough – so much so in fact that at times I felt like I was watching a friendly.

If anyone goes on about us not qualifying being good because now we can rebuild, they’re talking rubbish. Nothing bloods young players like a tournament and the earliest Ireland’s going to be in one of those again is 2006. What we will have next year is a lot of the teams who are going to Portugal wanting to play Ireland beforehand and Brian should use those games to look at all the options open to him. Liam Miller at Celtic is somebody who should definitely get a couple of starts, and I’d also take a look at Andy Reid who’s becoming increasingly influential at Nottingham Forest.

The bad news is, that other than them, I can’t think of any youngsters who are better than what we’ve already got. Brian Kerr’s got a good eye for young players though, so he may have a couple of lower division lads in mind already.

Getting back to England, I think it showed enormous character on their part that they didn’t let the Rio Ferdinand controversy effect them on the pitch. I like to give players the benefit of the doubt, but in Rio’s case the English F.A. have no option but to give him a ban.

As for the talk of strike-action, I think Gary Neville & Co.’s threat to boycott the Turkey game was totally out of order. You can forget to pay bills or pick the wife’s coat up from the dry-cleaners, but drug tests are something that have to be followed to the letter of the law. There was always going to be some argy-bargy in Istanbul and, sure enough, it happened going down the tunnel at half-time. I have no sympathy whatsoever for Mr. Alpay who came back to Aston Villa from the World Cup demanding a transfer even though he’d just signed a new deal. I’m sorry but the guy’s a mercenary.

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