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Stan can still deliver

We may have lost 1-0, but Ireland’s performance against Germany showed genuine promise.

Tony Cascarino, 07 Sep 2006

But there was a lot to be proud of in the performance. Everyone worked their socks off, and the commitment was exceptional. Don’t forget, Germany are the third-best team in the world. Taking that into account, we did OK and gave them a few things to think about. I can’t see us winning the group, but if we keep performing like that, we’ve every chance of getting the second place. The Czechs are getting old and may not be the force they’ve been in recent years: they had a disappointing World Cup. Jan Koller will obviously be a huge menace, but Richard Dunne should be up to the challenge.

Shay will have to continue pulling off world-class saves, of course. I thought Stan picked more or less the right team, though I’d have had Graham Kavanagh in central midfield. I don’t really think Kilbane or O’Shea are natural central midfielders. I can see why Stan played Steven Reid out right: that was a tactical decision to stop their full-backs getting forward the way they did in the World Cup. Reid is big, strong, powerful and can run, and it worked very well in the first half, cutting out the threat from Lahm who’s one of the world’s best full-backs. We started to get weary legs in the second half, and I thought we needed someone to steady the ship in the centre, which is where Kavanagh would have come in handy. John O’Shea found it very difficult to get into the game, and his passes started going astray in dangerous areas. He’s struggling fitness-wise from being on the bench so often at Old Trafford, and he needs either a move from Man United, or regular first-team football.

Picking out plus points, Andy O’Brien had one of his better games and Kevin Doyle showed signs that he can develop into a top quality international striker.

While he didn’t do much wrong tactically, there was a definite whiff of the Brian Kerrs about the way Stan let the media get to him last week. Nobody likes negative coverage, but in the run-up to a big game he should be focusing on his players, not journalists who are paid to generate sensational headlines. That’s where Bobby Robson, a man who’s been through the mill on numerous occasions, really could have had an influence. If the FAI are to stick with Steve, as they must do for at least the European qualifiers, they need either a fit Sir Bobby by his side or another advisor with proven international experience to take a bit of pressure off him. Otherwise, there could be more pitchside water bottles sent flying!

England and Scotland had ridiculously easy games, which makes you wonder why the likes of Andorra and the Faroe Islands are there at all. Every nation deserves a fair chance, but they should have a pre-qualification competition to root out the no-hopers and ease the fixture congestion, which Arsene Wenger is absolutely right to complain about. UEFA have done nothing to address the fact that there about 20 more countries in the qualifiers than there were prior to the break-up of the Soviet Bloc. Fair play to Lithuania, though, who got a draw in Italy against the world champions.

On the club front, I thought Roy Keane handled his first Sunderland press conferance brilliantly. Forget all this maniac nonsense – Roy’s a shrewd, knowledgeable man who always puts lots of thought into what he does. His tolerance level is very low with people who don’t give 100%, and that’s the way it should be. As long as players give their best for Roy, regardless of talent, they’ll be in his good books.

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