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What Ireland can learn from Spanish flair
European champions Spain's adventurous, attacking play shows it is possible to win major tournaments without going negative. But there's no reason why, with the right management, Ireland shouldn't be able to hold their own against the Continent's top sides.
Tony Cascarino, 14 Jul 2008
There’s no doubt that the best team won the Euros. I thought that, right from the outset, Spain looked the best team in a fantastic competition full of adventurous sides who were approaching the game in the right way and trying to score goals.
The biggest disappointments were France and Italy, who went about it in a very cautious, conservative manner and got exactly what they deserved: nothing. France were really drab, and it seemed obvious that Raymond Domenech had no clue what his best team was. He couldn’t find the right formula, and seemed to be making the script up as he went along, shuffling his pack in the desperate hope that it would all fall into place. The feeling in France was that they’d reached the World Cup Final two years ago in spite of him, with the senior players basically running the team themselves. Italy didn’t look the force they were, either: Luca Toni was a bit of a blunt instrument up front, and they didn’t deserve to go any further than they did. On the other hand, Croatia were really enjoyable to watch and very unlucky to go out, Holland played some beautiful stuff before having a bad day against the Russians, and even Germany played some exciting stuff.
Ireland, England and Scotland weren’t exactly missed, but I think too much is made of this idea that the continentals have some magic ingredient that makes them better, smarter footballers. It just isn’t the case. We have good players in these islands, and you need proper management, which Ireland and England didn’t have in the last two years. The Scots had a good manager and beat France twice and came very close to qualifying, without any world-class players, which goes to show how much can be achieved with a bit of good organisation. Managers need to be tactically astute, and all the evidence is that Capello and Trapattoni should rectify the situation, given their past achievements. There are strong points to the way football is played here: the level of physical fitness is very good, and we tend to be good at closing down opponents. What’s needed is a bit more wit when it comes to breaking teams down, and finding cleverer ways of opening up the opposition. Ireland, and England for that matter, have been outwitted too often in recent years. But there’s no great crisis in terms of player quality.