Home > EURO 2012, Travel > Turns out you can beat the Irish

Turns out you can beat the Irish

So after 14 games unbeaten, it turns out you can beat the Irish. Croatia were worthy 3-1 winners against Ireland in a wet Poznan on Sunday night as Giovanni Trapattoni’s men were comprehensively beaten by the men from the Balkans.

Irish fans, myself included, went into the game hoping to at least pick up a point but after this result leaving the ground we were as deflated as the many plastic hammers amongst the 20,000 or so Irish at Sunday’s game.

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The previous night the police deployed in force in the centre of Poznan as there was some trouble involving some Poles but there was no policing required to seperate the Irish and Croat fans on match day. They mingled from early morning in Poznan’s main square, in and outside the stadium and in the post match singsong back in the town centre.

During the afternoon both Croat and Irish flags hung from every vantage point in the huge main square including off the roof of some of the surrounding buildings and off several statues in the square. It was football fans at their finest as the singing, fueled by plenty of local brew naturally, echoed around the historic centre of the old town.

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Many fans headed out to ground early to watch the first game in Group C that saw Spain equalise against Italy to claim a 1-1 draw. The few local bars around the out of town stadium were rammed as fans watched the game and also took shelter from the rain that began at the kick off of that earlier match.

Inside the ground when the fans entered the stadium, it was clear which sections were supporting either team with the blocks of Croatian red and white and Irish green fans visible for all to see. The Irish team were first to emerge to check out the stadium looking smart in their grey suits. Croatia were next in their more casual track suits. The players took photos and were no doubt tweeting about what they saw including the huge number of Ireland flags hanging all around the ground.

The Ireland team line up was read out by ‘comedian’ Karl Spain – well at least it wasn’t Declan King – and we were “treated” to our own little opening ceremony ahead of kick off with lots of flags and people running around in formation. The usual blaring music was trying to drown out the fans singing as well it seemed.

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Thankfully both sets of fans were able to be heard singing their anthems and it was a robust rendition of Amhran na bhFiann – which was hairs-on-the-back-of-the-neck stuff – as the green clad army sung for themselves, the eleven men on the pitch and the close to a million Ireland fans watching at home.

Pity the team couldn’t have taken that energy into the opening period as they conceded a dreadful early goal. Given seemed slow to get across, possibly unsighted, to get to an angled header by Mario Mandzukic and with what three minutes or so on the clock Giovanni Trapatonni’s men were 1-0 down and off to the worst possible start.

In their last appearance at a major championship Ireland came back from going 1-0 down early to equalise on three occasions and claim a draw and while they were able to conjure up a goal on Sunday they would go onto concede two more on this night.

The fans did get the opportunity to celebrate a goal as Sean St Ledger got his head on free kick from an Aiden McGeady centre. The goal seemed too good to believe but there was no offside flag or refs whistle for an infringement and as it sunk in that the goal would stand, the fans in the stands erupted. They were soon doing the Poznan as the fans behind Shay Given’s goal turned their backs to the play and jumped up and down in unison. It probably looked spectacular but with my back to the majority of the Irish support as I did the Poznan it was hard to see but when in Poznan it had to be done!

Ireland spurred on by the goal created a number of chances but Croatia always looked dangerous with Spurs’ Luka Modric dictating the play. The Irish fans had travelled from far and wide to see the game but for Ireland to go further in the tournament we needed to get more creative on the ball.

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Beside me on my left sat a friend who had taken a break-from-his-break of travelling in South East Asia to come to Poland (leaving his girlfriend behind to do so). On my right was a father his 16 year old son from London. The tri-colours had locations from all around the globe as well as a few witty retorts. But if Angela Merkel thought we at work, out on the pitch the Irish players weren’t working hard enough on keeping the ball. Under pressure they seemed to find a man while we ended up at the back lumping it long when pressed hard.

Jelavic’s goal just before had half time, which had a hint of off side, just knocked the stuffing out of the team. It came when Glen Whelan inexplicably let the ball run by him to allow The Croats the ball. When the former Rangers man eventually got the ball at his feet, he made no mistake making it 2-1 at the break. Trap sent his team out after thr break looking for an equaliser but the early second half goal from Mario Mandzukic, as he got his second and Croatia’s third, pretty much ended the contest.

Trap made a double switch bringing on Simon Cox and Jonathan Walters, who was particularly effective, and the Irish did go close at end with Keith Andrews. However, they scarcely deserved anything out of the game as Croatia held onto the ball with ease using their two goal cushion very effectively.

The Irish fans kept singing at the end and the final whistle had one of those ‘glorious defeat’ style renditions of the Fields of Athenry. As the fans in green filed out of stadium, the thoughts of reaching the knock out stages in Ukraine were as far away as Kiev is from Dublin.

Some started singing about “you’re hardly gonna believe it, we’re going to win Group C” and I certainly dont believe it. Ireland will need to at least avoid defeat on Thursday against World and European champions Spain but they probably need a win now. “You’ll never beat the Irish” will be fully put to the test in Gdansk against La Roja. Ole Ole!

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  1. June 11, 2012 at 13:51

    No hint of offside about the second, Andrews passed it right to him. He had been in offside position in the previous phase, but the ball was never played anywhere near him, so no offside given.

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