Lagerback’s incredible success shows why O’Neill plaudits are misplaced

“It is extremely important that every single player follows our plan. The more organised the team is, the bigger the chances to win. That is why football is the only team sport where a third division team can beat a first division team.”

The words of Lars Lagerback, manager of the Icelandic national team, extolling the virtues of meticulous planning earlier this year. On June 27, in Nice on the south coast of France, the Swede’s hard work paid a rich dividend in the form of victory over an old mentor in Roy Hodgson and a place in the Euro 2016 quarter-finals. Continue reading

Ireland 2-0 Bosnia: O’Neill persists with diamond formation that sparked Ireland’s dramatic reversal in fortunes

One year and two days ago, the Republic of Ireland lost away to Scotland by a single goal. The nation’s chances of even securing a playoff looked remote at best. Tonight, it won that playoff, comfortably besting a much-fancied Bosnia-Herzigovina side to qualify for Euro 2016. Continue reading

Bosnia 1-1 Ireland: Ireland withstand barrage on left-flank to take the edge

Mehmed Bazdarevic, manager of Bosnia-Herzegovina, had clearly done his homework. Recordings of Ireland’s recent visit to Warsaw would have revealed a fragile Irish left-flank, that crumbled in the face of Polish probing to deny Ireland automatic passage to next summer’s European Championship finals in France.

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Poland 2-1 Ireland: Left-sided defensive weakness and absence of Hoolahan guile condemns Irish to playoff

In a pug-ugly, scrappy game, in which neither nation could seemingly manage to string two passes together, Ireland fell victim to a calamitous performance from the left-side of their defence – and only remained in touch to the end thanks to an extremely fortunate penalty decision in their favour. Continue reading

Scotland 1-0 Ireland: Three Observations

1. O’Neill selection cedes midfield to Scotland

Martin O’Neill began this qualifying campaign by selecting a 4-1-4-1 away to Georgia. Against a side with five defenders and a lone striker, this was rightly seen as an overly conservative approach. Ireland eventually avoided punishment for that decision courtesy of a fantastic late Aiden McGeady winner. McGeady then went on to find himself in an unfamiliar number ten role away to Germany as O’Neill switched to a 4-4-1-1. This too was a poor tactical decision from the Irish manager and again his side had to bail him out with a late goal.  Continue reading