Same honesty, same failings for Ireland
Published 07/09/2016 | 02:30
Ireland completed 94 passes in 94 minutes on Monday night, which in virtually any circumstances isn't very good.
Sure, the Belgrade surface was bobbling and the weather dreadful and the Serbs pressed us, but these are old, familiar Irish failings. Mercifully, this Irish team also has honesty and fight and a very genuine camaraderie; they're not liable to down tools and for that we should be grateful.
There is something relentlessly mysterious about why we're so bad in possession of a football. These are highly-paid professional footballers.
Their ability to pass a ball from 20 yards or less with accuracy is not in question. The big issue in Irish football continues to be our lack of movement off the ball. Wes Hoolahan stands out a mile on an Irish pitch because of his constant jinking, his constant creation of little angles for the man in possession.
Not many Irish players have mastered this ability. We see it in glimpses. James McClean came off the touchline nicely to link up with Shane Long in the build-up to Ireland's first goal. This is a tried-and-tested pattern of play, familiar to all left wingers. We have plenty of those basics. But when it comes to keeping the ball anywhere through the middle of the field we are bereft of ideas and instincts.
The man in possession of the ball often has no options. Barcelona don't keep the ball so well by hitting audacious 40-yard passes. They have worked on patterns of movement around the man in possession. We don't seem to have that culture. The result is that we can't control the football and therefore we can't control a football match. When we go in front, we retreat and hope to weather the storm.
When we need to chase a game, we up our urgency and get on the front foot and admittedly look a better team for it. The reality though is that this type of football is difficult to sustain for 90 minutes. Monday night encapsulated what this team can offer. Once again, fight and heart will have to win the day for us.