Friday 22 September 2017

Five things we learned from Republic of Ireland's defeat to Belgium

Belgium's Mousa Dembele (right) and Republic of Ireland's Glenn Whelan (left) battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group E match at the Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
Belgium's Mousa Dembele (right) and Republic of Ireland's Glenn Whelan (left) battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group E match at the Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux

Paul Hyland in Bordeaux

Republic of Ireland suffered a crushing defeat at the hands of Belgium in Bordeaux. Here's five things we learned from the Group E clash:

Route one is not the answer

Ireland's love affair with the long ball will never end. Martin O'Neill talked about a change in strategy for Belgium and he meant it.

In the Stade de France against Sweden, the ball stayed mostly on the grass but in Bordeaux from the first whistle, it was clear that O'Neill had picked the aerial route for his players.

This, of course, meant that Shane Long was the chosen target and his shift was probably the hardest of any Irish player on the pitch, given the fact that Wes Hoolahan wasn't going to win many battles with Alderweireld, Vermaelen and Vertongen

Belgium's Thomas Vermaelen in action with Republic of Ireland's Shane Long
Belgium's Thomas Vermaelen in action with Republic of Ireland's Shane Long
Republic of Ireland's goalkeeper Darren Randolph is stuck in the net during match
Belgium's Mousa Dembele (right) and Republic of Ireland's Glenn Whelan (left) battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group E match at the Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne (left) and Republic of Ireland's Wes Hoolahan battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group E match at the Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne (left) and Republic of Ireland's Wes Hoolahan battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group E match at the Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
Republic of Ireland's goalkeeper Darren Randolph dives for an offside ball
Republic of Ireland's goalkeeper Darren Randolph dives for an offside ball
Belgium's Romelu Lukaku in action with Republic of Ireland's John O'Shea
Belgium's Mousa Dembele in action with Republic of Ireland's Wes Hoolahan
Republic of Ireland's Robbie Keane on the bench
Belgium's Mousa Dembele in action with Republic of Ireland's Glenn Whelan
Belgium's Yannick Carrasco shoots at goal
Belgium's Mousa Dembele in action with Republic of Ireland's Wes Hoolahan
Belgium's Yannick Carrasco scores a goal but is later disallowed
Belgium's Thomas Vermaelen sustains an injury as Republic of Ireland's Shane Long looks on
Republic of Ireland's Seamus Coleman in action with Belgium's Jan Vertonghen
Republic of Ireland's Stephen Ward (left) and Belgium's Toby Alderweireld battle for the ball in the air
Belgium's Thibaut Courtois tips over the bar
Ian Rush (centre) and Carol Anthony (left) in the stands during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group E match at the Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
Belgium's Romelu Lukaku in action with Republic of Ireland's John O'Shea
Belgium's goalkeeper Thibaut Courtois jumps for the ball. REUTERS/Michael Dalder
Belgium's Romelu Lukaku reacts after a missed chance
Republic of Ireland's Shane Long in action with Belgium's Thomas Vermaelen
Belgium fans and Republic of Ireland fans
Belgium head coach Marc Wilmots
Belgium's Thibaut Courtois tips over the bar
Belgium's Yannick Carrasco in action with Republic of Ireland's Stephen Ward
Republic of Ireland fans show support for their team
A Republic of Ireland fan shows support for his team in the stands
Belgium's Thomas Meunier speaks with head coach Marc Wilmots
Belgium's King Philippe and chairman of Belgium football federation Francois de Keersmaecker in the stands before the match
Republic of Ireland's James McCarthy and Wes Hoolahan in action with Belgium's Mousa Dembele
Belgium's Kevin De Bruyne (left) and Republic of Ireland's James McCarthy
Republic of Ireland's Shane Long in action with Belgium's Thomas Vermaelen
Republic of Ireland's Wes Hoolahan (left) and Belgium's Mousa Dembele (right) battle for the ball during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group E match at the Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
FAI Chief Executive John Delaney and Emma English during the UEFA Euro 2016, Group E match at the Stade de Bordeaux, Bordeaux
Belgium's Jan Vertonghen in action with Republic of Ireland's James McCarthy
Belgium's Mousa Dembele in action with Republic of Ireland's Wes Hoolahan
Belgium's Toby Alderweireld in action with Republic of Ireland's Shane Long
Republic of Ireland players pose for a team photograph before kick-off

 

Our defensive line was too high

Luka.jpg
Belgium's Romelu Lukaku celebrates after scoring their first goal
 

O'Neill played a very high defensive line which survived until half-time but always looked vulnerable to a fast counter.

It was a risky strategy and all the more puzzling after such a composed performance against Sweden. Belgium have better players so why concede so much possession?

 

Belgium are no shrinking violets

ROI9.jpg
Belgium's Mousa Dembele in action with Republic of Ireland's Wes Hoolahan
 

For all their skill and talent, Belgium rely on a lot on physical strength and pace. Axel Witsel kicked his way through the this game and Shane Long must be covered in bruises after a right going over from Belgium's backline.

Their breakthrough goal came when De Bruyne showed searing pace to leave Ireland's midfield for dead and Romelu Lukaku sprinted 40 yards to make up ground and put himself in the right place for a killer pass from the Manchester City winger.

Almost a carbon copy for Belgium's third.Hazard broke fast, Lukaku sprinted. Game over.

 

James McCarthy is not fit

JamesMcCarthy.jpg
Belgium's Eden Hazard in action with Republic of Ireland's James McCarthy
 

James McCarthy hasn't been fit since the start of this tournament and that became very obvious after-half time.

He went to ground and let De Bruyne away for the run which created the first goal for Belgium and was nowhere to be seen when his man, Witsel broke into the box for the second.

 

Irish fans may rivalry for best fans in the tournament

Belgium.jpg
Belgium fans
 

The Belgian Diablos Rouges are a classy lot. When Amhran na fhFiann was in a full flow, they stood to a man and applauded the Green Army, a show of respect for the most popular supporters in France.

And judging by the night before the game in Bordeaux, they drink more than the Irish too which is saying a lot.

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