'He made the wrong choices and we were severely punished'- Eamon Dunphy blasts Martin O'Neill
Eamon Dunphy has lambasted Ireland’s lack of offensive intent during this afternoon’s crushing loss to Belgium, while attributing the ineptitude of their performance squarely at the feet of manager Martin O’Neill
Italy’s almost casual defeat of a Belgium team thought to be in the midst of a civil war and the manner in which Ireland went about their business in the first half of the draw with Sweden, meant hopes were relatively high ahead of proceedings in Bordeaux today.
However, by the hour mark, such thoughts had been dashed beyond repair. In the first half Ireland had soaked up the Belgian onslaught, but failed to threaten Thibault Courtois’ goal.
Profligacy in possession and poor decision making, meant lone front man Shane Long was an isolated and frustrated figure for the opening period.
Within three minutes of the restart Romelu Lukaku struck the first of his brace, which sandwiched Axil Witsel’s header.
Ireland can still conceivably qualify for the next round, but a positive result against group winners Italy looks remote.
As is his way, Dunphy did not hold back in his analysis on RTÉ .
“For everybody, all the fans and the players it was a poor performance. We never played offensively. We worked hard and you can always depend on almost all Ireland players to do that.
“We didn’t play, we didn’t pass the ball and we didn’t pose any attacking threat, so it was a free shot for them.
“Their morale was on the deck and they didn’t create a real chance in the first half, Hazard had a half chance but it was really only a matter of time.
“If you keep giving the ball back to quality players and posing no threat, what are they going to worry about? It was inevitable.”
Dunphy likened the showing to the poorest Ireland mustered during qualification, and demolished the tactical approach and lack of ambition against Marc Wilmots’ outfit.
“This takes us back to the qualifying games; away to Scotland, shocking, never kept possession of the ball; away to Poland, terrible.
“Away to Germany, we were terrible for 75 minutes and kept giving away the ball. In Germany, there were heroics in goal from David Forde.
“This is us reverting to the sterile, long ball, negative, side-ways passing. As supposed to in the two games against Bosnia and in the game against Sweden, when we got possession of the ball and strung passes together.”
Dunphy centred out his old friend James McCarthy for some vitriol, though the Everton midfielder was found wanting for the first two goals. Ciaran Clark and, most notably, Martin O’Neill, came in for some scathing criticism.
“This was a team without belief and, ultimately, without shape. I tried praising James McCarthy at half time, for pressing the ball, but there’s no escaping the fact that he was culpable for two goals and Clark was also culpable.
“It’s not a mystery; Clark could have given away three own goals against Sweden. That’s the coach’s choice, McCarthy is the coach’s choice. Choices were made, options were ignored and we were punished severely.
“I think there was always fear of the Hazards. They made changes as well; Dembelé stopped us playing in the first half and got tight on Hendrick. Wes Hoolahan was too far up the field.
“You can break this down and deconstruct it. Part of the reason is wrong choices by the coach. He stuck by McCarthy through thick and thin. Clark, he had other options ; Richard Keogh played well through qualifying.”