Ronnie Whelan: The approach of Martin O'Neill's Ireland was almost catastrophic
Read Ronnie Whelan's column in The Herald every week
Published 07/10/2016 | 18:42
ALL I can hope for the rest of this qualifying campaign is that Ireland’s performances will get better but the results will stay the same.
This was another poor performance against a team which Ireland should have put away and there were moments when I was seriously concerned about the outcome.
It was as if Ireland were afraid of the ball and happy enough to let Georgia play with it, an approach which was almost catastrophic.
The fact that Georgia hit the woodwork twice and were by far the better team in the first half must have triggered some sort of response from Martin O’Neill because the players came out for the second half in a different mood. Even with that and even with the improved pressing and improved energy levels, Ireland were still hanging on at the end when the game should have been out of sight. I really don’t understand why the players were not really up for this game.
For all the criticism after Serbia, it was a very good point to get and particularly so when I saw the result in Vienna.
As Martin O’Neill suggested, the top teams in the group will take points off each other and nobody can afford any hiccups against teams like Georgia and Moldova.
On the basis of Serbia’s 3-0 win in Moldova, there should be another three points to add to the total after Sunday but I’m sure nobody will be confident about that.
Again, I really cannot understand why Ireland were so limp in that first half and why they gave so much ground to Georgia, this was a home game after all.
At times in the first half it looked as if they didn’t know what they were doing and funnily enough, when they reverted to long balls for Jon Walters and Shane Long to chase down after break, everything started to take shape.
Maybe it’s as simple as that. Maybe Irish international players are so soaked in this tactic that they can’t do anything else when they pull in a green shirt
It’s a chastening thought if it is true but when you see what Dundalk have been doing and what these same players do week in, week out for their clubs, it’s hard to figure out why basic skills seemed to desert them in these situations.
O’Neill will look at the points’ total first, but he must be concerned about the way his team has played in the first two qualifying games on the road to Russia.