IRELAND midfielder Keith Andrews admits that it was "schoolboy defending" which put an end to Ireland’s 14-game unbeaten run and gifted Croatia a very handy three points from their opening game in Group C of Euro 2012 last night.
The Irish defence, which had kept 11 clean sheets in the previous 14 games and held nations like Russia, Croatia and Hungary scoreless, seemed to take a night off in Poznan, with some slack defending that handed over goals at a crucial stage in each half.
“It was schoolboy stuff,” Andrews told the Herald after the game.
“We shot ourselves in the foot, we made mistakes that you try and learn about at schoolboy level.
“You're taught not to concede early on but we let the first one in early in the game, then just before half-time and again immediately after half-time, bad times for all of the goals but especially the second.
“If we had got to half-time at 1-1 we would have had a chance to regroup and try to contain Croatia in the second half – hope that they'd get a bit edgy in the first 15-20 minutes in the half, but that wasn't the case as they scored so early. We shot ourselves in the foot, we have to admit that,” added the Dubliner.
“Croatia are a fantastic side, we knew that. It wasn't a case of us being over-confident, our preparation was spot-on, our build-up had us going into that game with confidence.
“I don't know if nerves were a factor. It was the first time for most of us to play in a major finals, bar Robbie (Keane) and Damien (Duff) and Shay (Given), so there was going to be a touch of nerves, but you can't use that to explain the performance.
“It's going to be very difficult
now, we are very down and very deflated today,” Andrews admitted before the squad left Poznan to head back to their base on Poland's Baltic coast. “We need to regroup, look at the video of the game and see where we went wrong, but we have to get some positive results from the last two games now.”
Andrews was one of Ireland's busiest players on the night, earning a yellow card for a foul on double goalscorer Mario Mandzukic and then coming up with some of Ireland's best chances late on in the game.
Three times in the last 10 minutes he went close, seeing an 80th-minute shot saved by Croatian keeper Stipe Pletikosa and then other efforts go over the bar or wide, but the caution surprised Andrews.
“It was tough getting that yellow card as I didn't do a lot wrong, you can see in the other games in the tournament that the referees are a bit loose with the yellow cards and I had to be careful in the second half,” he says, adding a claim that team-mate Stephen Ward had been fouled in the build-up to Croatia's second goal.
“I wasn't appealing for offside, I was appealing for a foul on Stephen Ward, a few of us were, their player clipped him and the ball broke to (Nikica) Jelavic,” added Andrews.
“Then we might have had a penalty in the second half, a few decisions went against us.
“We had a go at them late on and it would have been great to get something back for the fans, they were unbelievable last night as they have been all along.
“We saw them out on the street before the game and it sends shivers up your spine to see them, they make you feel very proud and it's unfortunate we didn't get a result for them. They were a massive lift for us even before the game started, they geed us up and got us going but unfortunately we couldn't get the result they deserved.”