Earthquakes. Given's blisters. An exhausted squad. Trap's midfield quandary. A cat in a sack ... Not since Edwin Schrodinger first tackled quantum mechanics had so many tactical variables and existential imponderables gripped the public imagination.
But, as the players lined up in the tunnel last evening ahead of Ireland's opening match in Euro 2012, the signs weren't good. For starters, Shay Given appeared to be banging his head off Robbie Keane's shoulder. I once knew a Canadian lass who spent her time in a French jail banging her head on the wall in despair. Shay's routine might have been different. Although a few minutes later he appeared dazed as the ball sailed past him for Croatia's first goal.
Blisters? They'll be on his arthritis then? (Listen, unless you've painted your mobile home green don't hassle me, right. Oh... you have?)
The best we can do in the aftermath of the worst result so far in the competition is heed the wisdom of RTE anchorman Bill O'Herlihy (pictured above). "Don't despair," advised Wise Bill. "There's a long way to go."
Could the lad be thinking of champions Spain and football aristocrats Italy, who earlier in the day gave a masterclass in how football should be played?
The first principle, as I recall from listening to the great Maurice Price when he worked with some of Ireland's under-age squads, is to "keep tight". Essentially, prevent your opponent from strolling around with the ball. Or, worse, having a shot at goal.
in Poznan, Ireland set out to play like princes. Unfortunately the last time I looked Lionel Messi wasn't on the teamsheet. Instead, despite the huffing and puffing, Trapattoni's selection fell apart. And, when it did, it seemed that (like the geezer in the TV licence ad) he resorted to the wisdom of Tarot or interpretive dance when making his substitutions.
Generous to a fault, and not content with featherbedding the bondholders, Ireland gifted Croatia three goals, which made Sean St Ledger's brave reply from Aiden McGeady's free about as useful as an MJ Wallace Ltd VAT bill.
That one goal was a comedy caper, with John O'Shea playing the role of Keystone cop, as the ball ping-ponged around from boot to post to the back of Shay's sore head before hitting the net, and did little to brighten the national mood. The bitter truth is that Croatia looked ordinary. We played them in a catastrophically dull 0-0 friendly in Dublin last year. Yesterday Trapattoni walked into a Slaven Bilic suckerpunch. Wakey, wakey, chaps.
Let's hope Keith Andrews (pictured above) gets his reward for having been the one shining jewel in Ireland's wobbly crown. It was interesting hearing some of our highly paid pundits turning from hot to cold while attempting to keep all options open in case the reality might plunge the country into despair.
To give Tony O'Donoghue his due, RTE's soccer reporter, didn't pull any punches when quizzing Giovanni after the final whistle. Inviting the manager to analyse, Tony's opening exam question hinged on the phrase, "It could hardly have been worse..."