Sunday 18 March 2018

Sinead Kissane: Ireland can rattle world order by beating Belgians

Robbie Brady Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Robbie Brady Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
Sinead Kissane

Sinead Kissane

For a few hours today everything else besides the Republic of Ireland will be irrelevant; no more analysis of Joachim Löw's scratch and sniff sideline habits, no Brexit, no Big Brother and no more bitching about the Cork football team.

Even the envious ogling of Irish fans in France on social media videos, which are the ultimate wish-you-were-here postcards, will be put on hold.

Today, Ireland will look to shake up the Euros against a team ranked No 2 in the world.

Along with the Irish rugby team chasing a historic series win in South Africa, today is a day when Irish sport puts on its best Sunday shirt to show what could happen on any given Saturday.

Maybe the Republic of Ireland players needed to prove to themselves that they can perform on the big stage like they did in the opening hour against Sweden before, hopefully, proving it to everyone else against Belgium.

When Cristiano Ronaldo reacted like himself (don't insult spoilt brats and compare him to them) after Portugal's 1-1 draw with Iceland, he actually did smaller countries like us a favour.

"I thought they (Iceland) won the Euros the way they celebrated at the end. When they don't try to play and just defend, defend, this in my opinion shows a small mentality and they are not going to do anything in this competition," revealed Ronaldo, PhD Sports Psychology.

It is far too easy to ridicule Ronaldo's arrogance for saying what he thinks.

Maybe the reason we didn't like what he said was because his words were uncomfortably applicable to the way we played after Wes Hoolahan scored last Monday night. Ronaldo holding up a mirror to our mentality - surely not?

But did we play with a 'small mentality' after Hoolahan's goal?

How did you react after Wes scored? Did you think 'just hold onto the lead lads' or did you shout 'let's go for another goal and ram this win down their throats!'?

It seemed like the latter was the team's overall response, while Sweden were forced to step it up after going a goal down.

Maybe any 'hold the lead' reaction betrayed our real levels of belief because the most up-to-date information being provided to us was that Sweden were a limited side and Ireland were the better team.

So, really, logic should have informed us that we were good enough to go for a second goal rather than protect the one we had. But that didn't happen.

It is time to bin any remnants of negativity which are still hanging over us from the Trapattoni years.

There was a strange relief last Monday that we weren't embarrassed by our opponents or turned into somebody else's punchline after what happened four years ago. It's time to let those inhibitions go.

Have you seen a better piece of skill in this tournament than Hoolahan's drag-back on Sebastian Larsson? What about the gumption of the two amigos Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick?

Maybe Shane Long will get to flash his skill. And maybe the absence of Jon Walters won't be today's defining experience for us.

If life is 10pc what happens to us and 90pc how we react to it, then maybe the Republic of Ireland's chain reaction will be more refined today if we're in a winning position.

As Martin O'Neill pointed out, seeing the players play with confidence was the most uplifting part of Monday's draw.

If Ireland don't play reputation, world ranking or circumstance and if they play, and are allowed to play, like they did in the first half against Sweden, then it really is time to start believing that we could win a group game.

How the Ireland rugby team dealt with the chain reaction of events was the most admirable aspect of their win over South Africa last weekend.

They stuck to their conviction that they could beat the Springboks irrespective of being a man down. Joe Schmidt's side showed the overwhelming strength of a team being the sum of its parts, which is the exact opposite of the Republic of Ireland's opponents today, Belgium.

Their performance against Italy was another terrible attempt to justify their status.

While the Irish rugby team have to contend with playing at altitude this afternoon in Johannesburg, the Republic of Ireland will have their own version of rarefied atmosphere to deal with.

But as Robbie Brady (pictured) said this week: "We're here to make history".

No better time to do that than today. The floor is yours.

Indo Sport

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