Sunday 18 March 2018

Steven Reid: Shame McClean never got chance to take on Croatia


AFTER the season he has had with Sunderland, James McClean's youthful exuberance could have been what was needed in Poznan last night.

Aiden McGeady is a natural winger and Simon Cox has done well with Ireland over the last 12 months, but he is a striker or someone who can play off a front man. If Giovanni Trapattoni was going to make a change on the left, then it would have been an opportunity to throw McClean on. Sometimes in these tournaments you get players who shine, stars emerge and that could have been his chance.

He has a confident air after bursting onto the Premier League with no fear this season, especially for one so young. He would have treated this game, this tournament the same and hopefully we will see him get that opportunity. It is a shame he didn't get the chance, at 3-1 down you have nothing to lose.

When you think about we now face the world and European champions needing a result, Trapattoni faces a mammoth task. There is no expectation now, there is nothing to lose. We have to get in amongst them, have a right go and that is something we didn't do last night as we know we can do. If we don't, it will be curtains.

It was such a disappointing night to lose the way we did. Getting Croatia first up was an opportunity to get a result and it is one Ireland didn't take. We didn't create enough chances and Croatia deserved the win; they kept the ball better and it is so disappointing to concede when we did.

They are the three worst times to concede a goal. It is a bad start and it makes it so difficult for Ireland now.

The second goal came from Stephen Ward's attempted clearance and that was the most frustrating concession, but the third was a killer. They were three bad goals to concede.

We never got into the game at all. Apart from a decent spell in the first half, we couldn't keep the ball and we didn't create much. We couldn't get our key men into the game. Robbie Keane, McGeady and Damien Duff didn't get into the game at all.

There seems to be a constant theme with Ireland and being Irish that you don't get decisions. We had the Thierry Henry incident and the foul on Robbie in the second half was a clear-cut penalty. Who knows? If we had gotten that penalty at that time it could have been a different result. But, all in all, Croatia deserved it. Luka Modric pulled the strings in there and he is so good at doing that.

Trapattoni won't be happy with the goals, definitely not. Shay was unsighted for the first, had planted his right foot and that makes it difficult for him to get back across the goal. There is no two ways about it; the second goal came from a poor clearance. Both first-half goals were avoidable goals and the third was unfortunate.

Spain were massive favourites going into their opening match, but last night Italy showed that you can get at the reigning champions.

The lads can take heart from that match going into their meetings with Spain on Thursday and Italy this day week. It was open at both ends, both sides could have scored more goals and Ireland have learned that they can create chances against both of them.

It was a bit of a surprise to see Vicente Del Bosque opting to start without any recognised strikers and it reminded me of the end of last season when Barcelona lacked a No 9 to play off up top. Last night was a similar story, they lacked that option. I was expecting Fernando Llorente to start and was really surprised that he didn't feature at all.

If they keep it the same way against us on Thursday, then I think that could suit us. The way we are set up and the discipline Giovanni Trapattoni has instilled will make us hard to break down. If they played a big target man down the middle it would cause problems and give them the option of getting wide, but I'd be happy to see no changes.

A lot of the talk was about Spain, but Italy showed yesterday that they are still a force to be reckoned with. They were better than I had expected them to be, they were hard to break down but Ireland are capable of creating something against them.

Irish Independent

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