Saturday 21 September 2019

Daniel McDonnell: 'This was a good point - but performances like this won't take Ireland to Euro 2020'

Ireland 1 Switzerland 1

David McGoldrick of Republic of Ireland celebrates with team-mates after scoring his side's first goal during the UEFA EURO2020 Qualifier Group D match between Republic of Ireland and Switzerland at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
David McGoldrick of Republic of Ireland celebrates with team-mates after scoring his side's first goal during the UEFA EURO2020 Qualifier Group D match between Republic of Ireland and Switzerland at Aviva Stadium, Dublin. Photo by Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

THIS was a good point for Ireland, even if this level of performance will not be enough to take them to the Euros next summer.

Similar to Copenhagen in June, Mick McCarthy's team saved their best until falling behind, with a stirring late rally that prompted a David McGoldrick equaliser a contrast from the ponderous play that allowed Switzerland get ahead.

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The visitors are the top seeds in the group and have superior players to Ireland in attacking areas, so they were always going to enjoy strong spells.

But there was a belief that the home side would make this a more unpleasant experience for their guests. McCarthy's charges rallied in the dying minutes to take a point, yet they won't be able to draw their way to a top two finish.

More will be asked of this group in next month's double header in Tbilisi and Geneva. The pattern of this fixture shone a light on the difficulties they will face in the autumn.

At the outset it was frantic. Plenty of perspiration without any noticeable inspiration.

Switzerland were the more composed side from that point onwards, without looking like world beaters.

Ireland did try to put them under pressure in their own half, as McCarthy had stated beforehand, but the white shirts generally had the knowhow to play themselves out of trouble and space appeared. Holding midfielder Glenn Whelan was doing a lot of chasing and space appeared either side of Richard Keogh and Shane Duffy.

Ireland did have a handful of opportunities, with a good break from Jeff Hendrick creating an opportunity for James McClean, who lost his footing under pressure from Kevin Mbabu, but Vladimir Petkovic's team were in the ascendancy despite the absence of Xherdan Shaqiri.

Enda Stevens picked up a booking that rules him out of Georgia next month and Glenn Whelan was lucky to escape a card for a clever foul to halt the advance of Fabian Schar, with the fact that one of the three Swiss centre halves was shaping up to shoot in general play telling the story of the game at that juncture.

And it had ominous implications for later in the piece.

McCarthy looked to mix things up, with Callum Robinson leaving his station on the right side to take up a central role next to David McGoldrick.

This gave the guests something to think about and Ireland did threaten before the break with McGoldrick skipping down the flank before over-hitting a pass intended for his pal.

There was an aggressive Irish press from the restart in an attempt to set the tone again.

However, Switzerland gathered themselves to showcase their quality and, crucially, a devastating turn of foot that opened up the big pitch. Breel Embolo, the highly rated Borussia Mönchengladbach attacker, was expected to take the creative responsibility from Shaqiri.

He's a different type of player with his pace and power finding holes, although his footing let him down from a slick move that looked set to conclude with a goal.

From his next break, a clipped cross was waiting to be converted but sub Alan Judge made a heroic dash back to head to safety. McCarthy had sent for Judge in place of Robinson, and his tracking back was vital.

A stoppage brought about by a Shane Duffy injury provided an opportunity to take stock, and there was a bit of argy-bargy between the captains, Coleman, and Granit Xhaka, that roused the patrons.

But there was no respite for Ireland and the breakthrough goal came from the next major phase of play. Again, Schar was able to advance from deep and slick one-touch passing made Ireland look slow and ponderous.

The Newcastle player's run wasn't tracked, and he sprinted past Hendrick and a static Irish midfield to complete a series of crisp passes with a confident finish from inside the box, with Embolo providing the assist.

Yet the setback galvanised Ireland, with Judge already moved inside to try and find a spark and Scott Hogan sent into the fray. The doggedness of McClean also came to the fore, and he cut off an Embolo counter as the tide turned and Whelan found space to strike the crossbar with a thunderbolt.

Before Switzerland could recover, McClean persevered to send in a cross that was met by the head of McGoldrick for his first international goal. Irish celebration merged exhilaration and relief. Their interpretation of this exercise will shape the success of what comes next.

Online Editors

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