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'I think the players turned on each other and that surprised me' - Gary Breen on Irish collapse

Robbie Brady, right, and James McClean of Republic of Ireland following the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-off 2nd leg match between Republic of Ireland and Denmark at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Robbie Brady, right, and James McClean of Republic of Ireland following the FIFA 2018 World Cup Qualifier Play-off 2nd leg match between Republic of Ireland and Denmark at Aviva Stadium in Dublin. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)
Independent.ie Newsdesk

Independent.ie Newsdesk

Former Ireland international Gary Breen has said that he was a bit surprised at how the Irish players started to turn on each other during the 5-1 defeat to Denmark on Tuesday.

The loss ended any hopes that Martin O'Neill's side had of qualifying for next year's World Cup in Russia and Breen said that the player's unfamiliarity with playing in the diamond formation partly contributed to Ireland's collapse in Dublin

"People will say that you have have to play two up front but you don't have to do that," Breen said on Off The Ball AM.

"You just play that five in midfield, and one guy will know when to go, and the rest will adjust in behind with the rest of them, but I think you're right that's the responsibility of the manager and the coaching team.

"People can argue that when you go along with the international team that you don't get enough time to work on it... you do... maybe you don't have to put the work on it on the training field but you can certainly do it on the video analysis and you can do it all that type of way, and you're right, I think the players did turn a little bit on each other.

"That really surprised me because we talk about the great team ethic, [Åge] Hareide identified it under Martin O'Neill that there's a real togetherness with that group, but when it went wrong a lot of those players started digging each other out and I wasn't comfortable seeing it."

Breen's former teammate Kenny Cunningham added that the diamond formation hurt Ireland and that the player's uncertainty as to where they should be and what they should be doing ultimately killed off any chance O'Neill's side had of realistically competing.

"The change in formation hurt us a little bit," said Cunningham.

"You can kind of see that there was uncertainty with the players; when do I press? When do I show? When do I go in behind? Do I follow him? Where is the danger?

"Any type of uncertainty like that - if you're unsure of your position and when to press - at this level you're dead."

Cunningham added that the confusion led to disagreements between the players as Ireland desperately searched for a way back in the game after trailing 2-1 at half-time.

"At that point the level of uncertainty and frustration was growing within the players," said Cunningham.

"It happens. It's human nature. I've been there myself, you're 2-1 down, technically you're still in the game, but you feel as if the game is going against you. You feel as if you haven't got a grip on it and you don't know how to get yourself back in the game.

"You want to go and run and close people down but you're getting played around. You're looking at players around you, you're looking at each other and you're looking in the whites of each other's eyes and you're thinking 'what are we doing here? How exactly are we going to go about this? How are we going to win it back? Why are they playing through us so easily?'

"You saw a lot of shouting and screaming last night, a lot of bitching among the players, which I've never seen before. There's nothing wrong with having a go at a player but there was an awful lot of that last night and that is how it manifests itself very quickly.

"Players can see that they're struggling on the pitch and they're actually uncertain that we don't know to fix this."

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