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Caipirinhas fuel dreams of what might have been for Green Army


Local residents celebrate in the fanzone in Recife after Brazil’s victory over Chile. Irish supporters would have added even more colour to the finals. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

Local residents celebrate in the fanzone in Recife after Brazil’s victory over Chile. Irish supporters would have added even more colour to the finals. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

Local residents celebrate in the fanzone in Recife after Brazil’s victory over Chile. Irish supporters would have added even more colour to the finals. Photo: REUTERS/Yves Herman

Sitting on the night bus from Belo Horizonte to Rio de Janeiro in the early hours of last Wednesday morning – a vehicle packed with fans sharing their World Cup experiences – the mind wandered.

This is an extraordinary tournament, a magical renewal that is unlikely to be bettered for a generation considering the manner in which future hosting rights have been awarded.

And that lends itself to a question that teases the imagination. What if Ireland had qualified?

It's a World Cup with plenty of colour and an abundance of strange and wonderful stories.

As the overnight bus sped out of the state of Minas Gerais on the six-hour drive to Rio, sleep deprivation and the associated delirium prompted thoughts on the stories we could have written if Ireland's qualifying campaign had steered a different course.

Here's a few things that might have unfolded – none of which are based on a true story.

* * * * *

Giovanni Trapattoni proclaimed Conor Sammon as Ireland's Muhammad Ali after his knockout strike secured a famous success over Roy Hodgson's England in the 'Rumble in the Jungle' in Manaus.

The Derby striker nudged home the only goal of the game with 25 minutes remaining. "I thought we contained Conor quite well apart from his match-winning goal," said Hodgson.

Trapattoni urged Ireland fans not to get carried away after the sweet success over their near rivals in the sweltering heat of Manaus. However, he noted the collapse of world champions Spain as evidence that the game is returning to traditional values.

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Costa Rica are up next for his boys. "There is no league in Ireland," warned Trapattoni. "Costa Rica has a very important league."

The shock success delighted the Green Army who made it all the way to the Amazonian venue, although around 5,000 of the beetroot-skinned faithful have been treated for sun poisoning after opting against sunscreen.

Hundreds of Irish fans missed the game after underestimating the length of the 2,900km drive to a city which isn't accessible by road from the south.

Others had left enough time, but were caught out by road access issues and stubbornly opted against stopping and asking for directions.

Another bunch of travellers were held up after meeting a disruption caused by a convoy of cars bringing money to the Ghana team hotel.

* * * * *

Uruguayan manager Oscar Tabarez has blamed the media for Luis Suarez' shocking bite on Richard Dunne in the tense scoreless draw in Natal that secured Ireland's passage to the next round.

Suarez snapped at Dunne in the final minutes of the game and was hit with a three-month suspension by FIFA for his outrageous loss of temper which failed to unsettle the Irish man of the match who was already bleeding heavily from several other parts of his body.

Tabarez claimed that the persistent media depiction of Dunne as the 'Honey Monster' led the Liverpool striker to have a curiosity about how the Dubliner's flesh might taste.

"I don't deny that we were expecting a punishment," said Tabarez. "But there is a perfectly reasonable explanation for this. We know Luis better than the people who've handed out this punishment and we know that he's got a sweet tooth."

Supporters of Suarez on social media have pointed out that, in Uruguayan society, the biting of a man who looks like a monster implies a sense of rapport.

Panellists on RTé's 'Sunday Game' said that the actions of the 27-year-old highlighted soccer's moral decay, adding that they saw far more hunger in Croke Park every Sunday in Championship season.

* * * * *

Irish fans are piling on the pounds during the World Cup in Brazil. The visiting hordes have been stunned by the meat-first, everything-else-second policy of their hosts.

Expanding followers of Trap's Army have struggled to get to grips with a country where vegetables are in short supply on the dinner table.

Confused punters cannot get their head around the size of meat portions in Rio restaurants, particularly the two-for-one policy in several prominent eateries where patrons order one steak and receive two with the reserve left on standby and then popped on the plate once the customer believes they are finished.

Waiting staff are perplexed when their guests try to refuse an offer for which they have already paid.

Brazilian side-order traditions have also raised eyebrows. "It's unbelievable," said one fan. "Every dish is served with chips, rice and a cup of black beans, regardless of whether you've asked for it or not."

Irish vegetarians have struggled and there are unconfirmed reports that dozens were sent home by heavy-handed Brazilian authorities because they preach an alien culture.

* * * * *

Nadia Forde has told the fans of Chile: "Anything you can do, I can do better," as she prepares to perform the Irish anthem ahead of today's second round clash in Belo Horizonte.

The FAI have received special dispensation from FIFA to allow the model take the microphone ahead of the knockout encounter, with association insiders understood to have played 'the Thierry Henry card' when their plan was originally met with opposition.

Forde sung Amhrán na bhFiann before last September's World Cup qualifier with Sweden and several players reported that her inspirational rendition drove Trapattoni's charges on to an emphatic 4-0 victory that set up their play-off drubbing of Portugal.

She was summoned to Brazil after the FAI studied the remarkably passionate delivery of the Chilean anthem by both players and supporters, including a verse belted out without music that whips their portion of the stadium into a frenzy.

"This reminded us of Nadia's performance in the Aviva," said an Abbotstown spokesman.

* * * * *

Roy Keane has blasted the Irish fans who sang their way through their round of 16 defeat to Chile and condemned the 'Only here for a Caipirinha' attitude, which he believes is prevalent from top to bottom in the camp.

Keane, here in Brazil working for ITV as he continues his long wait for an offer to return to the club sphere, was sickened by the rendition of the Fields of Athenry that briefly drowned out the jubilant Chilean support in the dying stages of a 3-1 loss.

"I think the players and even the supporters, they all have to change their mentality, it's just nonsense from players speaking after the games about how great the supporters are," said Keane, when pushed by presenter Lee Dixon who has assumed the hot-seat in place of the injured Adrian Chiles.

The controversial Corkman is 1000/1 to come into the Irish set-up after Trapattoni confirmed that he was leaving the Irish post to take charge of Qatar ahead of their 2022 preparations.

Both Keane and chief executive John Delaney have dismissed the idea that the 42-year-old could ever end up working for the FAI again. "It won't happen," said Delaney, speaking from a conga line of Irish fans on the Copacabana.

We can only dream. It's probably time to catch up on some sleep ...

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