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Ireland 0 Holland 1: Match report and ratings as Wim Kieft's late goal breaks Irish hearts

Holland 1 Ireland 0

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Koeman snatched his shot, kicking the ball into the ground and sending it looping into the box with a wicked spin. The ball dropped onto the head of Wim Kieft whose flick looked to be sending it wide. However there was so much spin from Koeman's mishit shot it took the ball beyond the flailing dive of Packie Bonner and into the bottom corner of the Irish goal.

Koeman snatched his shot, kicking the ball into the ground and sending it looping into the box with a wicked spin. The ball dropped onto the head of Wim Kieft whose flick looked to be sending it wide. However there was so much spin from Koeman's mishit shot it took the ball beyond the flailing dive of Packie Bonner and into the bottom corner of the Irish goal.

Koeman snatched his shot, kicking the ball into the ground and sending it looping into the box with a wicked spin. The ball dropped onto the head of Wim Kieft whose flick looked to be sending it wide. However there was so much spin from Koeman's mishit shot it took the ball beyond the flailing dive of Packie Bonner and into the bottom corner of the Irish goal.

WE are coming home. At last. The glorious European championship adventure came to an abrupt end when Win Kieft scored a fiendish header past Pat Bonner to the Irish net eight minutes from the end of our final Group II game in Gelsenkirchen yesterday afternoon.

We were eight minutes from the semi-finals, but, and this is the truth of what you witnessed yesterday afternoon, we were a long long way from last July.

Eleven months ago these valiant Irish players began pre-season training with their clubs. Yesterday, as we held our national breath, urged them on to greater glory than they'd won for us already and prayed for God to do us one more turn.

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The Republic of Ireland team, back row, from left, Frank Stapleton, Mick McCarthy, Tony Galvin, Paul McGrath, Pat Bonner and John Aldridge, front row, from left, Ray Houghton, Ronnie Whelan, Chris Hughton, Chris Morris and Kevin Moran. European Championship Finals 1988, Group B, Republic of Ireland v Holland, Parkstadion, Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Photo: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

The Republic of Ireland team, back row, from left, Frank Stapleton, Mick McCarthy, Tony Galvin, Paul McGrath, Pat Bonner and John Aldridge, front row, from left, Ray Houghton, Ronnie Whelan, Chris Hughton, Chris Morris and Kevin Moran. European Championship Finals 1988, Group B, Republic of Ireland v Holland, Parkstadion, Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Photo: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

The Republic of Ireland team, back row, from left, Frank Stapleton, Mick McCarthy, Tony Galvin, Paul McGrath, Pat Bonner and John Aldridge, front row, from left, Ray Houghton, Ronnie Whelan, Chris Hughton, Chris Morris and Kevin Moran. European Championship Finals 1988, Group B, Republic of Ireland v Holland, Parkstadion, Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Photo: Ray McManus/SPORTSFILE

It was here in Gelsenkirchen that the accumulated physical, emotional and psychological pressure of eleven months caught up with this magnificent team. The weight of the nation's dreams won't have lightened the burden. This afternoon Jack Charlton and his team arrive at Dublin airport at 12.50. Go out and meet them.

Wonderful courage

There is more to sport than winning, more to life than tactics. Whatever else there is this Irish team - every player, every backroom boy, manager Jack Charlton and his assistant. Maurice Setters - managed to unearth these past seven days during which the great skill, dignity and valour they have honoured Ireland's name.

In the smaller matter of tactics we were outplayed yesterday afternoon. To those of us who have followed Ireland since Charlton took over two and a half years ago it is deeply ironic to have to record that two of our least accomplished performances were here in West Germany.

We are a much better team than we looked yesterday - or last Sunday against the English.

Carrying the tag of underdogs into these championships - a View formed by British and Irish sportswriters who don't know what they are looking at - we played against Holland and England like outsiders, lacking the conviction and style that charaterised a twelve match unbeaten run that ended here in Gelsenkirchen. Wednesday's superb display against the Soviet Union was a truer reflection as what we have been and can be again when World Cup battle commences in September.

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Against Holland, uncertainty hung like a cloud over this Irish team from the opening moments. In touch and gesture the players betrayed doubts they must have felt, doubts not about tactics or about their ability but rather fear of the unknown which in this case were the later stages of a major international championship.

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18 June 1988; Ray Houghton of Republic of Ireland in action against Gerald Vanenburg of Netherlands during the UEFA European Football Championship Finals Group B match between Republic of Ireland and Netherlands at Parkstadion in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

18 June 1988; Ray Houghton of Republic of Ireland in action against Gerald Vanenburg of Netherlands during the UEFA European Football Championship Finals Group B match between Republic of Ireland and Netherlands at Parkstadion in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

18 June 1988; Ray Houghton of Republic of Ireland in action against Gerald Vanenburg of Netherlands during the UEFA European Football Championship Finals Group B match between Republic of Ireland and Netherlands at Parkstadion in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

A draw or victory would have seen us through to the semi finals this coming week. That is the unknown and that is the reason why uncertainty loomed large in almost everything our players attempted in this game..

Uncertainty and of course the weariness of those eleven months battling for League and Cup honours in domestic football and battling too for a place in these championships.

Allowing for everything, we might still have gone: ahead in the 15th minute: when Paul McGrath met a Ray Houghton corner and headed it firmly against the post..

This was a marvellous opportunity and the way the game was to turn out later, a goal at this moment would have been enough to see: us on to Stuttgart next Tuesday,

But in truth, we were even at that early stage of the game, being outplayed by a Dutch team that isn't great but has enough self-assurance and enough good players to feel entitled to a semi-final place.

How you feel matters. The Dutch have played in. major championship finals before and that experience served them well yesterday afternoon. It won't have been a handicap to Holland's hopes either that almost 50,000 of their countrymen made the short trip across the border to roar for their team.

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18 June 1988; Republic of Ireland supporters during the UEFA European Football Championship Finals Group B match between Republic of Ireland and Netherlands at Parkstadion in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

18 June 1988; Republic of Ireland supporters during the UEFA European Football Championship Finals Group B match between Republic of Ireland and Netherlands at Parkstadion in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

18 June 1988; Republic of Ireland supporters during the UEFA European Football Championship Finals Group B match between Republic of Ireland and Netherlands at Parkstadion in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

The stadium here in the heart of industrial Germany was a sea of colour, most of it orange. _, Here and there, it had splashes of green. There were 10,000 Irish here and they roared as courageous and as valiantly as their team has played but they were hardly heard, being outnumbered 5/1 by their counterparts, that is very much the way the game was going on the field as well.

On another day in different circumstances, we would have kept the.ball for bigger periods than we did yesterday.

We could perhaps have been a bit more flexible, there are other ways to tire opponents than the one we'chose; the long punt upfield and the hopeful, almost desperate chase.

On Wednesday, at our best against the Soviet Union, we kept more possession, played with our heads as well as and lungs. Yesterday, we settled too often for the desperate kick, at times seeming almost like the Irish Rugby Union team as we tried to find touch.

These are harsh criticisms in the circumstances and one is reluctant to probe too deeply into tactical analysis. Perhaps instead. we should recall some magnificent individual performances. Ray Houghton surpassed even his earlier championship performances. He tried to play, he tackled, passed and ran.

But occasionally even he failed desperately when he might have paused reflectively. Frank Stapleton, who played so magnificently last Wednesday, did.so again.yesterday afternoon. Stapleton is a wily man, he works when he had to and often in the years that passed before Jack Charlton came to Ireland he didn’t have to

But all or at least much have been redeemed by Stapleton these past two and half years. Never more so than yesterday afternoon in Gelsenkirchen. Kevin Moran has been magnificent, the man he was with Dublin in the 70s and more.

John Aldridge has been gallant, too and so unlucky.

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18 June 1988; The Republic of Ireland bench, from left, Chris Morris, Tony Cascarino, manager Jack Charlton, assistant manager Maurice Setters and physio Mick Byrne during the UEFA European Football Championship Finals Group B match between Republic of Ireland and Netherlands at Parkstadion in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

18 June 1988; The Republic of Ireland bench, from left, Chris Morris, Tony Cascarino, manager Jack Charlton, assistant manager Maurice Setters and physio Mick Byrne during the UEFA European Football Championship Finals Group B match between Republic of Ireland and Netherlands at Parkstadion in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

18 June 1988; The Republic of Ireland bench, from left, Chris Morris, Tony Cascarino, manager Jack Charlton, assistant manager Maurice Setters and physio Mick Byrne during the UEFA European Football Championship Finals Group B match between Republic of Ireland and Netherlands at Parkstadion in Gelsenkirchen, Germany. Photo by Ray McManus/Sportsfile

At some point football matches and all sports are about more than skill. At some point they are about guts, about inspiration and sometimes they are about fate. That moment came for us, and here there is no irony, when the Dutch were at their weakest, when it seemed they had played their last card.

With eight minutes to go one could see Dutch, conviction begin to sweep away, they ran with less directness, the passes were more hopeful than believing. It seemed as if we were going to hold on.

And then a corner on the right, the ball was flighted in as it had been so often this afternoon, an Irish head rose to loop it clear, standing 20 yards from goal Ronald Koeman, the much-feared PV Eindhoven midfielder, famous for his crunching long-range goals, flashed his right boot at the dropping ball.

But Koenam too had lost conviction, he misdirected his shot.and it was bouncing harmlessly out of play. Or so we thought.

Then Wim Kieft found his moment of inspiration, his header twisted cruely around Pat Bonner. We were broken, beaten, finished for these European Championships at least.

We won’t forget Europe, nor will Europe forget us.

RATINGS

PACKY BONNER

A hero against England, Packy pulled Ireland out of the fire on a couple of occasions on Saturday, notably when he came to the edge of his box to foil Gullit in the first half. Bonner's handling was back to its best , after a-jittery display against the Soviets. Had no chance with die Dutch goal. RATING—8

CHRIS MORRIS

DOUBTS were expressed about his defensive game before the tournament but Morris silenced the critics with three splendid performances. The facial injury which forced him out of the Dutch match at half-time was a bad double blow for Ireland as Paul McGrath had to switch. RATING — 8

KEVIN MORAN

MORAN was a tower of strength and his resolute defending and covering was inspirational in the finals, particularly in the games against England and the Soviets. The .centre of the Irish defence creaked against the Dutch but looked rock solid as the game progressed. RATING —8

MICK McCARTHY

PRE-TOURNAMENT fears about a lack of pace in the centre of the Irish defence were justified only on a coupLe of occasions in the three games and resulted in just one goal, against the Soviets. Mick was at his best in the second half on Saturday when the Dutch piled-in high balls. RATING-6

CHRIS HUGHTON

A highly dependable and vastly experienced defender, Hughton was a solid performer throughout the three matches. Despite the quality and pace of his direct opponents — including Gullit in the second half on Saturday, Chris was rarely skinned. RATING —7

RONNIE WHELAN

FOR my money, Whelan shaded Houghton for the mantle of Ireland's most effective and exciting midfield performer in Germany. Crowned his superb performances against England and the Soviets with the goal of the tournament last Wednesday. RATING —9

TONY GALVIN

MANY expected him to lose his place to Kevin Sheedy in Germany but Tony fully justified Charlton's faith in him. It was the Galvin of old against England and the Soviets. Though his crossing was not of the same quality on Saturday, defied his status as a club reserve. RATING —8

FRANK STAPLETON

RAN himself to a frazzle in all three games. Skipper Frank led by example in a deep-lying role. His hounding and covering up front and across midfield was complemented by tremendous touch and crafty flicks and passes. Though substituted late in all three games he had an excellent tournament. RATING —8

RAY HOUGHTON

OUTSTANDING against England, superb against the Soviets and devastating against the Dutch — if only for a few fleeting moments. There was more need for guts and graft in the Irish midfield on Saturday. RATING — 9

PAUL McGRATH

EMPHASISED his importance to Ireland as a defensive midfielder in the opening game in Stuttgart but missed the next match through injury. Crashed an early header off the upright on Saturday. Switched to right-back for injured Morris in the second half and was both forceful and composed. RATING—8

JOHN ALDRIDGE

PLAYED his best game yet against England and was equally committed in the next two matches, though he should have broken his infamous "duck" when Galvin found him with that lovely cross against the Soviets. Aldridge and Stapleton worked hard. RATING -7

KEVIN SHEEDY

STARTED one game (against the Soviets) and substitute in two, Sheedy displayed splendid touch and control and there was also a nice aggressive streak through his play. His central midfield combination with Whelan last Wednesday in Hanover was particularly impressive. RATING —7

TONY CASCARINO

THE Millwall striker made two appearances as substitute for Stapleton but had little time to make any major impression. Threatened with a nice flick or two against the Soviets last Wednesday but there were no opportunities to sparkle in the Dutch match. RATING —6

NIALL QUINN

HAD even less of an opportunity than Cascarino to dis^lay his wares ... the lanky Arsenal striker made his solitary appearance as a replacement for his skipper in the second half against England in Stuttgart. RATING —6


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