| 6.3°C Dublin

Roll on Norway

The players are already focusing on the next game

JOHN ALDRIDGE may have scored the most priceless goal in Ireland's soccer history.

That doesn't seem like wild overstatement after yesterday's torture in the Orlando heat when, from abject despair, we managed to steal optimism.

All we now require from Tuesday's game with Norway is a draw to guarantee our place in the last sixteen.

Believe me, after seeing the state of the players after yesterday's boiling contest in the Citrus Bowl, it is the very least they deserve.

I, personally, have no doubt that their powers of recuperation will enable them to produce a major performance in the Giants Stadium next Tuesday. Make no mistake, they are already focussed on that collision.

It was heartening to see the players go straight to Jack Charlton in the dressing-room yesterday and ask if they could cancel today's planned trip to Disneyworld. Not one of them was in the mood for behaving like tourists after this ordeal.

We should be immensely proud of the players and the way they recovered from threatened humiliation in the Citrus Bowl to garner a result that keeps our World Cup future very much in our own hands.

It was a startling tribute to their honesty and resolution that Ireland actually finished stronger than the Mexicans.

I left the ground with mixed feelings. Obviously, it was desperately disappointing to lose a game considering the confidence that was so evident in our play towards the end of our victory over Italy last Saturday. Yet, on the other hand, it was gratifying to come away with something tangible like Aldo's goal.

In one fell swoop, the Tranmere striker transported us from the bottom of Group E to the top and right back into the equation for progress in this tournament.

Sport Newsletter

Get the best analysis and comment from our award-winning team of writers and columnists with our free newsletter.

This field is required

Close

Tommy Coyne of Ireland leaves Claudio Suarez #2 and the floored Marcelino Bernal of Mexico behind him during their 1994 world cup game at the citrus bowl in Orlando, Florida.  Photo credit: Ben Radford/ALLSPORT

Tommy Coyne of Ireland leaves Claudio Suarez #2 and the floored Marcelino Bernal of Mexico behind him during their 1994 world cup game at the citrus bowl in Orlando, Florida. Photo credit: Ben Radford/ALLSPORT

Tommy Coyne of Ireland leaves Claudio Suarez #2 and the floored Marcelino Bernal of Mexico behind him during their 1994 world cup game at the citrus bowl in Orlando, Florida. Photo credit: Ben Radford/ALLSPORT

Essentially, this result means that Italy must pursue victory in their game with Mexico while the Norwegians cannot afford to play for a draw against us.

The Mexicans were marginally better than I expected, but not much. You simply cannot assess this game without taking into account the vast advantage they took from playing in temperatures that I understand exceeded 110 degrees.

There were moments when we looked in real trouble. I felt this was especially so in a period just after half-time when the Mexican midfield became very dominant.

Their second goal looked like a precursor to a hiding.

In that context, you simply cannot under-value the character that brought Ireland from the abyss. Having seen them in the aftermath, I think I know just how much they must have been hurting. The temptation for most teams would have been to drop the head and wallow in self-pity. But that has never been the case with this team. I'm not certain football had a place in this kind of mid-day furnace.

Quite honestly, the heat was staggering even in the shade and we now know what had the Belgians complaining so loudly after their game with Morocco last Sunday.

Still, if there was a lesson to be taken from our viewpoint here, it was that no one should ever doubt the character of these Irish players.

While some struggled to find their true form, no one ever hid. And that's saying something.

My pick of the team was Phil Babb at the centre of defence. He looked so comfortable on the ball throughout, a real class act. Mention too for the magnificent Aldridge who brought such thrust to a tiring attack when it was most needed.

Aldo's arrival came at the perfect time as I felt Tommy Coyne had run himself to a virtual standstill up to then as a lone striker. His efforts should not be forgotten.

So it's back to the Giants Stadium and a contest against opponents we know far better. The spirits are slightly down but nowhere near as low as was once threatened. I believe we will get at least the point we need from Egil Olsen's Norway.

Don't give up on this team. They remain entitled to our backing.


Privacy