As Ireland went down 3-1 to Mexico, we take a look at some of the talking points from the friendly match in New Jersey. Stephen Gleeson’s consolation goal was not enough as Ireland suffered a crushing defeat to the Gold Cup champions.
Important to see context of match
It is very hard to take many positives from the game but it should be considered that this was close to Ireland’s third choice against a strong and experienced Mexican side. While Ireland played close to an all Championship team, the Mexican’s boasted players with World Cup, Gold Cup and Champions League experience. They are preparing for the Confederations Cup while Ireland had put together a scratch team with Darren Randolph and James McClean the only Premier League starters. Mexico showed their technical ability around the pitch and certainly benefited by playing against such a rookie midfield.
3-5-2 Cut Apart Despite Early Fluidity
Ireland looked promising going forward in the early embers of the tie with the new look system but the personnel was not right for this brief flow to be maintained. The 3-5-2 gave Ireland a bit more room to work with and a
The 3-5-2 gave Ireland a bit more room to work with and a licence to knock it around a bit. Some early passages of play and penetration down the Mexican wings looked promising but that’s as good as it got.
Ireland barely held possession or found passes in the second half and Mexico exposed the space out wide. The Irish really struggled to hold the ball with the anchoring Conor Hourihane not adequately supported nor protected. Playing three poor ball-playing centre halves also did Ireland no justice but options were limited in what was a real misuse of the 3-5-2.
Bizarre Selection Hurts Irish
The centre of midfield was disjointed with two wingers in Daryl Horgan and Callum O’Dowda simply not an appropriate fit. Their inclusion allowed Ireland to break quickly with Hourihane holding fort but this restricted the midfield defensively who were caught easily on the break a number of times.
Eunan O’Kane, Stephen Gleeson or Wes Hoolahan would have slotted in nicely either side of Conor Hourihane and going forward the likes of Harry Arter, Robbie Brady and Jeff Hendrick could really work within that system if given the chance down the line.
Three-man defences should also have at least one ball-playing centre back and Andy Boyle would have been a wise selection on the left of the three. Instead three centre halves who struggle on the ball were given an uphill task.
Cyrus Christie shows he is capable replacement for Coleman
Christie has never really let his country down when called upon. When selected in the 1-0 victory over Germany the Derby man rose to the occasion and proved to be a capable deputy to Seamus Coleman.
He is a big physical full back, like Coleman has plenty of pace and loves to bomb forward. The 24-year-old made some lovely jinky runs in what was a move advanced role than he would be used to. His crossing was fantastic and managed to whip in some powerful balls from tight angles. It was far from Christie’s best game but he did show glimpses of his capabilities in what was a slightly unfamiliar role. With more experienced heads due to be around him against Austria, Christie will look to successfully fill his captains void.
A missed opportunity
Much of the talk in recent weeks has been the form of Sean Maguire and Cillian Sheridan. Daryl Murphy and David McGoldrick struggled against the Mexicans and with no natural striker on the bench Ireland looked very restricted up front.
Although it ended in a loss, it could have been a valuable run out for Maguire or Sheridan. Derrick Williams who was one of the only bright sparks in a poor Blackburn side could also have benefited from a chance in a squad that had no natural left back.
O’Neill’s strange selection of out-of-position players and an unbalanced back three also saw the opportunity to utilise the 3-5-2 to greater effect pass him by. A disappointing night overall but not a fair reflection of the team we can expect against Austria.
Nick Menezes, Pundit Arena