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Opinion: Ireland Need To Throw More Caution To The Wind Vs Denmark Than They Did Against Wales

Cardiff , United Kingdom - 9 October 2017; James McClean of Republic of Ireland celebrates after scoring his side's goal during the FIFA World Cup Qualifier Group D match between Wales and Republic of Ireland at Cardiff City Stadium in Cardiff, Wales. (Photo By Stephen McCarthy/Sportsfile via Getty Images)

The euphoria of what transpired in Cardiff has served to somewhat obscure what was otherwise a fairly bleak qualifying experience.

Ireland have been mostly ineffective in attack and over-reliant on their defence. Right from the beginning of the campaign, Martin O’Neill has prioritised long ball over possession football.

The Republic of Ireland earned an improbable draw away to Serbia in the first match of this qualification bid after a negative performance in which Serbia dominated the ball and Ireland sat back.

Not to mention the dismal encounter with Georgia. After Shane Duffy had given Ireland an early lead we retreated back upon ourselves, surrendering possession to an extremely limited Georgian outfit who in truth were unlucky not to win on the night.

And while the win against Wales stands out as one of our better results of the last decade, it is worth remembering that Ireland only had two shots on target in the match, including James McClean’s strike.

Wales completely dominated the game but were toothless in attack. Ireland left Cardiff with three points despite having only had 28 per cent of the possession.

Under such a conservative approach our luck is surely destined to run out sooner rather than later.

Creating so few chances in important games will eventually be our undoing unless Martin O’Neill is willing to take a chance and commit more players to attack.

Denmark are technically superior to the Republic of Ireland in most departments, with players like Christian Eriksen and Simon Kjaer playing at a higher level than any Irish squad member.

The worst thing we could possibly do would be to concede possession and territory to a capable bunch of players and hope to weather the storm and possibly sneak a goal at the other end.

In Eriksen, Denmark have the key to unlock any defence, even one as miserly and well drilled as the Irish one. We need to show a desire to get on the ball and do something with it.

Too often against Serbia, Wales, Austria and Georgia we were clueless in possession, launching high balls up to forwards who lacked support.

The most damning statistic in recent Irish sport arrived in Tbilisi when we only managed to string together four consecutive passes in the whole match.

And, of course, it is difficult to criticise O’Neill’s approach given that we are on the cusp of qualifying for back-to-back tournaments for the first time since 1990. But it would also be foolish to fail to consider the part that luck has played in our campaign thus far.

If we are going to resort to long ball tactics, as seems almost certain, then the midfield must do a better job of supporting the forward players.

Too often in this campaign Walters, Murphy or Long have held up ball only to be dispossessed as our midfield was too slow in pushing up from their defensive starting point.

And we don’t have to look far for evidence of what a conservative game plan and lack of ambition can lead to. Northern Ireland suffered defeat on Thursday (albeit due to a ridiculous penalty decision) against a Swiss side that were allowed to attack at will since Northern Ireland sat deep in their own half.

But for some poor finishing by Switzerland, Northern Ireland could have been on the end of a hefty defeat as they were outclassed from start to finish.

Their game plan was eerily similar to that deployed by the Republic in that they were happy to completely hand over possession and try to soak up pressure.

But the bottom line is that over the course of 90 minutes of a crucial World Cup play-off match, Northern Ireland failed to have a single shot on target. Their clear lack of ambition is every bit as much the reason for their defeat as the clueless refereeing.

It is time for Ireland to show some real ambition and take the game to Denmark when they can.

A repeat of the performance against Wales is unlikely to be enough.

Kevin Boyle, Pundit Arena

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Author: The PA Team

This article was written by a member of The PA Team.