Ireland At the European Championships: EURO 2012
The hope offered by Ireland’s dominant performance against Sweden in our EURO 2016 opener has quickly evaporated after a a pummeling at the hands of Belgium. One thing that can’t be extinguished however, is the spirit of the travelling Irish support who have once again been capturing the hearts and minds of locals, in stark contrast to the hooliganism surrounding numerous other sides.
We have, of course, been here before. At our appearance at the European Championships in 2012 (we covered EURO ’88 here), a demoralised Ireland faced Italy in the final group game with only the raucous support of the Green Army to be proud of.
This time around, is a little different. We can hold our heads up high when reflecting on the 1-1 against Sweden, while an unlikely win against Italy can still send us through to the knockout stages.
On paper, our EUR0 2012 qualifying group was straightforward, which was a relief for a nation which hadn’t reached a major tournament since the 2002 World Cup and had just suffered heartache quite literally at the hands of Thierry Henry.
On the field, navigating through the group also proved refreshingly straightforward. 1 defeat in 10 games (we narrowly lost to Russia 3-2 in Dublin) was not quite enough to clinch top spot, although it was enough to comfortably secure 2nd ahead of the Armenia and Slovakia.
Manager Giovanni Trapattoni was generally popular, even if his tactics weren’t. The public view of Trap only got better when Ireland battered Estona 4-0 away from home in the 1st leg of the play-off. Ireland were going to Polkraine (Poland & Ukraine).
At EURO 2012 itself we were handed a stinker of a group. Reigning World Cup & EURO 2008 holders Spain, the Italians, and Croatia. That Spain would go on to win the final against Italy tells you all you need to though about the toughness of the group. Indeed, Spain only scraped past Croatia 1-0, while Italy drew with them. Cianutsballduckti The very definition of ‘Group of Death’.
Ireland lost the opener 3-1 to Croatia, before a 4-0 hammering to Spain and a casual 2-0 stroll for Italy. We picked up no points and our terrible goal difference officially made us the worst performing team at the competition.
The squad looked bereft of belief from the get go and calls for Trap to go intensified. The EURO hangover continued into our miserable qualification campaign for the 2014 World Cup and the axe eventually fell for Trap.
This was without doubt the worst performance by Ireland at an international tournament. Our performance and point against Sweden and the slither of hope for qualification going into our last game already makes EURO 2014 a far better experience, regardless of what happens in our last game.
The one big positive from EURO 2012 was the unquenchable spirit of the Irish support, which was noted worldwide after the rousing renditions of The Fields of Athenry in the final minutes of the defeat to Spain.
This has repeated in France this summer, with Irishmen and women doing the nation proud once again, only this time the team have some of the spirit to match it (if not quite the talent).
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