EURO 2016

Five talking points from Ireland's demoralising defeat to Belgium

EURO 2016By Sunday World
Five talking points from Ireland's demoralising defeat to Belgium

Here are five talking points from Ireland's demoralising 3-0 Group E loss to Belgium.

1. LONG-BALL IRELAND 

Ireland's love affair with the long ball will never end. Martin O'Neill talked about a change in strategy for Belgium and he meant it.

In the Stade de France against Sweden, the ball stayed mostly on the grass but in Bordeaux from the first whistle, it was clear that O'Neill had picked the aerial route for his players.

This, of course, meant that Shane Long was the chosen target and his shift was probably the hardest of any Irish player on the pitch, given the fact that Wes Hoolahan wasn't going to win many battles with Alderweireld, Vermaelen and Vertonghen.

2. HIGH DEFENSIVE LINE

O'Neill played a very high defensive line which survived until half-time but always looked vulnerable to a fast counter.

It was a risky strategy and all the more puzzling after such a composed performance against Sweden. Belgium have better players so why concede so much possession?

3. PHYSICAL BELGIUM

For all their skill and talent, Belgium rely on a lot on physical strength and pace. Axel Witsel kicked his way through the this game and Shane Long must be covered in bruises after a right going over from Belgium's backline.

Their breakthrough goal came when De Bruyne showed searing pace to leave Ireland's midfield for dead and Romelu Lukaku sprinted 40 yards to make up ground and put himself in the right place for a killer pass from the Manchester City winger.

It was almost a carbon copy for Belgium's third. Hazard broke fast, Lukaku sprinted to put home a tap-in. Game over.

4. UNFIT MCCARTHY

James McCarthy hasn't been fit since the start of this tournament and that became very obvious after half time.

He went to ground and let De Bruyne away for the run which created the first goal for Belgium and was nowhere to be seen when his man, Witsel, broke into the box for the second.

5. CLASSY BELGIANS

The Belgian fans are a classy lot. When Amhran na bhFiann was in a full flow, they stood to a man and applauded the Green Army, a show of respect for the most popular supporters in France.

And judging by the night before the game in Bordeaux, they drink more than the Irish too which is saying a lot. 

Paul Hyland