Crestfallen after their
4-0 drubbing by Spain, Ireland's players will have only needed
to stroll into the centre of Sopot on Friday morning to find the
motivation to finish their Euro 2012 campaign on a positive
Hundreds of their countrymen, many still draped in flags,
wearing green, orange and white wigs or sporting Giovanni
Trapattoni face masks, were drowning their sorrows in the bars
and cafes around the seaside town's main square.
Ireland's slim hopes of reaching the quarter-finals might
have been extinguished on Thursday night but the fans are
staying on and will again travel in their thousands to watch
their side's swansong against Italy in Poznan on Monday.
After what manager Trapattoni described as a "fearful"
performance against Spain in Group C, their experienced squad
will feel they "owe the fans" a parting gift with victory over
the Azzurri according to former manager Mick McCarthy.
"Players like [goalkeeper Shay] Given, [Damien] Duff, [Richard] Dunne and Robbie Keane - I gave them their debuts,"
said McCarthy, who led Ireland to the 2002 World Cup finals and
was in rainy Gdansk as a television pundit on Thursday.
"They won't want to retire on the back of that performance,
that's for sure.
"I would be worried if I was Italy, because Ireland are
going into the last game with nothing to play for except pride.
So we've got nothing to worry about.
"We can go and hunt them down and have a go at Italy. If any
of the lads are thinking of packing it in [retiring from
international football] they'll want to do better than tonight."
Should Ireland spring a surprise by beating Italy, the
four-times world champions will also be packing their bags.
Ireland were given a lesson in football's finer arts by the
Spanish and form the moment Fernando Torres fired past Given
after four minutes there was no way back.
Despite saying all the right things before the match, they
gave a revered Spain side almost too much respect, failing to
even "get stuck in" as McCarthy was known to do as a player.
Trapattoni may well blood a few younger players in the final
match, with Sunderland winger James McClean set for a start.
The 73-year-old Italian coach will hope his players shake
off the mental paralysis that has led to two heavy defeats
starting with a 3-1 loss to Croatia and the drubbing by Spain,
which was their worst in a competitive fixture for 41 years.
"I will ask the lads how on earth it is possible, after two
games, we have conceded two goals in the opening three or four
minutes," Trapattoni said.
"Something changed from our qualifying campaign. We can see
the weight on the players' shoulders, but I haven't seen this in
training and I am very sad about this."
"We don't see fear in training or in our preparations for
the tournament. I don't see tensions in the side."
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