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Thursday, May 25, 2006

Irish Lose: O Dear, O-dear O-dear O-dear

Before Jack Charlton invented Irish football, Ireland had a tremendous record at home. We went thirteen years unbeaten at Lansdowne in competitive games, and the day we lost it those of us at the game enjoyed it enormously, even though we were beaten 4-1. But why? you ask.

Against Denmark, in our last qualifying game for the 1986 World Cup we no longer could qualify for, the result meant little to us beyond our usual pride, but Denmark needed to win to top the group. I recall they had maybe five thousand fans at the game.

We were losing 2-1 when an accountant by the name of John Sivebaek ran with the ball diagonally the full length of the pitch towards me in my corner of the South Terrace, and then he shot a looping chip shot diagonally into the far corner.

It was such an impressive goal that Manchester United bought Sivebaek and always looked back. Lansdowne was abuzz. Watching Ireland lose is generally sickening, and 3-1 down at home unthinkable, but the whole ground was aware that the tour operator who had transported the Danes to Ireland had offered them a refund should Denmark win by three clear goals.

As Soren Lerby was substituted and flown immediately to Munich to come on for the second half of a German cup game, his Danish colleagues were cheered on by Irish and Danes alike, and everybody had a party when the fourth goal was duly scored.

The reverse feeling of that unusal occasion happened for me at the 1998 World Cup Finals in France. Chile were playing Austria. Hans Krankl was a great player, but nobody on the planet likes Austrians. Not even Austrians like Austrians. Meanwhile Chile had Zamorano and Salas, the two best looking footballers in the competition. And Chilean fans had the best songs. And I was sitting among thousands of them.

1-0 up the unfancied Chile were one minute from victory as the gorgeous sounds of Vamos, Vamos Chilenos filled the French stadium. One of the best photographs I never took was of thousands of flag and jersey bedecked Chileans with their faces fully painted after just conceding a goal in the final seconds of a World Cup game. They all kind of looked like clowns wearing downward painted smiles. My finger twitched on my camera, but I didn't have the heart to photograph them in their misery.

I was on the phone twice to Dublin yesterday and both times my callers reminded me that Ireland were playing Chile. Until Jack Charlton sucked the imagination out of Irish football I once didn't miss a game for ten years. Chile is a game I would have liked being at. I mean, you might get to hear Vamos Chilenos.

We lost. 1-0. It was a friendly. Despite FIFA rankings it doesn't really matter. Steve Staunton should not be attacked for that. He should be attacked for speaking exclusively in football cliches. But that's a different blogpost.

See Also:
    • Seats on the Halfway Line
    • Irish Attention for Johnson County Soccer
    • 1-0 to Arsenal


At 10:09 AM, Roldy said...

At the end of the day, the ball came over, I think it was from Duffer, I just managed to get on the end of it and, you know, just stuck a leg out, from two yards out...

Do you think Bobby Robson actually knows he's not really the real manager? Has anyone told him? And do they remind him on a daily basis?

Who do you want to see win the big one?

Rooney has a scan today...but Fergie's banned the FA from knowing the result!

At 2:28 PM, Irish KC said...

The whole Robson thing is farcical, all too reminiscent of how the FAI operated when they appointed Charlton to thwart the appointment of Bob Paisley and defend the honour of Johnny Giles. Ironic to say the least.

I wish Rooney wasn't injured, I think the scan result is irrelevant at this stage. I'm a former Goodison season ticket holder and think this could have been his World Cup, if his temperament held up, otherwise it might have been Maradonna's 1982 or Gasgoine's 1990.

With Rooney I thought England had a great chance, but talk of this being the best England team since '66 is nonsense - 1970 was better than '66, and the 1990 team wasn't bad either.

That said Sven, having gone mad enough to put Walcott in the squad might well play him as a get out of jail free card, and it could end up like Garrincha's 1958.

If Brazil do what they can do, it's impossible not to like it, but I have a feeling they're almost too good (not to mention slow in a couple of places) and won't have the guile to come back from an arguably inferior team beating them 1-0 with twelve minutes to go.

I fancy Argentina - if they can get out of that tough group - but Germany in Germany - look how well they did in 2002 when they were not up to much. Could be ominous. If the Czechs or the Dutch can play great football, they'll get my vote. It's Europe; it might rain.

It's great football I want to see, not underdogs simply winning games and nothing more. In the FA Cup I can be happy with that, but every four years I want the best footballers in the world to play the best football in the world. Ronaldinho to do better than Zico ever did? Ronaldo to join Pele's immortality, or stay at the average phenomenal legend level? I'm licking my lips.


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