The Back of the Net team give their take on Ireland's frustrating 3-1 defeat to Croatia
A commanding performance from Mario Manduzkic helped Croatia to victory on a wet night in Poznan, while Ireland were left wondering what might have been, specifically, what might have been had all their scoring chances not somehow fallen to workmanlike midfielder Keith Andrews.
Ireland had a chance to take the lead after just two minutes, as Andrews rose highest to head a Stephen Ward cross wide. Moments later, his wastefulness was punished, as Manduzkic blooped a soft header past Shay Given to give the Balkan side the lead.
The Irish had a chance to hit back immediately, but both AndrewsÃ¢ÂÂs free-kick and his follow-up were blocked. Giovanni TrappatoniÃ¢ÂÂs side continued to exert pressure, but an Andrews flick-on, an Andrews cross-shot and an acrobatic Andrews bicycle-kick were all saved.
Eventually, on 19 minutes, Sean St Ledger headed in the equaliser, having been left all alone after the entire Croatian defence moved en masse to mark Keith Andrews. But Croatia regained the lead just before the break through Nikica Jelavic, and moments into the second half it was three, as Croatia broke quickly after clearing an Andrews chance.
Forced to chase the game, Ireland created a number of opportunities, but were unable to unleash either Kevin Doyle or Robbie Keane, as a series of headers, penalty area scrambles, and one-on-one breaks unaccountably fell to the defensive-minded Andrews.
Finally, after Andrews missed the target with a bullet header, a volley, and a close-range snapshot, Trappatoni lost patience, and the holding midfielder was hauled off.
To IrelandÃ¢ÂÂs frustration, however, chances kept falling AndrewsÃ¢ÂÂs way, as a through-ball picked him out perfectly on the Irish bench, and a corner dropped right onto his head while he struggled to zip up his tracksuit.
With ten minutes to go, the exasperated Trappatoni sent Andrews from the stadium, but IrelandÃ¢ÂÂs best chance would once more fall to the former West Brom grafter, as a long Ward pass sailed over the stand and into the car park, where Keith Andrews just failed to bring the ball under control.
Editor's note: this isn't a serious accusation and all quotes are fictionalised. But you knew that, because you're not stupid.
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