BotN: Trapattoni pinpoints kick-off as turning point for Ireland

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The Back of the Net boys look back on a disappointing night for the Irish...

Reflecting on the 4-0 defeat by Spain on Thursday that saw his side exit the tournament, Republic of Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has pinpointed the moment when it all started to go wrong for his players, namely the first half kick-off.

“Until we kicked off, our players looked quite comfortable,” Trapattoni told FourFourTwo. “I was pleased with the way they dealt with the early challenges, such as tying their shoelaces, not getting injured while stretching, and successfully singing the national anthem despite at least three of them being about as Irish as I am.”

However, the kick-off signalled a change in Ireland’s luck, as Fernando Torres took advantage of the fact that the game had started to rifle an unstoppable shot into Shay Given’s goal.

“To concede a goal in the fourth minute was a blow, but the game had been swinging away from us for a good four minutes by then,” Irish captain Robbie Keane admitted afterwards.

“We felt we matched Spain man-for-man for tracksuits, and we booted it much further than they did in the warm-up. Not kicking off was probably our best chance of keeping the scorelines level, but sadly we weren’t able to manage that.”

"Hide! If they can't find us, they can't kick off!"

In an attempt to prevent the game kicking off, Trapattoni had detailed John O’Shea to engage the referee in conversation on subjects including cross-stitch, the history of Gdansk, and whether a heap of straw would still be a heap of straw if one straw were removed.

However, hopes that the versatile defender’s sparkling repartee would distract the Portuguese official from blowing his whistle were soon quashed.

“In fairness to the referee, he’s been very professional,” Keane said. “He told John that the notion of ‘heap-ness’ has fixed boundaries, but that these boundaries are necessarily unknowable, and John had no answer to that.

“He was clearly still thinking about the principle of two-valued logic when David Silva scored their second.”

Another goal for Torres and a late fourth by Cesc Fabregas concluded the rout, but Trappatoni saw reasons to be optimistic about Irish football’s future.

“Now we have to look towards World Cup 2016,” he said. “Our qualifying campaign begins in 84 days’ time, and if we can keep it goalless till then, I think we’ve got a chance.”