06.02.2008 at 19:45 Croke Park
Republic of Ireland
0 - 1
Referee: Mr. R. Rogalla (Switzerland)
Friendly / Prog-match
Republic of Ireland 0 Brazil 1
The Republic of Ireland played extremely well at Croke Park where they made Brazil work hard for their narrow victory in a game that provided plenty of encouragement for Irish fans.
Don Givens, in his role as caretaker manager, had Ireland well drilled and positive in their football and had reason to be well satisfied with their evening’s work. It is true Brazil always looked the more likely team, but Ireland would not have been unworthy of a drawn match.
Brazil were very much on top in the opening half but so well did Ireland counter their attacking play and so hard-working and disciplined were the Irish that goalkeeper Shay Given had only one reactionary save to make.
That came in the 39th minute when Brazil took a corner short and Robinho worked the ball cleverly to Josue almost on the dead-ball line. Given had his angles right and parried the shot at the near upright for another corner.
Otherwise Ireland forced Brazil to play their football in front of the defence and never allowed them penetrate. They did so by pulling full-backs Stephen Kelly and Kevin Kilbane in close to centre-backs Richard Dunne and John O’Shea and deploying Lee Carsley and Liam Miller just in front.
Brazil had a lot of possession and Ireland seldom showed as an attacking force in consequence. It meant also that Brazil had space out wide, especially on their right and it was fortunate, perhaps, that full-back Leandro was not able to make more productive use of his opportunities.
Brazil looked much more dangerous and carried much more goal-scoring potential when Ireland began to expand their game plan in the second half. Ireland’s success in curbing Brazil’s attack encouraged Ireland to commit more men forward and, unfortunately, it rebounded on them.
One heavy Irish attack in the 67th minute saw substitute Darren Potter link with the exciting Aiden McGeady and he found Damien Duff in the heart of a heavily-populated Brazil penalty area.
Brazil succeeded in knocking the ball away from Duff, it was picked up by Gilberto Silva who quickly found Luis Fabiano near half-way.
He switched the ball expertly to playmaker Diego and suddenly Robinho was closing in on goal from the left. He evaluated the position immediately when confronted by a retreating Carsley and calmly slotted a shot between Carsley’s legs, beyond the reach of goalkeeper Given and into the far corner.
It was a delightful piece of work by Robinho who showed the composure and the intuitive inclinations of a regular goalscorer with a measured finish that confounded Carsley and then Given. The scoring move was a classic in its simplicity and its speed and it had the hallmark of genuine class.
The frustration for Ireland was in knowing they had scoring chances just before and after the goal that might have saved the game for them but they lacked Brazil’s precision. It is precision and economy that separate the best from the rest.
Damien Duff, for instance, was just beaten to a glorious through ball from Robbie Keane in the 49th minute; Darren Potter mis-cued in the 60th minute when Duff’s pass offered him a fleeting chance; Duff tested goalkeeper Julio Cesar from 22 yards in the 64th minute with a firm left-foot shot the goalkeeper could not hold and the game ended with an exciting flurry of action in Brazil’s penalty area.
Centre-back Anderson Silva just got his head in the way to an attempted pass from substitute Stephen Hunt that would have left Keane clear had it reached its intended target and then McGeady, O’Shea and Kilbane, with a delightful run along the end line, looked for Keane in the six yards box but he was denied by Julio Cesar.
Defeat for Ireland then was a disappointment – Givens’ first defeat in his third match as temporary manager of the senior team – but the game provided some splendid action and served to show the potential in the current panel of players at Ireland’s disposal.
All thirteen players used contributed to a satisfactory performance but mention should be made of the play of team captain Robbie Keane and of Ireland’s skilful wingers, Aiden McGeady and Damien Duff.
Richard Dunne and John O’Shea once again showed they offer the best combination at centre-back and with the capable Shay Given behind them, Ireland clearly have the talent to go on from here and build a credible World Cup challenge.
Republic of Ireland: Given (Newcastle Utd); Kelly (Birmingham City), Dunne (Manchester City), O’Shea (Manchester United), Kilbane (Wigan Athletic); Duff (Newcastle Utd), Miller (Sunderland), Carsley (Everton), McGeady (Celtic); Doyle (Reading), Keane (Tottenham Hotspur).
Subs: Potter (Wolves) for Miller 46; Hunt (Reading) for Doyle 72.
Brazil: Julio Cesar (Inter Milan); Leonardo (Flamengo), Anderson Silva (Barnsley), Alex (Chelsea), Richarlyson (Sao Paulo); Josue (Wolfsburg), Gilberto Silva (Arsenal), Diego (Werder Bremen), Robinho (Real Madrid); Luis Fabiano (Seville), Baptista (Real Madrid).
Subs: Anderson (Manchester Utd) for Diego 78; Lucas (Liverpool) for Josue 83; Rafael Sobis (Real Betis) for Luis Fabiano 84.
Referee: Mr. R. Rogalla (Switzerland).