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Saturday 16 December 2017

Andrews see-saw showing sums up Ireland

SCORING for your country against Brazil in front of 40,000 fans is the stuff you dream about as a kid. Just ask Liam Brady, who still rates his goal in the 1-0 win for Ireland over Brazil in 1987 as one of his favourites.

Just a pity for Keith Andrews -- like Brady a midfielder from the Artane area of Dublin -- that he'll go down in the record books for scoring at the wrong end against the Brazilians, as it was an unfortunate OG from the Blackburn Rovers man which gave Brazil a 1-0 half-time lead at the Emirates Stadium last night -- that goal a platform for a well-deserved Brazil win. Andrews was winning his 13th senior cap last night.

"I had never scored an own goal in my career before, so I suppose it's not too bad to score my first against the world champions," Andrews told the Herald with a smile, the midfielder ending up slightly confused with his football history, forgetting that Italy are of course world champions, not the Brazilians.

Andrews' evening summed up Ireland in a lot of ways: good in parts, as he was tidy enough in the first half, but also sloppy. There was a moment of panic on 70 minutes when a slip in possession by Andrews allowed Kaka some unexpected space and it was fortunate for Ireland that Robinho fired over from Kaka's cross.

No wonder, then, that Andrews, after the game, was torn between the fact that he'd put in a good shift and that his deflection past Shay Given from Robinho's cross gave them a goal.

"It was very disappointing, especially as we had played so well in the first half up to then -- we played some great stuff. They had very few chances so for us to go into the dressing rooms a goal down, especially with a goal that was offside, was disheartening, and then in the second half we didn't do ourselves justice," he said.

"For the own goal, Robinho made a run past me. I stayed in line with the rest of the defence and I assumed the flag would go up as he was clearly offside. I tried to get back in but I couldn't get a full foot on it and, unfortunately, it scrambled past Shay.

"They turned on the style in the second half. We were very casual at times, myself included. We were sloppy on the ball and we invited pressure onto ourselves and you can't do that against a top side like Brazil. They could have had a few more goals in the second half and they really showed what a class side they are," he continued.





Drilled

"The manager has drilled it into us and we were over-playing it in our own areas in the second half, and with the likes of Robinho and Kaka floating around you can't do that. They will eventually punish you and that's what they did. They could easily have scored one or two more."

The friendly nature of the game was clearly evident on some levels: nine substitutions for one thing, and the fact that some offences that would normally have led to a booking caused the ref to keep the yellow card in his pocket.

But there were a few moments when there was a bit of bite in the game. The petulance of Roma defender Juan on 75 minutes was one incident that would be expected in a kickabout in the schoolyard of a primary school -- Kevin Doyle lost one of his boots but, as he raced to pick it up and put it back on his foot, Juan got there first and kicked the boot away, a childish act by the Brazilian which annoyed Doyle.

But there were a few bristling moments between Andrews, a product of the Stella Maris school, and Real Madrid superstar Kaka. "He was just telling me about his good mate Jesus and all that," Andrews smiled.

"I thought we needed to get back into the flow of things. There was no point in seeing it as an out-and-out friendly, all tippy-tappy. I wanted us to get stuck in a bit more and set down a marker for the next campaign so there were a few tackles flying about.

"Kaka didn't seem to like it playing where he's played before, in Spain and Italy and for their international team. He mustn't have seen much of the physical side, but he was fine in the end, though."

Sadly, last night's events in London were not successful on a few levels. A diminished appetite for live football, the recession and consequently a lack of spending power among the young Irish and Brazilian communities in the UK led to a lot of empty seats in the Emirates -- just 40,052 punters paying in to the stadium (more than 60,000 went to see Arsenal's most recent home game against Sunderland).

The positives from an Irish point of view were the impressive display by Stephen Kelly at right back and an encouraging cameo from debutant James McCarthy. But the many negatives included the painfully sloppy Irish play at the back, the porous nature of the defence, and the very sobering thought that when John O'Shea and Richard Dunne are missing our next line of defence is Paul McShane, a player who showed once again last night that he is simply not up to the demands that international football place on a player.



Plus

One other plus was that we can now start talking about the PP era: post Paris.

"I think it was important to get together after what happened in France. It's been a few months since Paris and we have no more games now until May, so it was important to get together as a group and get all that out of our system," added Andrews.

"We didn't talk about Paris all that much. We are trying to look forward now and not backwards. In the first half we set out our stall for the new campaign and, hopefully, we can now bring that performance forward and produce it for the full 90 minutes when we have the friendlies in May and then the qualifiers in September.

"And it was good to see the new lads in the squad. I had a game with my club on Sunday so I missed that day's training with Ireland and I didn't have a great chance to see the newer lads in the squad but, from the bits I have seen, I have been impressed.

They are good lads and good players and it was great for James to make his debut against the world champions," added Andrews, one Irish player clearly still suffering from the memories of the last campaign as he seems to have temporarily forgotten that our group opponents Italy, and not Brazil, are the reigning World Cup holders.

And maybe that's a sign, that last night's game (and especially the dreadful defending in the second half) is best forgotten too.

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