Whelan: Doing Italian job won't atone for exit
IRELAND star Glenn Whelan says that a win over Italy in Poznan tonight and a third-place finish in the group table will not make up for the disappointment of Ireland's early exit from Euro 2012.
In the build-up to the opening game against Croatia, Whelan backed the theory that Ireland could 'do a Greece' and pull off a shock by winning the tournament, Whelan even joking that while the Greeks were rated as 80/1 to win Euro 2004, he'd be happy to see bookies' odds of 81/1 on an Ireland success.
Those grandiose plans ended within three minutes of the opening game against Croatia where Ireland conceded the first of seven goals in the two games, and while the official line is that the Irish players want to restore battered pride by beating Italy tonight, Whelan says a win won't make up for what came before.
"It would make it a little bit easier for what has happened. Finishing third with a win and three points would be great for us, but no, the big factor was trying to get out of the group and that hasn't happened and the lads are disappointed," says Whelan, who has kept his place in the starting XI for the game in Poznan.
Whelan and his midfield sidekick Keith Andrews have probably been Ireland's most exposed players here in Poland as they were, as Andrews himself admitted, "chasing shadows" against Spain in a futile bid to win possession.
And while he remains one of Trapattoni's most loyal and trusted lieutenants, Whelan has again raised questions about the way Ireland play and suggested a change in tactics, especially in midfield where he has been left playing catch-up with opponents like Luka Modric and Andres Iniesta, or even further back in the qualifiers when Russia's three-man midfield of Roman Shirokov, Igor Denisov and Konstantin Zyryanov ran the show in Dublin and helped the Russians to a 3-2 win.
"Me and Keith have taken a hammering from all over but I don't think we have played against a 4-4-2 since I've been in the team so that hasn't been easy," says Whelan.
"The manager has gone with a system that has got us here and whatever he thinks best for the team then he will do it and you have to get on with it, but if it's been me and Keith as the two in there, it has been difficult.
"I can't remember the last international team we have faced that played 4-4-2. A lot of team nowadays are playing five in midfield or three up top. But it's how we deal with it and we haven't done that in the last two games. It's easy to say now as an excuse that it's systems but it's the one that got us here.
"It's a case of not having enough ball as the games have only kicked off. It's just down to sloppiness and it's something that hasn't happened to us since I've been here as we have always been hard to beat. And the last two games we have been easy to beat as we gave away goals after three minutes," added Whelan, hoping that Ireland's players can shake off the gloom by gaining at least a point against Italy.
"It's been a tough couple of days with what happened against the Spanish but we have some pride to play for," the Dubliner admitted.
"It's hard to take as we are Irish fans ourselves and we have come out here with high expectations and haven't delivered. But we can go into the Italy game with something to shout about if we get a result. It's been disappointing and hard to take but we have to dust ourselves down and get on with it.
"We have pride to play for ourselves and the fans. After the game against Italy I'm sure the manager will sit down and assess everything and see what is going on and make a decision from there. Everyone has given their all and if it's not been enough we will hold our hands up."