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5 Times Ireland Ditched The "Biff, Bang, Wallop" And Played Football Against Top Opposition

5 Times Ireland Ditched The "Biff, Bang, Wallop" And Played Football Against Top Opposition
By Mikey Traynor

When Brian Kerr let loose on his feelings regarding the way Ireland play football, and the way we teach our youngsters to play football, his words struck a chord with the majority of fans around the country.

We often look at how countries like Germany or Spain set up their sides and play pure football, while moaning at the route-one culture we've become so attached to since the Big Jack era, but why can't we play like that ourselves?

Well, we can. We have done. Kerr said it best himself:

There's been periods in Irish football, through various managers, where we have played excellent football, as recently as last year.

At the Euros, it's one year to the day since we beat Italy, there was nothing wrong with the football that day. When it was put up to us that we needed to win the match, players stood up and played with an Irishness, there was an aggressive attitude in our play, but also there was invention, there was technique, there was skill.

That brilliant goal, there was a build up, Aiden McGeady, and Wesley Hoolahan, that ball into the box and Brady gets up, but there was stuff happening all over the field that day that gave me hope we were coming back.

Even in the 2002 World Cup, when we played Germany in that famous game, Robbie scored the equalising goal, what football were we playing then?

We weren't playing biff, bang, wallop stuff. There was a mix in the Irish game.

He's right. Granted, Robbie's goal came from a biff from Steve Finnan, a bang from Niall Quinn, and a wallop from Keano, but we played some great football up until kitchen sink time.

After being deeply moved by Kerr's words, we had a quick think of some standout performances in terms of quality football, and came up with the following.

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This is not a definitive list, so if you immediately thought of a performance that isn't listed, then be sure to get in touch.

Republic of Ireland 2-0 Croatia - September 1998

Croatia had just proven themselves on the world stage with an impressive 3rd placed finish at the 1998 World Cup when they arrived in Dublin with a team including the likes of Zvonimir Boban and Mario Stanic. And we turned them over.

2-0 up inside 15 minutes, Ireland inflicted Croatia's only defeat of their Euro 2000 qualification campaign (where would eventually finish one point ahead of them) as Keane and Kinsella controlled the midfield, and Damien Duff and Robbie Keane had too much energy for the Croats to cope.

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Netherlands 2-2 Republic of Ireland - September 2000

Often held up as the best away performance by an Irish side, the fact that Roy Keane was absolutely furious with our 2-2 draw, and the delighted reaction to getting that point, says it all.

We were magnificent. The Dutch were stunned as we raced out into a 2-0 lead, playing some expansive, attacking football that left the Irish fans watching in a state of shock. McAteer's goal in particular had a 'was that really Ireland?!' element to it.

Incredibly, we were so open and aggressive that we allowed Holland back into the game and ended up paying for it as they pulled level when we really should have been shutting up shop. That idea seems incredible to think of now.

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Spain 1-1 Republic of Ireland - June 2002

When Robbie Keane sent the ball fizzing past the post of Iker Cassilas in the first minute of the game, it was clear to everyone that we were there to play with absolutely nothing to lose.

Again, our adventurous play cost us, as Spain scored one and could have had four by half time as they carved us open at the back a number of time, but we kept on trying to play with Holland and Kinsella working tirelessly in midfield, and Damien Duff running riot. Look at Carles Puyol's face in the above picture. Doesn't know what the hell is going on.

Even in extra-time we were always looking to play and create, and if anybody was going to push on and get a winner it was the boys in green. Sadly it never came, but we exited the tournament with our heads held high.

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France 1-1 Republic of Ireland - November 2009

The need to win and the extra incentive of the other camp talking shite about us, the perfect recipe for a gung-ho Ireland performance.

Trailing 1-0 and with the French absolutely sure they had done enough to win the tie with their 1-0 win at Croke Park days before, Ireland flew out of the traps and Raymond Domenech's men didn't want to know.

An absolutely sublime team goal down the left was finished by Robbie Keane, and after we levelled the score on aggregate we went in search of a winner. We really should have had it too, as Duffer spurned a glorious chance while one-on-on with Hugo Lloris.

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What happened in extra-time is well documented, but everybody knows that the injustice hurt far more because we had played so well and simply didn't deserve to go out like that.

Italy 0-1 Republic of Ireland

When Robbie Brady nodded that ball past the hapless Salvatore Sirigu, the explosion of joy and euphoria was boosted by the fact that most of us were starting to accept that all of our good play in that game was going to be for nothing. Another moral victory.

Seamus Coleman set the tone early on, and Jeff Hendrick coming so close to an absolute screamer let the Italians know that we weren't going to try what had failed us against Belgium. The Everton man, along with Stephen Ward on the other flank, were constantly offering support and pulling markers out of position, McClean was on a mission, and while Daryl Murphy was up top we were playing the ball into his feet rather than just punting it in his general direction.

We deserved our win, because we played exactly the opposite to how we did against Belgium. We got the ball on the deck, we gave it a lash, and we enjoyed one of the great nights in Irish football.

We carried that confidence into the qualification campaign and claimed a big result away to Austria, again playing some decent stuff, but any time we face the likes of Georgia or Moldova we seem to forget that we are capable of it.

It's no secret, we play our best football when we have a point to prove, and when we have nothing to lose. The frustrations Irish fans regularly feel towards the team and the way we play are almost exclusively from games where we are expected to go out and win a match. To push the tempo.

When we know we need a big performance, when we know it's going to be bodies on the line from minute one, we often rise to the occasion.

SEE ALSO: Brian Kerr's Absolutely Perfect Take On The State Of Irish Football Is A Must See

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