For Ireland, EURO 2024 feels a whole lot farther away after the dour performance in Athens on Friday night.
Though Ireland are heavily favoured to beat Gibraltar in Monday evening's qualifier in the Aviva Stadium, that would have been the bare minimum going into this campaign, and opening defeats to France and Greece have left the campaign to reach next year's European Championships in Germany in tatters after just two games.
Nobody could have reasonably expected Ireland to take any more than a few lucky points off the might of France and the Netherlands. Greece, on the other hand, are pound-for-pound a stronger team on paper than Ireland, and there is no shame in losing to them in their own backyard.
Manager Stephen Kenny is now under renewed pressure, with a general acceptance that the defeat to Greece was a new low point of his reign in charge.
Irish legend John Aldridge has spoken out in defence of Kenny, saying that he believes very few managers would be capable of getting more out of this group of players. Nonetheless, Aldridge has called Kenny's tactics "naive," and said that Ireland will not progress as long as they persist.
Ireland v Gibraltar: John Aldridge questions Stephen Kenny
In his column for the Sunday World, John Aldridge said that even the likes of Pep Guardiola and Jurgen Klopp would struggle to get this Ireland team fighting with the very best teams in Europe, and said that getting rid of Stephen Kenny would not be an immediate fix.
Nonetheless, Aldridge questioned Kenny's set up of this Irish team, calling the approach "naive" and saying that he does not have the players to make a possession-based style of football work:
The debate over Kenny and whether he should be replaced will be the focus ahead of Monday night's game against Gibraltar in Dublin.
All I will say on this subject is that Kenny is incredibly naive if he continues to believe he can get this group of players to win matches playing attractive, flowing football.
He has been telling anyone who will listen for the last couple of years that he is changing the way the Ireland team plays and that a brand new brand of winning football will emerge sooner rather than later...but it's not realistic with this set of players.
Aldridge mentioned the recent successes of both Scotland and Wales as examples of what the addition of just one or two world class players can do to elevate the performance levels of a squad, and bemoaned the defection of messrs Rice and Grealish to England.
As a member of Jack Charlton's immortal team of the 1980s and 1990s, Aldridge knows a thing or two about how Irish teams can achieve success on the biggest stage. He used the style of play employed by Charlton as an example of what he believes Kenny should default to:
We didn’t go into matches against the best sides in the world thinking we could blow them away. We played to our strengths, made ourselves difficult to beat and then had the quality in the key moments to grab a big goal that allowed us to worry every opponent.
Our run to the 1990 World Cup quarter-finals is remembered as one of the great moments for the Ireland team, but we didn’t win a single game in Italy that summer. What Jack did was set us up to ensure we were tough to beat, and even if we didn’t win matches, we were not losing.
Sadly, we are a million miles away from repeating that kind of success and I feel we are making life harder for ourselves by trying to pretend we can pass teams off the park with clever tactics.
It might be against Kenny’s principles, but he needs to deploy tactics that give Ireland the best chance of qualifying for tournaments, and if he doesn’t want to do that, then maybe he is not the right man for the job.
A return to route-one football would be a disappointing end to the Kenny era which, if nothing else, has seen Ireland teams set up in far more intriguing and exciting ways, with more ambition built around a young squad.
But, if the results don't turn around soon, it's unlikely we'll have much longer in which to see Kenny's vision achieved.