(France may be about to sheepishly bow out from the World Cup, but in an alternative reality, Ireland qualified for South Africa and were drawn in Group A. We've retrieved this dispatch from last night's match against Mexico, a rematch of USA '94. Further reports from this alternative dimension to follow)
Mexico 0 - 0 Ireland
Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni saluted Ireland’s nil-all draw against Mexico today in Polokwane as ‘heroic, molto heroic’.
The Boys In Green were on the back foot from the opening whistle, and relied chiefly on goalie Keiren Westwood to keep them even. Arsenal striker Carlos Vela set the tempo early on with a seventh-minute strike that seared the crossbar.
The Mexicans had 65% of the possession and had a number of clear-cut chances on goal that they simply failed to convert.
Giovani Dos Santos, in particular, punished Ireland’s defense. He launched a number of darting runs past Kevin Kilbane on the right flank, only to be let down by poor finishing.
Ireland’s best chance of the game came in the 40th minute, when Kevin Doyle flicked a Westwood goal kick into the path of an on-running Damien Duff. The Fulham player’s shot was struck so feebly it was considered a pass by statisticians.
Mexico was fast out of the gate to start the second half but the Irish midfield and central defense played with a suffocating angst and sucked the life out of the game. The vuvuzuela din in the half-empty stadium rose in the last ten minutes as the both sides launched inept attack after inept attack.
After the match, Mexican manager Javier Aguirre derided the Irish team.
“They play anti-futbol. They do not deserve to be at the World Cup.”
The result was Ireland’s second-consecutive scoreless draw. In a tournament full of defensive play, Ireland’s negative tactics have drawn some fierce criticism from fans and pundits alike. The BBC’s Alan Hansen described the match as “like winning a can of shite in the lottery”, while in Soccer City, one man burned his tickets for the group decider between South Africa-Ireland.
“I can’t face the boredom,” he told cameras.
Despite the uproar, Trapattoni still believes that Ireland can summon the spirit of Paris and beat the fancied hosts. He said Ireland have been suffering so far from a “lack of vrrooom”.
“No vrooom,” he said.
If Ireland win the match, it will go through to the Round of 16.
Meanwhile, Leon Best has been ruled out of Ireland’s deciding tie with South Africa after blowing an ear drum due to a spike in vuvazuela noise that followed his 89th minute miss on open Mexican goal.