When he was manager of Crystal Palace FC, Iain Dowie introduced a new word into the English dictionary. "Bouncebackability" was a clear reference to the capacity of his newly promoted side to recover from setbacks as quickly as possible.
And that is precisely what the Republic of Ireland have to do if they are to maintain their interest in UEFA EURO 2012. Following yesterday's results, Ireland now know they must avoid defeat by Spain on Thursday or else their luggage will be all but loaded onto a plane bound for Dublin.
Can they do it? The players and manager certainly think so. "What frustrates us is the fact the Croatian goals came from situations we normally deal with," said striker Kevin Doyle. "It wasn't that they cut us open. So when we get back to [our camp in] Sopot we will assess what went wrong and rectify it. We're still positive. After all, that was our first defeat in 15 games."
Helping them maintain their sunny outlook is the manner in which they responded to their two previous competitive defeats under Giovanni Trapattoni – to France in November 2009, and Russia in October 2010. Each time, the players took the handbrake off and played with a never-say-die attitude, a policy change from the conservative approach usually favoured. On the flip side, Thursday's opposition are Spain. "We know they will be tough," said Doyle, "but as footballers you always believe you can win. If you didn't believe, then why would you bother playing?"
If Ireland are to win – something few neutrals are predicting – then the defensive issues which hurt them last night have to be addressed. All three Croatia goals followed Ireland's failure to clear their lines. In particular, the third – Mario Mandžukić's second of the evening – stemmed from the concession of too much time and space to Croatia's right-sided players, Darijo Srna and Ivan Rakitić.
It goes without saying that a repeat of those mistakes against the Spanish could be costly. With this in mind, the possibility of Stephen Hunt, a wide midfielder who, according to Trapattoni, "does the work of two men", seems logical. So too the implementation of an Irish version of catenaccio. 'Parking the bus' is the modern wording of this defensive philosophy and realistically it is something Ireland need to keep in mind to get a result. Otherwise they'll be on a bus home.
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