Cyprus may have achieved one of their best-ever results with their 5-2 Group D victory over the Republic of Ireland but coach Angelos Anastasiadis was keeping a cool head in the aftermath of their stunning success in Nicosia.
Coach stays focused
Anastasiadis revealed he had been confident his charges could beat the Irish but said the memory of last month's 6-1 defeat by Slovakia in their opening UEFA EURO 2008™ qualifier meant there was no danger of them getting carried away now. "I can't smile," said the coach, whose mind was already turning to Wednesday's visit to Wales. "We have to go to Wales and forget we've just won 5-2 so we can remain focused on what will be a very difficult game for us."
Victory to savour
This was a win to savour for a Cyprus team who took just one point from their home matches in 2006 FIFA World Cup qualifying – and that from a 2-2 draw against the Faroe Islands. Olympiacos CFP striker Michalis Konstantinou and substitute Constantinos Charalambides both struck twice and Alexandros Garpozis also found the net as they claimed their best victory since beating Spain 3-2 in a UEFA EURO 2000™ qualifier in September 1998.
"I told my players beforehand that if they played to their potential they could beat the Irish easily," added Anastasiadis, and nobody in the Ireland camp would disagree that this was an "easy" scalp for a Cyprus side who could have scored more as danger man Konstantinou hit the woodwork and also missed when clean through.
Ireland manager Steve Staunton admitted he was "embarrassed" by what he described as the worst display in all his years in the international set-up – and with a record 102 appearances as a player, the 37-year-old has known plenty of ups and downs. "Defensively that's the worst performance I have seen by an Ireland team," he said. "Of course I'm embarrassed. I wear my heart on my sleeve and I'm not afraid to say that, while the lads are also embarrassed. They are left wondering just why it was so bad."
Mistakes from defender Andy O'Brien and goalkeeper Paddy Kenny led to Cyprus's first two goals as Ireland suffered their heaviest loss in a competitive outing since a 6-0 reverse against Austria in 1971. The fact they had won all six previous meetings with Cyprus - scoring 21 goals and conceding two – only compounds the embarrassment of a squad who face the Czech Republic in Dublin on Wednesday.
'Not walking away'
After two qualifying defeats, Ireland have a mountain to climb and defender Richard Dunne will be absent against the Czechs after his late dismissal in Nicosia. Yet Staunton, who has been in the job ten months, stressed: "I'm not walking away. We have to pick ourselves up for the game with the Czech Republic on Wednesday and get it right."
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