Flaws in the new Republic format

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The Independent Online
DEREK POTTER

Though he did himself and the Republic of Ireland no favours with a flash of frustration in Dublin, Roy Keane may have helped to focus the thinking of England and Scotland before Euro 96.

Russia were not just "comfortable on the ball'' as managers say, they revealed a technique, speed of movement and thought and individual skills which are rapidly expanding in Continental nations.

"Russia are one of the best teams in the world," Mick McCarthy said after his first game in charge. McCarthy switched to a modern format with three central defenders and two "wing backs" after the contrasting style that served Jack Charlton so well.

Against teams of Russia's calibre, the problems created individual frustrations leading to a red card for the acting captain, Keane, as much as collective failure. McCarthy hinted at that in his inquest on a 2-0 defeat and the dismissal of Keane seconds before the end.

"I have learned from a disappointing defeat that we can play our system and we can compete at passing the ball around," McCarthy said. "In the first half we were dithering at the back and clattering the ball forward. It was no good to us. But when we believed in it in the second half, we looked capable of competing and created a lot of problems for them."

Liverpool's Mark Kennedy, Blackburn Rovers' Jeff Kenna, a second-half replacement for the injured Andy Townsend, and goalkeeper Shay Given made outstanding contributions.

The substitution of penalty expert John Aldridge before Steve Staunton's spot-kick was saved, added to Irish misfortunes.

n Northern Ireland made a losing start to their 1998 World Cup campaign when they were beaten 2-0 at home to Norway. The Irish striker Iain Dowie was sent off five minutes from the end.

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