Robbie Keane said yesterday that Euro 2012 had proved the lowest point of his international career. The Republic of Ireland captain denied, however, that more could have been done to prevent his nation's early exit.
The post-mortem into Ireland's pointless Euro 2012 campaign got under way amid accusations that Giovanni Trapattoni's men had embarrassed themselves on their return to the biggest stage. Keane, who had waited a decade for another crack at a major finals after playing at the 2002 World Cup, did not shy away from the fact that the last week and a half had been as bad a spell as he had known during his 120-cap career.
"Of course," said the striker, who may yet be one of a number of the squad to retire from international football in the coming weeks. "If you don't get something out of a tournament or at least get a few points on the board, it's certainly disappointing."
The manner of Ireland's exit – one goal scored, nine conceded – has led to criticism of Trapattoni's preparation and tactics. There have been claims some of his players were unhappy with a rigorous pre-tournament training camp – something that had echoes of England's 2010 World Cup debacle. But Keane, who insisted there was "not a chance" of Trapattoni being ousted as manager, said: "Everything has been fine. There are no excuses. We can stand here and say this, that and the other. We couldn't have prepared better. We've been beaten by teams that are superior to us. That's it, simple as that."
Keane also scoffed at suggestions Ireland should have torn up the game plan from their successful qualifying campaign once Euro 2012 started. "That's just going against everything we've done in the last four years," he sai. "The way we've played, we've played for four years under Trapattoni. It would be wrong to go into a tournament and try to change it."
Ireland were always going to be up against it to qualify from a group that contained three teams ranked in the top 10 in the world. But their qualifying campaign suggested they would be much harder to beat than they proved until Monday night's battling display against Italy.
Keane said: "You want to be competitive and professional and you want to win every game. Going into this tournament, we believed we could win every game. But it just hasn't been the case. The teams that we played against have been a lot better than us."
He added: "It's been disappointing for everyone, of course. You want to do the best you can and make the country proud. I don't know whether the players could have done any more than what they did. They gave it 100 per cent. Sometimes, you just have to hold your hands up and say, 'We've been beaten by better teams.'"
The goalkeeper Shay Given, who is also considering his international future, claimed none of the squad could have foreseen what was to come when they arrived in Poland. "I don't think anybody did," said the 36-year-old, who earned a record 125th cap against Italy.
Given refused to use an injury in the build-up as an excuse for several costly blunders. He said: "I was 100 per cent fit to play, and when you cross the white line, it's over to you."
Keith Andrews, meanwhile, urged Ireland's veteran players not to quit the international stage. Keane, Given, Damien Duff and Richard Dunne are among those thought likely to retire but Andrews, who would become the oldest outfield player in the squad overnight were that quartet to hang up their boots, said: "The lads that are being talked about in particular have been fantastic servants – absolute stalwarts of the team of the last 10 or 12 years.
"On a personal note, I've really enjoyed playing with them so hopefully they don't go, but it's their decision."
Despite being 31, the 32-cap Andrews is a novice in international terms compared to Keane (120 caps), Given (125), Duff (100) and Dunne (76).
Asked about Trapattoni's future, Andrews said: "Let's be frank, we haven't qualified for this tournament for 24 years. It is easy to sit there and criticise a man who got us the qualification. He's not really going to change something that's brought us a lot of success over the last four years, is he?
But he admitted Ireland ultimately had only themselves to blame for their demise. "We said before the tournament we wanted to give a good account of ourselves and there was no point coming for the craic," he said. "To be perfectly frank, we simply weren't good enough."
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