Norway continued their fine recent form by beating Ireland on a rainy Wednesday night in Dublin.
From the off, Ireland were moving well against a compact Norway side set out in three very flat banks (4-5-1). But although Ireland retained possession, and had passing options, the ball was stuck in harmless areas. Despite the Irish being set out in a 4-4-2, you could argue that they actually had four banks – the widemen pushing up higher than the very deep centre-midfielders.
Nevertheless, coach Giovanni Trappatoni will have been pleased with his attackers; Kevin Doyle, constantly dragging either Brede Hangeland or Henning Hauger out of position, and Shane Long always offering his colleagues run (either through the D, or down the left channel).
Norway were determined to play just as narrowly in attack as they were in defence. The tactic failed, however, because their players ended up on top of one another, and unsure of what to do, where to go and who was seizing the initiative.
The Irish were far more comfortable in possession, and relished the low tempo of a game where neither side did much pressing. Unsurprisingly, they took an early lead. John O’Shea stepped out with the ball after single-handedly breaking down a Norwegian attack, and slipped Shane Long clean through in the box. Continue reading