Wednesday, February 06, 2008

It's Just Like Watching Brazil

A common chant around Windsor Park at Northern Ireland games. Well tonight for me, it wasn't just like watching Brazil, I actually was! Brazil came to Croke Park to take on the Republic of Ireland, and the Reverend John managed to get us tickets through his network of Donegal contacts.

This was my first time at Croke Park, and I have to say, I was impressed with the size. Roughly 88,000 people jampacked into the stadium - an awful lot bigger than Windsor Park on match day. However, the stadium doesn't look right - it looks sort of half-done, as the stands aren't the whole way round. One end only has about half a stand, on the bottom deck.

Yet despite the number of people there, I think I have seen livelier funerals. Give me the 14,000 passionate Northern Ireland supporters of the Green and White Army any day. At Windsor we sing from start to finish (and after), but there seemed to be little passion in the Irish fans tonight.

To give them their dues, Ireland played well, with some good moves. In the first half, the Brazilian right-back didn't win a chase at all, and he wasn't much better in the second half. Duff and Keane seemed to work well together, and I was impressed with McGeady as well.

Yet I wasn't there to see the boys in green. It was all about the team in yellow; the nation who have set all the records in the World Cup; the team who showed their outstanding class and skill in simple but elegant football, threading together passes and not hurrying shots - as someone behind me remarked, 'they're trying to walk the ball into the net!' And on the 66th minute, score they did - Robinho finishing a good advance up the pitch.

For me, though, while the whole Brazilian team was impressive, my man of the match would have to be Julio Baptista, their number 7. No matter where the action was, he was involved; he seemed to always be on or near the ball, and covered every inch of the pitch.

All in all, a good evening, and us country boys managed to negotiate our way through the heaving streets of Dublin - the crowds that were out, you would think it was the Twelfth day!

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