12.10.2005 at 19:45 Lansdowne Road
Republic of Ireland
0 - 0
Referee: M Merk (Germany)
World Cup Qualifier / Prog-match
Rep of Ireland 1 Switzerland 0
Ireland’s World Cup challenge expired in heart-breaking fashion at Lansdowne Road where their lack of credible goal-scoring ability came back to haunt them.
Ireland went out with a roar for they gave the capacity attendance a full-blooded and committed performance in a game of relentless action.
Ireland invested their effort with energy and determination but to no avail. Their sustained attacks broke with the consistency of the waves on an incoming tide against the bulwark of an unyielding Swiss defence.
It was raw, it was passionate, it was relentless attack from Ireland but lacking in the subtlety needed to out-wit Switzerland’s resourceful defence.
In the final analysis one was left to commend Switzerland for their tenacity and the effectiveness of their well-balanced teamwork.
They were organised and confident in face of Ireland’s attacking frenzy and they also contrived to look the more dangerous in their breakaway attacks. They were sportingly applauded by the Irish fans as they celebrated at the final whistle.
Ireland enjoyed majority possession, set the pace of the game and processed their aggressive game plan with vigour and determination but harvested little in return.
Ireland’s manager picked an attacking team with John O’Shea partnering Matt Holland in central midfield as Ireland set out for the goals they needed to extend their interest in the World Cup.
There was a drive and a purpose to their football but little in the way of calculated precision. It was football with more passion than precision and Switzerland coped with the challenge with an element of comfort.
They were hard and unyielding in defence and although they were confined to deep defensive duties for long stretches of the opening half, they never looked other than composed and capable.
It might have been much more stressful for them had Ireland taken advantage of a glorious scoring chance within two minutes of a frantic opening.
A corner from the right wing by Andy Reid was met by Ian Harte and although he was un-markede and only ten yards from goal, his header was turned wide of the posts.
This was effectively the only real scoring chance created by Ireland despite their territorial supremacy.
Ominously, Switzerland carried more menace in attack, especially when central midfielder Johann Vogel was in possession. He orchestrated their work with calm precision but it was significant that Switzerland’s looked for him whenever they were in possession.
Ireland, in their drive for some return, too often adopted the longer approach with defenders seeking the direct route to Clinton Morrison and Robbie Keane.
Against physically powerful defenders like Phillippe Senderos and Patrick Muller, Ireland earned little return from this tactic.
They breathed a collective sigh of relief in the 31st minute when Vogel and Philipp Dedgen combined to set up Tranquillo Barnetta on the right wing for a cross which found Alexander Frei unmarked twelve yards from goal.
Frei somehow managed to turn his header outside. Yet the threat to Ireland was self evident as they reached half-way without a goal.
Ireland continued to dictate the terms of the game in the second half but the Swiss were secure and resourceful under pressure.
Ireland threatened in the 52nd minute when John O’Shea and Robbie Keane combined to find Andy Reid in a favourable position wide on the left.
He drew defenders to him before turning the ball back for Stephen Carr to cross but Clinton Morrison failed to capitalise with an attempted overhead kick when he might have been better advised to try and control the ball.
Ireland’s intensive attacking play compressed the play into Swiss territory and it was no unusual to see them withdraw all eleven players to counter.
Ireland were close again in the 59th minute when Ian Harte’s left-wing corner was met high in the air by Kevin Kilbane but his header lacked conviction and goalkeeper Zuberbuhler saved easily.
Ireland were close again after 65 minutes when a free from Richard Dunne dropped behind the massed line of Switzerland's defence and although John O'Shera got his foot to the ball, he could not avoid turning it across goal and wide.
Desperate now in their search for the goal they needed, manager Brian Kerr withdrew Robbie Keane in the 67th minute and replaced him with Stephen Elliott, the goal-scoring hero of their win over Cyprus.
Elliott brought a fresh impetus to Ireland’s play and he was almost in after 74 minutes when Harte found Fitzgerald and he flicked a ball into the penalty area.
Elliott was gathering himself for a shot on the turn when Muller forced his body between the Irish striker and the ball to avert the danger.
Switzerland always contrived to look the more dangerous in breakaway attacks and twice in the space of three minutes Ireland had need of the great Shay Given.
He was lucky in the 79th minute when a speeding cross from Magnin evaded him and ran to the far upright where the ball just eluded substitute Streller but Given showed his class immediately afterwards.
Frei was sent clear of the Irish defence from half-way by Magnin and a hush fell over the stadium as he bore down on goal, unimpeded. Given loomed large in his sights and spun spectacularly to parry his shot and then dive on it.
Ireland continued to ring the changes in search of the magic combination to spring the Swiss defence as Stephen Reid and Gary Doherty were introduced and it was a hectic and tens closing ten minutes of full-blooded action.
Referee Merk of Germany blew the whistle with Ireland still throwing themselves availingly on the Swiss defence and his whistle signalled the end of Ireland's World Cup challenge with France winning the group by beating Cyprus and Switzerland filling second spot and going forward to the play-offs.