Former Republic of Ireland striker Niall Quinn questioned manager Martin O’Neill’s approach after his country’s dream to reach next summer’s World Cup in Russia was ended following a 5-1 play-off defeat at home to Denmark.
The Republic held their opponents to a goalless draw in Copenhagen three days ago but a hat-trick from Tottenham midfielder Christian Eriksen inspired the Danes to a comeback win in Dublin after Shane Duffy’s early opener.
Working as a pundit, Quinn told Sky Sports Main Event: “Our inspiration from the dugout, the manager and the coaches there, it was all over the place tonight, I have to say.
“It was hard to watch, I have to say.
“Well done Denmark, but I’m so surprised that Martin O’Neill went from his tried and trusted way.”
Quinn was disappointed in the way Ireland looked like a different team from the one that played the first leg on Saturday night.
He added: “I can’t get away from thinking ‘how were they allowed to do it’? How did that Irish team we saw a few days ago, clamp everything in sight, work things to the degree that frustrated this lot here (Denmark) and yet they go home the happier because they played with the freedom of the park tonight.
“As much as I want to give Denmark the credit, I can’t get away from the fact that – even though we went ahead through a set piece – it looked as if there was way too much space around the places for Denmark to control.
“Even though we got the goal, we were here and saying ‘this isn’t right’ – it’s too much of a change from where we were the other night to go and think we could play them.
“Then a couple of mistakes came, a lack of confidence and they wiped the floor with us.”
Fellow former Ireland international Keith Andrews summed up the hosts’ approach to the match as “clueless”.
He said: “I’ve just witnessed gung-ho football. Clueless, absolutely clueless to allow players like they have, the space, the time in the key areas of the pitch.
“The substitutions, even Ciaran Clark coming off unless he’s injured, but even (Stephen) Ward at centre-half – I really don’t know what I’ve witnessed tonight…no holding midfielder, lack of cohesion. It was gung-ho football and there was only going to be one winner.”
O’Neill made two changes at the break as he brought on Wes Hoolahan and Aiden McGeady for David Meyler and Harry Arter, while Shane Long replaced Ciaran Clark with 20 minutes remaining as Ireland had their final throw of the dice in an attempt to overturn a then 3-1 deficit.
Andrews added: “I thought the first half was silly in terms of what we had set up, but what we’ve seen at half-time. The subs…who was going where?
“We highlighted Eriksen at the top of the show on Saturday as the key player. We kept him so quiet, we sang the players and the staff’s praises of how well they marshalled him and to witness what we’ve just seen here tonight, it beggars belief.”