Ireland's men in the diamond-like setup glittered tonight

It's become the formation du jour for the Boys in Green of late

Ireland, James McClean, Robbie Brady

Ireland players celebrate at the final whistle ©INPHO/James Crombie

It's not a night for cold, hard analysis but let's pick out one of the good points from Lille tonight.

Yes, Ireland didn't carve out too many clear-cut chances until the final minutes but the lopsided diamond formation yet again proved to be our strongest suit at present in terms of balance.

This time, James McCarthy was at the base of the diamond normally occupied by Glenn Whelan.

It's his best role, where he can break up play and make simple passes. When Whelan is there, it's almost an expectation that McCarthy needs to impose himself more and it can often be redundant to have both players on the pitch together when they like to do broadly similar things.

James McCarty's defensive shift. Tackle (green), interceptions (blue) and ball recoveries (orange)

 

But while he was not necessarily outstanding in Lille, he did everything asked of him as the deepest midfielder defensively in a solid display.

Goalscorer Robbie Brady's flexibility is such a boon for us. Winger, central midfielder, left-back... his versatility gave Martin O'Neill so many options and he probed continuously throughout. In the diamond he can drift out wide but has the technical ability to drift in centrally when required. And he has made set-piece deliveries his own now.

Jeff Hendrick was a busy boy

Jeff Hendrick's box-to-box qualities and fearlessness with shots from range as a flanking player in a diamond shone in the Sweden match and again against Italy - and he is unlucky not to have scored one long-range effort in each game. What is good to see is not just the fearlessness when shooting, but the energy he brings to midfield as he grows in stature.

James McClean has often been an impact sub but in Lille his directness helped get us up the field, even if end product was lacking.

With McClean there staying wider on the left flank, it wasn't a diamond in the sense of the formation used against Sweden when Brady provided the left-wing width from full-back.

Thus it was more lopsided which creates space for Seamus Coleman on the right flank because the likes of Hendrick on the right station will naturally draw themselves inside by instinct.

But all four shone and Wes Hoolahan too deserves a mention for his outstanding cross for Brady, mere seconds after he had failed to make the most of a great opportunity to score himself.

A different sort of diamond so, compared to the Sweden game but it got the Italian job done*.

*This is the last use of the Italian job cliche for the time being.