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13th Dec 2022

“The fault doesn’t lie with me” – Damien Duff on why Ireland can’t match Croatia for producing top players

Patrick McCarry

Damien Duff

“I have to say, right here, right now, Morocco are one of the four best teams in the world.”

England may have somehow leapfrogged France in the updated FIFA world rankings, despite losing a World Cup quarter final to them, but Damien Duff takes heavy stock in major tournament performances.

Right now, rankings will mean little to the likes of Croatia and Morocco as they dream of World Cup glory. Ahead of Croatia’s semi-final against Argentina, Duff had some interesting comments about how a country of just under four million has been able to reach three World Cup semi-finals in 24 years.

“Listen,” Duff began, before pausing to ponder.

When RTE host Joanne Cantwell pushed, ‘Why is it?’ Duff quickly responded, “You should be asking Abbotstown!”

The ball is firmly in the court of the Football Association of Ireland, according to the former Chelsea and Ireland midfielder, but he was not finished yet.

Damien Duff

Damien Duff on trying to replicate Croatia success

Expanding on why Croatia have been to six World Cups, compared to Ireland’s one [2002] since 1998, Damien Duff made a good point.

“[The fault] doesn’t lie with me, for starters,” said the Shelbourne manager.

“Listen, Croatia consistently produce players, and players win games, like those lads playing tonight. It obviously goes back to finance – there is not a lot of money in the game here, for sure – to coaching, and coaching hours.

“You go back to 2011 and Dinamo Zagreb were rewarded for being one of the top six academies in Europe, and you can see why. They have 10-plus players in every squad. In 2018 [at the World Cup], 14 or 15 players in the squad were all produced from Dinamo Zagreb.

“So, they produce good players and good players win football matches. It goes down to all starting at youth level.”

Wise words from Duff as this nation watches on with a degree of envy, and admiration, at Croatia.

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