All countries are in foreign territory when a major tournament is in progress. The hosts themselves might be the most disoriented of all after a couple of seasons without a competitive game, but every team has to deal with the sudden shift in standards. For all Giovanni Trapattoni's deserved renown, his Republic of Ireland side floundered in a 3-1 loss to Croatia.

The countries have a similar population of around 4.4m but the victors are endowed with a greater supply of talent. That was to be expected while Croatia are eighth in the world rankings and Ireland lie 10 places beneath. Trapattoni, all the same, did not turn his mind to pragmatism.

Perhaps he had undue faith in the rigour of his lineup. Ireland had the best defensive record of the runners-up in the qualification groups who went into the play-offs. The test, all the same, was far more severe in Poznan and the side could not establish itself properly against Slaven Bilic's men. The tactics were similar, but perhaps they ought not to have been. In essence both teams were in 4-4-2 formation, although Robbie Keane was markedly deeper than the outright centre-forward Kevin Doyle. Adopting a similar approach to Croatia was a dubious choice when Bilic's team were so much more effective in the formation.

It has to be said that the outcome was not entirely produced by high-minded decisions. There was randomness, Wolfsburg's Mario Mandzukic was credited with two goals even though the second hit the woodwork and bounced off the goalkeeper Shay Given.

A ricochet had also helped set up Nikica Jelavic to put Croatia in front again after Sean St Ledger had levelled the score at 1-1. While the match was in the balance, the play was far too open for the health of Ireland. We should not assume that Trapattoni was overwhelmed by idealism and romance.

It is more likely that he was all too conscious of practicalities. This match, on the face of it, was the manager's prime opportunity since the fixtures to come are against Spain and Italy. The trouble was that Croatia's perspective is identical and the teams were separated in Poznan by the superiority of Bilic's team.

The Ireland lineup was known long before the match. Trapattoni made little secret of it. Croatia might now feel that they have been lucky. It is not often a side learns that the opposition is not intent on halting them. While the remarkable gathering of Ireland fans was eye-catching, they might have preferred a tight struggle to the expansive contest with superior opponents.

Croatia had completed the scoring by the 48th minute. Ireland, even then, would have been turning their minds to rallying in the next match. Aiden McGeady, a creative midfielder having a trying match, was withdrawn in the 54th minute, with the centre-forward Kevin Doyle also seeing his involvement come to an early end.

The captain did not last either, although it was rational to take off Keane when there was 15 minutes remaining in the match. Even so, there was pathos to the decision taken over a striker who will be 32 next month. He has scored the spectacular total of 53 goals for his country from 117 matches despite the fact that he is more rover than poacher.

Adding to the impact in the days ahead at Euro 2012 will be a challenge. Ireland should probably have been more circumspect against Croatia, but each side saw the occasion to take full points before squaring up to likely ordeals in the remainder of the group.

Ireland, with the images of Jack Charlton's side incised on the national consciousness forever, have been seen at times as a disobliging bunch. They were the sort of team to be feared as well as disliked for the utilitarian approach. No one sees the present generation in such terms.

Nonetheless, the time is approaching when obstinacy will have to be prominent again. Ireland were mistaken in the notion that Croatia might well be defeated. In the days to come, we could well see Ireland attempting to hinder and exasperate their next opponents. Maybe there will be a touch of catenaccio from the side when the closing group match pits them against Italy.