Giovanni Trapattoni’s Republic players had controversially missed out on a World Cup place in South Africa this summer following a play-off defeat to France, where former Arsenal striker Thierry Henry handled the ball in the lead up to Les Bleus winning goal.
There was more misfortune in Tuesday night’s glamour friendly against five-time world champions Brazil at Arsenal’s Emirates Stadium in London, as just before half-time, Andrews deflected Robinho’s centre past Shay Given – winning a new record 103rd cap along with defender Kevin Kilbane.
Manchester City striker Robinho, currently on loan at Santos, then netted a well-executed second with 14 minutes left.
While Brazil coach Dunga can look forward to fine-tuning the final preparations for his squad’s opening game against North Korea in Johannesburg on June 15, the Irish will once again be left to reflect on what might have been – but on Tuesday night’s battling performance should go into the qualifying campaign for the 2012 European Championships with genuine optimism.
It had been a bright start by Ireland, officially the away team this evening.
Captain Robbie Keane – taking his place in the starting XI after initially pulling out of the squad because of a slight knee injury – got away down the right and ghosted back inside before his low shot was smothered at the near post by Julio Cesar.
If the Brazilians thought they would be in for an easy ride, they were given a sharp wake-up call when Stoke midfielder Glenn Whelan checked the run of Michel Bastos.
Damien Duff, the Fulham winger, looked dangerous down the left channel, while Paul McShane headed over from a corner.
Brazil, though, continued in their fluid formation, as Kaka weaved his way into the Ireland box before being dispossessed on the goal-line and then drilling a 20-yard shot just over.
It was Ireland, however, who almost snatched the lead on 15 minutes when Kevin Doyle’s close-range header was palmed away by the Brazil keeper.
Only some desperate defending then kept the yellow shirts at bay after Robinho fed Adriano on the edge of the box. The Flamengo forward was tackled by Stephen Kelly before McShane blocked the follow-up effort from the former City striker.
The South Americans were queuing up to take a free-kick after McShane’s foul on Kaka some 25 yards out, with Adriano eventually whipping the ball up towards goal, which Given tipped over.
St Ledger flashed the ball across the Brazil six-yard box with an overhead kick, but nobody gambled at the far post.
Ireland’s luck deserted them for the second match in succession as Brazil took the lead a minute before the break.
Robinho looked offside when he dashed into the right side of the penalty area, before pulling a low pass back across goal, which the unfortunate Keith Andrews deflected past Given.
Both managers resisted the temptation to make wholesale changes for the second half, going again with the same XI.
Blackburn midfielder Andrews squared up to Kaka after the duo clashed on the edge of the Ireland penalty area, English referee Mike Dean soon restoring calm with a stern word.
Trapattoni made the first changes of the evening when Manchester United youngster Darren Gibson and Aiden McGeady replaced Whelan and Duff after 56 minutes.
Brazil, though, continued to press as Maicon skipped into the Ireland box, and his close-range shot hit St Ledger.
It should have been 2-0 moments later, when, with his first touch, substitute Daniel Alves robbed St Ledger and raced clear to round Given – but could only stab his shot wide.
The assistant’s flag saved McShane’s blushes when he was robbed by Maicon, as in feeding Robinho, Brazil were caught offside as they put the ball in the net.
With 21 minutes left, highly-rated Wigan teenager James McCarthy was handed his full international debut, replacing Liam Lawrence.
Former City man Robinho, officially only on loan at Santos, then blazed over before slotting home a text-book second after good work from Kaka and a neat one-two with substitute Grafite.