It wasn't just that Ireland was outclassed during its brief, bruising Magical Misery Tour through Euro 2012. The problem was that, after fans talked themselves into believing in the boys in green, the team played such dispirited, pessimistic soccer.
Maybe it's a sensation that more regular qualifiers become blasè about, but when your team hasn't been to a major tournament for ten years, or a European Championship for 24, to see your team actually there—in the actual stadium, on the actual pitch, in front of the actual world—leads to explosive goosebumpery. But, as Irish fans (re-)learned the hard way against Croatia, the game has a cruel way of dealing with that sort of hope.
Being a soccer fan invariably involves more cheering for the jersey than the player wearing it. For the national teams competing in Euro 2012, that's doubly so. Players don't just play for a national team—they play for their country. Which means they play with all the hang-ups and other issues of that country, too.
The referee is a parody of God. Nothing officially happens unless he deems it to have happened. But he and his assistants can only see so much. Why was this incident called a foul when that identical one was not? Because the ref saw this one, and not that one. The ball crossed the line: surely it's a goal? Ha! Your physics are puny next to the fact that the linesman's view was blocked.
Were anxiety to be expunged from football, the game would be desiccated, infinitely smaller, its mythologies individual and evanescent. We can't have that happen.