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Euro 2012 Team Preview: Ireland

 Posted by on June 1, 2012 at 2:02 pm  European Champions League
Jun 012012

This may come as a surprise to some, but Ireland have only qualified for the Euros twice: once in 1988 and now in 2012. Eire are somewhat an unknown entity in the competition even though they are ranked 18th in the world and feature a host of players from England’s top flight and a few major stars for their respective clubs and with a tactically astute (albeit defensively minded) coach in Trapattoni they could really be a surprise package if they can make it out of a very tough group featuring World Champions Spain and a very strong Italy side.

Why they will succeed 

Ireland tend to play a standard 4-4-2 with Keane playing the slightly deeper of the front two. Usually being partnered with Kevin Doyle this can be easily interchanged with Shane Long allowing for a more direct style. This bustling forward line is surprisingly backed up by a very solid central midfield pairing of Glenn Whelan and Keith Andrews. These two don’t let anything go. They will harass all match long. Balance this with two wide players in Aiden McGeady and Damien Duff and you have the glimmers of counter attacking football. Don’t expect this though. Expect Eire to play negatively. They look to ware teams down soaking up pressure and playing the ball around the back and deep midfield almost in a Cattenaccio (the bolt door) style. Eire will look to steal 1-0 wins on the break, something which infuriates their fans. But if they get the results I am sure they wont mind.

Why they will fail

If you try and play Italy at their own game and get it wrong your’e in big trouble. Eire could be humiliated on two occasions if they don’t get their tactics right. This shouldn’t be a problem with the vastly experienced Trapattoni, who was in charge of Juventus when I was born. Strength in depth is also a massive issue. After the first 11 there is very little to choose from. They do have a potential game changer in James McClean, but after that they are very thin on the ground. Questions too have to be asked about the centre back pairing of Dunne and St.Ledger. Is St.Ledger mentally strong enough to be taunted by Iniesta and friends for 90 minutes. If Ireland lose a key central defender early on, is Paul McShane able to step into the void?

Player to Watch

Playing at Spartak Moscow cant be easy. especially when you’re not playing every week, but setting up the two goals to help Spartak qualify for the Champions League certainly went some way to helping Aiden McGeady’s claim to the throne of Ireland’s star man. In fairness, he is just the pretender when it comes to it. Robbie Keane has for a long time been Ireland’s main man leading the scoring chart with seven in qualification added to the 46 others he has scored for his country and you can see why he is so important. For Ireland to get out the group stages in this tournament the fitness of these two players and goalkeeper Shay Given is vastly important. No Given, McGeady, or Keane…no tournament.

How far will they go

The big question is can they get out of the group? With Spain, Italy, and a dangerous Croatia side this is doubtful. On the 10th of June Ireland MUST beat Croatia to have any chance of qualification. Even if they do that they need a draw or win against the big two. Ireland cant handle how Spain play and the game with Italy might break a record for sending the most people to sleep. It’s going to be tough, but with no real strength in depth and little quality in the first 11 outside the three aforementioned players, I can’t see it being anything less than played 3, lost 3.

GFT Editor

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