Eurozone: Luck of the Irish Needed
Ireland are arguably the wildcard of this particular tournament, qualifying through a play-off against Estonia in which they quite comfortably proved themselves to be the better team. Now however they (or should I say we) have a harder contest to overcome. This is only the second time they have qualified for the Euros and the fifth time they have qualified for any international championship.
One thing that is evident about Ireland’s squad is that no players play in their national league with all playing in England bar Aiden McGeady and Robbie Keane. This could therefore instantly put Ireland down as merely England’s B side. However, amongst the team there is quite a bit of home-born talent who moved at an early age due to the weak structure in Ireland.
Ireland’s group is tough. Italy, Spain and Croatia is a very good group but with Italy struggling at the last World Cup this could be their chance for a win. Spain will most likely be a walk over and Croatia should win comfortably. However, it isn’t always that easy although I still believe they will finish comfortably bottom.
Ireland’s best attributes are their strikers and Shay Given. Robbie Keane when fit is proven on an international level, so is Shane Long. Shay Given, meanwhile kept Villa up singlehandedly at times through last season and is an international veteran. He will be crucial to their campaign especially considering they have defenders like Paul McShane and Sean St Ledger in the team.
Incidentally when Ireland have qualified for a major championship only once did they get knocked out in the Group stages so they cannot be written off just yet.
Historically Ireland’s greatest success was the 1990 World Cup where they qualified from a group consisting of England, Netherlands and Egypt. They finished second in the group drawing all three games, and in the Round of 16 they beat Romania on penalties before losing to Italy in the Quarter Finals. The entire tournament seemed littered with cagey defensive football with no major upsets at all. Regardless however, you can’t knock Ireland for how well they did considering they always have been, and always will be, rank underdogs in any major tournament.
As I will be writing on them for the tournament now, Ireland have to hope for spot of Irish luck to pull them through but in all sports nothing is impossible. Come on lads!
Squad: Given, Westwood, Forde, O’Shea, Dunne, Ward, St Ledger, O’Dea, Kelly, McShane, Whelan, Andrews, McGeady, Gibson, Green, Duff, Stephen Hunt, McClean, Robbie Keane, Doyle, Long, Walters, Cox.