TEN years since their world cup appearance Ireland are finally back in a major tournament. They don’t boast any world class players but they do boast a water-tight defence and fantastic coach.
That fantastic coach is legendary Italian Giovanni Trapattoni who’s built a side on defensive resilience. Despite qualification for Euro 2012 (and they would have qualified for the 2010 world cup despite a Thierry Henry handball) many in Ireland want to see a more attacking approach. However, with the great achievement of qualifying, ‘Trap’ will be sticking to the defence orientated game that has served the team well so far.
Top scorer in qualifying (7 goals in 11 games) captain Robbie Keane will continue to be the danger man for an Irish side that doesn’t offer many attacks. Kean’s role will be to drop deep and link up with Ireland’s wingers (the main route of Irish attacks). Kean is also the nation’s record goal scorer with an impressive 53 goals.
One to watch
Thought by many to have been only called up because of James McCarthy’s abscence, Sunderland’s James McClean offers Ireland another threat from the wing. McClean was a virtual unknown before Martin O’Neill showed faith in him earlier this season and Trapattoni gave him his international debut in February. A classic winger who likes to hug the touchline McClean could be important in stretching games where Ireland are behind.
Why they could have a good tournament...
Defensive organisation is their biggest strength and the coach has that rare ability to get ordinary players like Sean St Ledger and Keith Andrews performing above their usual standard. Richard Dunne will lead the defence as he did in qualifying - he was particularly brilliant against Russia in Moscow when Ireland claimed a 0-0 draw.
Why they could have a bad tournament...
There seems to be a shortage in central midfield. Andrews and Stoke’s Glenn Whelan will start but only Darron Gibson and Paul Green as backups. It seems a risk for a team that heavily rely upon two central midfielders the lack cover would be risk with tiredness likely becoming a factor by the third game.