Can Trapattoni's side finish the job?
So Ireland is once again heading into the final group game of a qualifying campaign needing a result to guarantee a playoff position. Here we go again? Surely not.
Ireland are a neutral country, always have been always will be. We are the nation everyone loves to love and a country many claim to ascend from. Unfortunately, we are also a country whose subconscious mind dreads two words – a playoff.
It’s been over two years since Ireland were controversially denied a place in the World Cup by Thierry Henry’s infamous handball, and yes we have accepted that it is time to move on. However, the heartache for the Irish soccer team stretches back a lot further than a cheating French man.
The glory days of Jack Charlton are a fond and distant memory, as are the not so shabby days under (love him or hate him) Mick McCarthy. This situation is familiar as Ireland has been in this predicament before i.e. enduring a hard fought out campaign in which they should have done better, but cannot be faulted on effort.
It is this kind of mentality that got under the skin of a certain Roy Keane and although his approach and behaviour was wrong in Saipan, the United legend does have a point. Ireland lack a killer mentality and that is the biggest worry heading into next Tuesday’s make or break clash with Armenia.
An even bigger worry is that following Russia’s victory away to Slovakia; a draw is all Ireland need to qualify for the playoff stages of Euro 2012. Trapattoni has been quick to reiterate that Ireland will not play for a draw as he never sets his team out to play in that matter. While this may be somewhat true in the back of the Italian’s mind, his number one intention is always to avoid defeat.
And who are we to complain with Ireland boasting an impressive eight consecutive clean sheets and currently one point away from the qualifying stages of a major tournament. We would have taken that at the start of the campaign right, or is this the exact mentality that has prevented us from topping the group? Ask Eamon Dunphy and I am sure his answer would be yes. The simple matter of fact is we are where we are, and we must get on with it.
Armenia is similar to Ireland; they are no great side but they have proved in this campaign that they have a lot of heart. They have also proved that can play football and get a result. They are faster, fitter and they are a proud nation who will give everything in Dublin on Tuesday night. But so is Ireland and like or loathe his approach, Trapattoni has given us a winning mentality and belief that has been missing for years gone by.
There is no point in hoping for a last minute enthusiastic attacking midfield approach because it just will not happen. Ireland will go out with the same mentality on Tuesday night; hard to break down, defensively solid and attacking on the counter attack in particular on the wings. It has got us this far and there is no point changing it now.
If everyone plays to the best of their ability on Tuesday night then Ireland will be in the draw for the playoffs. If the big players such as O’Shea, Dunne, McGeady, Keane etc, do not play to their standards then Ireland will be in trouble. It is imperative that Ireland start brightly and treat the game as an away fixture as that is when they play their best.
Trap’s army must put Armenia under pressure and not allow them to play their game. Andorra came to the Aviva and scored, which suggests that Armenia definitely have a goal in them. It is therefore important that Ireland score first, preferably early to avoid nerves. The bench may have a significant role to play Tuesday night with the likes of Hunt, Long, McCarthy and Walters offering attacking options to call upon.
There will be a tense atmosphere in the Aviva Stadium on Tuesday night, and once again it is make or break for Ireland.
We’ve heard this song before; hopefully this time it will consist of Ole Ole Ole.