Sounds crazy, isn’t it? Not really I must admit. Giovanni Trapattoni’s side have shown in the past that they can match the best at the top level and with a bit of luck on their side the Boys in Green could turn out to be the surprise package this summer in Poland and the Ukraine. The fact they are in a tough group alongside Spain, Italy and Croatia do not bring fear into the minds of the Irish who are a confident bunch to turn the tables in Group C. In the wily old Italian manager the Irish have a stern task master who wants his lads to stick to a fixed plan. The qualifying campaign had shown us how Ireland can be dogged at defence yet efective on counter attacks led by the ever present Robbie Keane. Sometimes the Irish are not entertaining to watch yet their approach is pretty effective against tougher opponents.
In short the Republic of Ireland has a settled unit that thrives on team work and meticulous planning. Each and every Irish player has the urge and the belief to succeed in difficult circumstances. There are not many stars in this team but nevertheless a side with a huge heart to put smiles on the faces of the passionate Irish supporters. Veteran defender John O’Shea is participating in his first international tournament at the age of 30 yet the reliable Sunderland player is confident that Ireland have the ability to march on in the tournament and even outlast perennial rivals England in championships. “We know it will be tough, but we know that we can cause teams problems and that we have steeliness and a belief about us. You know what the English lads are like to the Irish lads, saying the usual, ‘don’t worry, your Euros will be fairly short’. But I have a funny feeling that their holidays will be longer than ours.”, the former Manchester United star was quoted as saying raising eyebrows of many pundits. You know what O’Shea may be right given the circus that has surrounded the English preparations for this summer’s biggest event after the Olympics.
England are struggling, it’s fair to say. Starting with the Wayne Rooney suspension, the English preparations for Euro 2012 have been shambolic and catastrophic. There is more action inside the FA headquarters rather than on the field where the Three Lions have failed to announce a permanent replacement to Fabio Capello with less than fifty days to go for Euro 2012. May be the English are more concerned with media speculation rather than on field preparation. Drawn in Group D with France, Sweden and the Ukraine, England sans Wayne Rooney for the first couple of matches and a cloud cover over so many issues starting from coach selection to John Terry‘s inclusion and of course uncertainty over England fans visit of the Ukraine due to exorbitant hotel prices have hampered English chances of a good Euro show considerably. On the other hand speaking of the Irish, apart from an injury scare to the defensive wall that is Richard Dunne, there is so much to write about the passion of this well drilled side that showed in a crucial away qualifier against Russia mental strength can virtually propel a side to its goal. Ireland earned a ferociously hard fought goalless draw on a plastic pitch at the Luzhniki Stadium in Moscow against group winners Russia to earn a play off spot that underlined the country’s credentials as a hard working fighting unit.
With a few critics pointing their fingers at the coach for not relying on youngsters too much for the summer, Giovanni Trapattoni is happy to field a side full of experience with Robbie Keane, Richard Dunne, Shay Given, Damien Duff, John O’Shea and Keith Andrews having the ability to shine in the international arena after a gap of ten years. Playing in the European Championships for the first time since 1988, the Republic of Ireland do have a nice mix of youth and experience with Kevin Doyle, Shane Long, Aiden McGeady and James McCarthy the ones to look out for the future going into the 2014 World Cup in Brazil even through all will play important roles in Poland and the Ukraine.
Who knows a win against Croatia in the first game could really be the start of a fairytale story for the Boys in Green and a head to head clash against England in the next round could be the finale to an exciting summer of football.