The Republic of Ireland are in a major championship after a gap of ten years and the recession hit Irish society is banking on its footballers to bring joy in a country beset by economic gloom. Giovanni Trapattoni’s side are by far the clear underdogs in a group set to be dominated by defending world and European champions Spain and Italy with Croatia completing a tough group C. With Spain and Italy odds on favourites to qualify for the next round, the Irish would relish to spoil the party by recapitulating famous performances over the years. Ireland would like to utilize their stay at the European championships this summer as many of the side’s battle hardened veterans would in all probability be playing their last tournaments. The likes of Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane have shared the bulk responsibility of leading a proud nation at international matches and Euro 2012 could be the final act in these players’ illustrious international careers.
After the heartbreak of Paris in 2009, Giovanni Trapattoni had done a commendable job in lifting the side and made the same bunch of players, that suffered immensely after the controversial play off loss to France, to believe in themselves. A strong Euro qualifying campaign proved how determined the Republic of Ireland are. The 72 year old decorated coach is undoubtedly a man with a vision who has developed his team on his own values although critics argue that the Italian’s style of play is hardly enjoyable yet results point to a different direction. And at the end of the day results matter more than style of play.
Football, as everyone knows, could be a hard game to understand. May be unattractive in style yet just seven goals conceded in ten games with one game lost against a very good Russian side in a difficult qualifying group show that the Irish mean business and their ruthless team effort nullifies a lack of star appeal in the side.
Players to watch
- Robbie Keane is the talisman of this side mixed with a rich blend of youth and experience. The 31 year old is his country’s all time record goalscorer with 53 goals and given his form and never say die attitude the Irish captain is set to add to his tally.
- Richard Dunne is the irreplaceable warrior in the Ireland defence set up. Everything in Trapattoni’s setup revolves around this big Aston Villa man. The whole Irish nation sighed a huge relief that Dunne is recovering well from an injury that he suffered for his club.
- Ireland’s hero, nevertheless, is the calm personality of Shay Given. The former Newcastle United and Manchester City shot stopper is the country’s most capped player and a pillar in the Irish goal. He will have to play a big part if Ireland are to play the party spoilers in Group C.
- James McLean is the name on everybody’s lips in Ireland and Sunderland. Martin O’Neill has unearthed a real gem in the Northeast of England and Giovanni Trapattoni has for some reason has overlooked this talented young winger but there is immense pressure on the coach to provide McLeane with an air ticket bound for Poland and the Ukraine.
- Aiden McGeady was supposed to be the next big thing in Scotland and Ireland but the former Celtic man has found life to be tough in distant Russia as the Spartak Moscow player fights to make it big in Europe. Not the same player as in his Celtic days, Aiden McGeady is still the best bet for Ireland to shine in Euro 2012.
Euro Player Spot
I would have liked to pick James McLean as my player spot but an uncertainty hangs around the player’s inclusion in the Irish team. Instead the attention turns to a very talented player capable of turning any match with his deft skills and pace. He is Spartak Moscow’s Aiden McGeady. Sometimes a blow hot blow cold player, McGeady is Ireland’s most talked about player a few years back after his exploits with boyhood club Celtic earned great reviews from across Europe. Surprisingly his uncalled for move to Spartak Moscow in 2010 raised a few eyebrows and the 26-year old is yet to take Russian football by storm.
Yet Giovanni Trapattoni has great belief in his winger and McGeady proved to be a huge threat down the left hand side for the Men in Green contributing the side with two goals in the qualifying campaign – the midfielder’s only international goals in 47 matches. Looked at his best in the last few games for Spartak Moscow in the Russian League, the Scotland born player would be the main man that Robbie Keane would be looking forward to receiving crosses from on match days.
Former Ireland international and Liverpool and Aston Villa midfielder Ray Houghton believes though that the stint in Russia has made Aiden McGeady a stronger player and Euro 2012 would be the ideal launchpad for a player of this caliber to show his true potential.
”I think Aiden could do it – sometimes he lacks discipline and his final ball is not always great, but he’s improved a lot since moving to Russia and gotten stronger. This could be the tournament where he shows his potential.” Ray Houghton told Eurosport.
Ireland would be greatly benefited from McGeady’s playing experience in Eastern Europe. The climate and the playing turf would be similar to what the player is used to playing in the Russian Premier League and there is enough reason to believe that the opening game against Croatia on June 10 would be the match that Ireland and Aiden McGeady would be targeting to earn points to counter the Spanish and the Italian threats.