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Tuesday, April 3, 2012

An Italian looking to weave his magic. EURO 2012 preview : Republic of Ireland

Heartbreak is a long forgotten Irish feeling


18th November 2009, proved to be one of the cruelest days in the history of Irish football. After having overcome a 1-0 lead that France had achieved in the first leg, Ireland took Les Blues all the way to extra time, to decide which of these two sides would be travelling to South Africa the following summer. In the dying minutes of extra time, a blatant Thierry Henry handball went unnoticed and a French equaliser was allowed to stand. The Irish returned home teary eyed and heartbroken, while the French lived to fight another day.


Two years on and not many would have expected the Irish to have gotten over this incident. Yet, against all odds, the boys in green put aside this disturbing memory, fought off stiff competition, went through another terrifying qualifying play off and finally managed to book their place in the European Championships to be held this June.

QUALIFYING CAMPAIGN


The Irish had a fairly solid qualifying campaign, managing to finish in second place in their group. Their first two games were fairly comfortable victories over Armenia and Andorra. Russia proved to be too hot to handle, as the Irish ended up losing 3-2 at Landsdowne Road. The hosts went three goals down in the first fifty minutes, but managed to fight back with two goals towards the end of the game. Although Russia did manage to pick up the win, Ireland showed that they were going to be no pushovers in the fight for qualification. Their mini struggle continued as they were held to a 1-1 draw by Slovakia.

From this point on, Trap and Co. managed a commendable run of form that saw them remain unbeaten in their next nine competitive fixtures. Two wins over Macedonia, goalless draws against table toppers Russia and the unpredictable Slovakia left Irish sitting in second place, two points behind Russia and one ahead of Armenia. All three sides managed to pick up victories in their penultimate games of the qualifying campaign, leaving this group in complete uncertainty. Ireland met Armenia in their final game, while Russia hosted lowly Andorra. Ireland managed to pull off a narrow 2-1 victory over Armenia, but Russia mauled Andorra by a convincing six goal margin. This meant that Trapattoni's Ireland would have to fight it out in the play offs to ensure their participation in EURO 2012.

The boys in green were drawn against Estonia in the qualifying play offs. Looking to finish off this tie, leaving nothing to chance, the Irish demolished Estonia in the first leg with a 4-0 win. The onslaught in Tallinn was initiated by midfielder Keith Andrews, continued by Jonathan Walters and ended most befittingly by a Robbie Keane brace. The tie was done and dusted. Ireland kept their cool in the second leg, finishing off the tie with a 1-1 draw and a 5-1 aggregate victory. France was history.

DEFENDING CHAMPIONS AND A MEETING WITH HIS MOTHERLAND

The mentor and his apprentice shall face off in a battle of epic proportions



The Republic of Ireland have been drawn into the most unpredictable group of the European Championships, one consisting of defending champions Spain, 2006 World Cup winners Italy and an immensely talented Croatia. At the moment, it is fair to say that Ireland is probably the weakest side in this group, but also the one with the most character.

Ireland kick off their campaign with a game against Croatia. This is a game that is of utmost importance to both sides, since it will decide which of these teams could be possible upset causers. The second game against Spain is one whose outcome is very predictable - a victory to Spain. Although Ireland have shown good defensive ability, it is going to take an other worldly performance to stop Spain from rolling over them. Their final fixture will transcend the competition itself. This will be the fourth time that the legendary Giovanni Trapatonni will face his beloved motherland. Will Italy continue to be too much for Il Trap? Or will the genius finally get the better of his former apprentice? Our questions will be answered this June.

PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR


Robbie Keane


This could be the last time this Irish legend dons the famous White and Green


Captain of the Irish team, the player with the second most caps for the country and the highest goalscorer for the national team - Robbie Keane’s importance is very obvious. The fact that he scores a goal almost every other game is proof of his brilliance.

Although Keane has seen his club career disintegrate ever since his move to Liverpool, his form with the national team has seen no such dip. Keane was in top form during Ireland’s qualifying campaign, leading the goal scoring charts with a remarkable tally of five goals.

Giovanni Trapattoni

How many will Il Trap outsmart this summer?


Yes, this is the first time that a manager is featuring in this section. And I’m sure none of you can think of a more able man. With nine Serie A titles, three European Cup titles, league triumphs in Austria, Germany and Portugal, and a host of other laurels, it is fair to say that Trap is by far the most experienced and probably the best manager at this edition of the European Championships.

International success has eluded Trap, but we must also take into consideration the fact that he has been in charge of a national team for just four years prior to his current stint with the Irish team. His only major competition with the Italian side was World Cup 2002, where he saw his team go out in controversial fashion in the Round of 16.

At the moment, most football fans would write of this Irish side. Even if one was to predict a surprise package in this group, one would pick Croatia. With all the odds stacked against Ireland, it is up to Il Trap and his boys to prove the world wrong and show us what they’re made of. George Bernard Shaw, Lord Kelvin, Peter O'Toole, George Best... the list may go on, but come June, will one name from this Irish football team be added to that prestigious list? Only time will tell. May Il Trap weave his magic.


4 comments:

  1. Ireland played italy twice in the world cup 2010 qualifiers, and once since, so Trap has played against has "beloved motherland" 3 times already as irish manager. Bad research!!!

    ReplyDelete
  2. Ireland played italy twice in the world cup 2010 qualifiers, and once since, so Trap has played against has "beloved motherland" 3 times already as irish manager. Bad research!!!

    ReplyDelete
  3. Really sorry about that and thanks for pointing that out. I've corrected it now.

    ReplyDelete
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