|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.
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 proved to be too hot to handle, as the Irish ended up losing 3-2 at Russia 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, 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 Ireland . 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 . All three sides managed to pick up victories in their penultimate games of the qualifying campaign, leaving this group in complete uncertainty. Armenia 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 by a convincing six goal margin. This meant that Trapattoni's Andorra would have to fight it out in the play offs to ensure their participation in EURO 2012. Ireland
The boys in green were drawn against
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 Estonia 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. Tallinn kept their cool in the second leg, finishing off the tie with a 1-1 draw and a 5-1 aggregate victory. Ireland was history. France
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
is probably the weakest side in this group, but also the one with the most character. Ireland
PLAYERS TO WATCH OUT FOR
|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 ’s qualifying campaign, leading the goal scoring charts with a remarkable tally of five goals. Ireland
|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, 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. Germany
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
. With all the odds stacked against Croatia , 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. Ireland