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The Irish national team are currently at a crossroads. They were thrown head first into one of the most difficult groups in League B of the UEFA Nations League in the competitions inaugural edition. Facing the likes of Wales and Denmark was always going to be tough.
The Welsh and the Danes are currently reaping the rewards of a solid generation of talented players. The Danes managed to make it to the knockout stages of the World Cup in Russia last summer, while the Welsh went on an extraordinary run to the semi finals at 2016.
Both sides have a range of quality that Ireland can only dream of at the moment. Wales employ the likes of Real Madrid superstar Gareth Bale as well as Arsenal’s Aaron Ramsey, while Denmark can rely upon Premier League players in Christian Eriksen, Kasper Schmeichel and Andreas Christensen.
When you look at their group opposition, the philosophical differences in approach are markedly different. Ryan Giggs in his short managerial career has proven to be a worthy disciple of his old mentor Alex Ferguson in his willingness to foster and support youth by giving them game time.
The same can’t be said of Martin O’Neill and assistant manager Roy Keane. Keane, once a teammate of Giggs knows the importance of giving youth a chance. He was one of the senior players who would go on to captain Manchester United through a number of rejuvenating and rebuilding processes which brought in new blood.
Ireland can’t yet call on world class talent, but then they can’t rely on the tried and tested ageing acolytes that O’Neill still seems to favour. O’Neill has already announced his provisional 36-man squad for the friendly against Northern Ireland on Thursday 15 November and the final Nations League match away to Denmark the following Monday.
National team mainstays Shane Long, Jonathan Walters and Stephen Ward have all dropped out due to injury. But what else do they have in common? They all have a wealth of experience with over 50 caps, but they’re also all over 30 and coming to the end of their careers. A sea change needs to occur, and this is the perfect time for it to happen.
The Nations League has proven to be a success for fans and teams alike so far in that it’s displayed real competitive matches as opposed to bore-all friendlies. The competition also pits sides against more evenly matched opposition, allowing teams the opportunity to improve on more equal teams.
Ireland have so far struggled in the competition. In fact, they’ve been struggling for some time. The last eight matches have racked up five defeats, two draws and a solitary win against the USA in a friendly. It simply isn’t good enough.
But it’s not just leadership and the personnel that need to be judged, but also the strength of opposition. It’s looking likely that Ireland will be relegated to League C of the Nations League. They still need to face Denmark, but the showdown match up will be when Wales and Denmark meet to decide who wins the group. It’s unclear which way the match will turn and consulting Nations League betting tips like this one favour a Wales win at home, but it’s a tough one to call. That’s why it’s the perfect opportunity for an Asian Handicap bet which is fully explained and covered in this Asian Handicap betting guide.
Being relegated to League C would have its benefits. It would give the Ireland team chance to breathe against easier opposition, something they haven’t had the luxury of in some time, which the results clearly reflect.
The lower league is home to the likes of Israel, Scotland, Greece, Norway and Serbia. It would be a proving ground for new tactics, new ways of thinking, but it would also be a proving ground for youth.
All the tools are there to make the transition to a younger and more forward looking side. Martin O’Neill has called up three uncapped players in Liverpool goalkeeper Caoimhin Kelleher, Hearts loanee Jimmy Dunne, Rotherham’s Ryan Manning as well as Southampton’s Michael Obafemi.
There’s a wealth of experienced 20-somethings who have already become mainstays of the national side. It wouldn’t take much to dig into the national youth sides which have a number of gifted and eager youngsters brought up in top academies in England and still learning their trade in England’s leagues.
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