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Stephen Kenny will be bracing his team for a pivotal round of football matches over the next few weeks. This is because the Republic of Ireland face the tricky task of a UEFA Euros qualifier, along with no less than four Nations League matches in just over one month.
The games will give Kenny a decent chance to stamp his authority on the Republic of Ireland squad. Football fans were shocked when the Irish team failed to get automatic qualification to the Euro 2020 tournament.
This means that the Republic of Ireland will have to face Slovakia in a semi-final playoff. The match takes place in Slovakia on Thursday 8 October. The 25-man squad for the Slovakia game has already been named.
It’s evident that Kenny is still learning about the best ways to get his players to integrate. Questions remain about whether Matt Doherty has what it takes to make the starting line-up. Plus the Republic of Ireland’s fairly barren goalscoring run means that we may yet see the return of veteran strikers such as David McGoldrick to get the job done.
What’s fascinating is that the winner of this match would either play Bosnia and Herzegovina or Northern Ireland in the final. The thought of the Republic of Ireland travelling to Belfast to play Northern Ireland on 12 November should definitely give Kenny’s team the motivation to pull off a winning result against Slovakia.
If Republic of Ireland manage to get through the play-offs, they would end up in Group E of the main Euro 2020 tournament. This would see Kenny’s squad facing an impressive line-up of Spain, Sweden and Poland. While many Irish fans will be optimistic about the national teams’ chances here, many of the more realistic bookmakers featured at betting resources will have fairly long odds for the Republic of Ireland to make it past the group stage.
This is because the Republic of Ireland have been less than exceptional in their recent run of Nations League matches. September saw the Irish team being lucky to get a draw against a tough Bulgaria side. This was thanks to a late Shane Duffy effort three minutes into injury time.
To be fair, Kenny fielded a very young squad with rising stars like Adam Idah and Aaron Connolly all being under 21. But more was expected from the Irish head coach as he had been pivotal in leading Dundalk to the Europa League group rounds in 2016. With plenty of room for improvement in both attack and defence, it seems as though the Irish team have got their work cut out ahead of the next round of Nations League matches.
Sunday 11 October sees the Republic of Ireland hosting Wales in the Nations League. This promises to be a cracking contest as Wales are on a fine run of form. The Welsh team are unbeaten in eight matches, and this included a very respectable 1-1 draw against Croatia last October. Wales have already won their first two Nations League matches against Finland and Bulgaria. Plus with Gareth Bale expected to have recovered from his knee injury, it promises to be a tough test for Kenny’s team.
Following the Wales match, the Republic of Ireland travel to Finland on 14 October. Finland beat Ireland in Dublin earlier this September thanks to a single goal from Fredrik Jensen. Plus with top strikers like Teemu Pukki in fine form, Kenny will face difficult questions about whether to stick with the recent back four of Matt Doherty, Shane Duffy, John Egan and Enda Stevens.
The Republic of Ireland’s final Nations League matches come against Wales and Bulgaria on 15 and 18 November respectively. By then, Kenny will have had time to get used to his squad and the team should have gelled. But whether the Republic of Ireland side have what it takes to make a success of their upcoming Euro qualifiers and Nations League matches remains to be seen.