Italy U-21 2-1 Iceland U-21
Italy’s late victory over third place Iceland may prove pivotal in Ireland’s EURO 2021 qualification push. The Ireland team continue to occupy second place, one point above Sweden and Iceland. Following a disappointing defeat at the hands of group leaders Italy last month, there was feeling that Jim Crawford’s men may have missed their best chance at qualifying.
However today’s match in Iceland has further heightened the importance of Ireland’s next two fixtures. A win against Iceland at Tallaght Stadium on Sunday, followed by a win in Luxembourg on Wednesday evening, should be enough to qualify for next year’s tournament.
Chance to make history by qualifying for EURO 2021
Manchester City goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu has been impressing whilst out on loan at Rochdale this season, and was close to getting his first senior call-up according to boss Stephen Kenny. He returns to the home of his boyhood club Shamrock Rovers on Sunday and will be hoping the Ireland team can emulate the success of the SSE Airtricity Premier Division champions.
𝘽𝙞𝙜 save from Gavin Bazunu late on yesterday 🧤#RAFC pic.twitter.com/tXKuW0o1cB
— Rochdale AFC (@officiallydale) October 25, 2020
Ireland U-21s have never qualified for a competition of this nature and Bazunu notes this as a “huge incentive” going into the final two games. But the focus remains on the Iceland game first.
Jim Crawford must continue without Adam Idah, Jayson Molumby and Dara O’Shea who have all made the step up to the senior side. Striker Jonathan Afolabi has also dropped out through injury. He is replaced by Accrington Stanley forward Ryan Cassidy.
On the flip side, Troy Parrott makes his return to the U-21 camp after recently overcoming an injury that has kept him on the sidelines for much of this season. Despite the good news, Millwall boss Gary Rowett is wary of Parrott’s fitness levels heading into the international fixtures.
Meanwhile, Bohemian’s winger Danny Grant ended his impressive breakthrough season with another goal.
No European football for @stpatsfc next season as they lost out @bfcdublin at Richmond Park #rtesoccer pic.twitter.com/y9PFwp8slx
— Soccer Republic (@SoccRepublic) November 10, 2020
Italy are odds on for automatic qualification. Five of the best-performing runners up from each group will also qualify for the competition. Ireland currently stand as the fifth best team in second place of their respective group, with a game in hand and a point behind Poland who have completed all of their games.
With the unlikely scenario of several teams below Ireland in the “runners-up group” winning their remaining fixtures, two wins should be enough to clinch qualification. Ireland’s faith is in their own hands.
Nevertheless, as many a footballer and manager would say – Gavin Bazunu included – the focus is on the next game. Ireland U-21 vs Iceland U-21 kicks off at 12.30pm on Sunday afternoon in Tallaght Stadium.
The full Ireland U-21 squad is listed below.
Goalkeepers: Gavin Bazunu (Rochdale, on loan from Manchester City), Ed McGinty (Sligo Rovers)
Defenders: Nathan Collins (Stoke City), Darragh Leahy (Dundalk), Conor Masterson (Queens Park Rangers), Mark McGuinness (Ipswich Town, on loan from Arsenal), Danny McNamara (St Johnstone, on loan from Millwall), Lee O’Connor (Tranmere Rovers, on loan from Celtic), Thomas O’Connor (Gillingham, on loan from Southampton), Liam Scales (Shamrock Rovers)
Midfielders: Conor Coventry (West Ham United), Luca Connell (Celtic), Will Ferry (Southampton), Jason Knight (Derby County), Danny Mandroiu (Bohemians), Connor Ronan (Grasshopper Zurich, on loan from Wolverhampton Wanderers), Anthony Scully (Lincoln City), Jack Taylor (Peterborough United)
Forwards: Ryan Cassidy (Accrington Stanley, on loan from Watford), Zack Elbouzedi (Lincoln City), Danny Grant (Bohemians), Joshua Kayode (Carlisle United, on loan from Rotherham United), Michael Obafemi (Southampton), Troy Parrott (Millwall, on loan from Tottenham Hotspur)