When it comes to qualifying for international competitions, the Republic of Ireland football squad doesn’t have the most successful track record in more recent times. The last major competition they played in was the Euro 2016 championships and it was the first one in 10 years. Unfortunately, they were the first team to leave the competition.
The follow-up failures of not qualified for the World Cup 2018 are but a distant memory now, too, though. Ireland haven’t made the most of the UEFA Nations League, either, to qualify for the championship, but there is new Euro 2020 hope for the team.
Playing in the Euro 2020 qualifiers
The team had already had some good fortune in not being in Group C, for which they were originally drawn and would have been going up against Germany and Holland. Now, they’re enjoying some good form in the qualifiers and are sitting at the top of Group D. They’ve won three out of their last five matches and drew two.
No one wants to count their chickens before they’ve hatched, but so far, so good for the team. Dave McGoldrick was able to stop Ireland from chalking up a loss against Switzerland in early September, thanks to a late header which equalised the game to 1–1 and allowed Ireland to continue unbeaten in the group.
If you’re into football betting, you could be thinking they’ve just about made it to the Euros. Of course, there’s still the small matter of three more matches to play, however: Georgia (away), Switzerland (away) and Denmark (home). The Danes are just two points behind Ireland and the Swiss are three. Neither team will be making it easy for Ireland. In previous matches in the group, Denmark have held both Switzerland and Ireland to draws, 3–1 and 1–1 respectively, and have demolished Georgia and Gibraltar. The Swiss have been just as stubborn, drawing with both Ireland and Denmark.
One thing is clear — Ireland will have to tighten up in the middle of the park. Denmark have proved they have some formidable striking prowess — you don’t want them getting through to have a go at the defence — and because Switzerland dominated possession against Ireland, the Swiss had far too many shots at goal. Ireland were having to make a lot of last-ditch headers and blocks to stay in the game. Stretched is an understatement.
Then there’s the attacking play. McGoldrick is a fine striker, but there’s only so much he can do up front. He’ll need more service. Ireland only had two chances to score in their match against Switzerland and McGoldrick was able to convert one of them. One out of two isn’t bad, but they’re going to have to create more chances if they’re going to strike any serious fear into the hearts of Group D team defences.
Who could make things happen for Ireland?
In the match against Switzerland, Glenn Whelan displayed some scintillating form. His long-range effort cracked the crossbar hard enough to send tremors through the stadium. Fans will be hoping Whelan can produce more strikes like that which will dip below the crossbar this time.
McGoldrick was on hand to head home James Mclean’s header and pull back one for Ireland in the Switzerland. He’ll be another player who could make all the difference to the team’s fortunes. It’s not just his strike record that make him such a worthy player, but also his link-up play, which Sheffield United recognised and acted upon by offering him a fresh contract to play league football for them. Good communication is another crucial attribute. McGoldrick and Ireland manager Mick McCarthy have worked together before, back in their days at Ipswich. Their mutual understanding of each other and good working relationship could translate into some real success for Ireland on the pitch.
Things are looking promising in Group D, with the team riding high, but they still have some tough games ahead of them. Only three points separate them and third place in the group, so unfortunately, there’s potential for disappointment yet. If the team can tighten up their midfield, however, they should be able to maintain their good form, rather than squeeze through.