Ireland played out one of the worst football matches in living memory yesterday, in the 0-0 draw against old foes England.
That sort of lacklustre performance certainly won’t do on Saturday, when Ireland have a much more important game against Scotland in the European Championship qualifiers. It is a must-win game for the Irish, if they are to stay in touch with the Group D leaders.
Scotland won the reverse fixture 1-0 back in November so it is critical that Ireland take all three points away from the Aviva Stadium this time.
Here are five things the side must do in order to get the win over Scotland.
The Irish fans are owed some excitement after Sunday’s bore draw against England. Ireland must start quickly to get the Aviva crowd onside from the off. The passionate support from the Irish fans will provide an intimidating atmosphere for the Scottish players, and could provide the inspiration for the Irish to get over the line as the game goes into the latter stages.
Seamus Coleman is one of the best attacking full-backs in the Premier League, and Robbie Brady is more of a winger by trade, so these two can provide a real threat to Scotland. They must get forward at every opportunity to overlap their wingers, and create two on ones on the Scottish fullbacks. Coleman and Brady will have key roles in Ireland’s attacking play, and could be the men to supply the crosses for Keane and co in the middle.
Aiden McGeady is the most dangerous player in the Irish squad. He could be the man with the trickery and pace to unlock the Scottish defence. Martin O’Neill should employ him in the middle of the pitch, just behind Robbie Keane, rather than play him out wide, where he will have to spend much of his time tracking back to support Robbie Brady. McGeady should be given the number ten position, where he can have the freedom to play to his strengths and drive directly at the Scottish defence. McGeady may well have extra motivation for Saturday’s match, as he could have chosen to play for Scotland, the country of his birth.
Ireland versus Scotland promises to be a game full of passion and heart, but not necessarily full of quality. Both countries have had better squads in the past than they do now, and neither has a real world class player to call on. That suggests that chances may be few and far between, and much of the game may be played in the middle of the field. That said, Ireland must take any chances they do get to score, with one goal possibly enough to win the game for either side. Veteran and talisman Robbie Keane is usually a trustworthy finisher for Ireland, but the entire team must be ready to take any chances that come their way, especially from set pieces.
Last week it was revealed that the FAI were paid €5m by FIFA not to take legal action over the Thierry Henry handball that cost them a place in the World Cup Finals. Given, O’Shea, McShane, Whelan, McGeady and Keane were all in the Ireland team that fateful night in Paris, and must act as leaders to the rest of the squad throughout this campaign to make sure Ireland get every point they can and qualify automatically without having to go through the lottery of another playoff.