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Dublin: 3 °C Monday 18 December, 2017
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Andorra 0-2 Ireland: parting shots

Despite a game that resembled a training exercise, tonight’s victory over Andorra still influenced a fair few issues for Tuesday night.

Will Ireland be celebrating come Tuesday?
Will Ireland be celebrating come Tuesday?
Image: Inpho
  • So it’ll be a play-off in order to get to a play-off then. At the least, unlike Paris though, Ireland will only need a draw against Armenia to cross this particular hurdle. And, for once, that might perfectly suit Giovanni Trapattoni’s Ireland. Often criticised for seemingly setting up his team to play for a draw at home, that is exactly what he’ll have to do on Tuesday.
  • That’s all the more important given the scintillating counter-attacking form of Armenia. With 21 goals – and eight in their last two, including four against Macedonia last night – they’re far and away the top scorers in the group, with most of their finishes coming on the break. As such, it would be fool-hardy for Trapattoni to take the game to Armenia in the manner the Lansdowne Road crowd often demands. Sit tight, take care of the “little details” and Ireland should claim the draw they need.
  • In saying that, though, we shouldn’t give Trapattoni too much credit for the manner in which his plan has seemingly come together. As impressive as Russia have been in raising their game as the group wore on, top spot was still there for the taking. Russia are far from resounding winners (provided, of course, they claim at least a draw against Andorra). Had Trapattoni played an extra man in midfield against either Russia at home or Slovakia away – not to mention take the game to the latter at Lansdowne Road – then Ireland could have been looking at automatic qualification as opposed to yet another play-off.
  • The only downside to tonight’s win was the suspension of Stephen Ward for a foolish dive. Some still doubt whether the Wolves’ full-back deserves a place in the team after his performance in Moscow. But, whatever the justification for those doubts, his absence does mean Trapattoni will be forced into an inconvenient defensive reshuffle ahead of a game that demands discipline and understanding at the back.
  • One of the major upsides in a game that resembled a training exercise was the confidence certain players will glean. Kevin Doyle got his first international goal in over a year while Aiden McGeady scored his second in a decent display. Moreover, the side kept another cleansheet – the eighth in a row

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