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SEVENTEEN MONTHS ON from Euro 2012, Ireland return to Poznan’s Municipal Stadium  for their final fixture of the year.

As always, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the game. E-mail ben@thescore.ie, tweet @thescore_iepost a message to our Facebook wall, or leave a comment below.

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Poland 0-0 Ireland

FOR MANY IRISH fans, the city of Poznan will always have a special place in their hearts. Last summer, the Boys in Green lost out two of their three Euro 2012 games at the Municipal Stadium but, beyond the football, fond memories of trips on the tram and sing-songs in the square remain.

Under a new manager, Ireland are back for the final game of 2013. Martin O’Neill got off to an impressive start with a 3-0 win over Latvia on Friday night. Tonight will be a different prospect altogether.

O’Neill said he was planning to make changes and he has done just that with seven players coming in.

David Forde replaces Keiren Westwood while Sean St Ledger and Stephen Kelly get the nod with Seamus Coleman and John O’Shea dropping out of defence. In midfield, Paul Green and Jon Walters are given a chance while Shane Long, who scored on Friday, and Anthony Stokes start in attack.

Stoke man Walters is captain in the absence of Robbie Keane.

Ireland: Forde, Kelly, St Ledger, Wilson, Ward, Walters (c), McCarthy, Green, McGeady, Stokes, Long.

The Poland, meanwhile, team looks like this:

Poland: Szczesny, Celeban, Kowalczyk, Szukala, Marciniak, Pazdan, Maczynski, Cwielong, Blaszczykowski, Sobotam, Lewandowski.

Sean St Ledger headed home in the 3-1 defeat to Croatia at Euro 2012.

Might fancy his chances to get on the scoresheet again tonight…

Credit: Twitter

Back in February, Ciaran Clark and Wes Hoolahan scored in a 2-0 friendly win against Poland.

YouTube credit: GoalsArena2013

Since then, Ireland failed to earn a place in the World Cup play-offs, which coincidently take place tonight, while Giovanni Trapattoni departed in September.

Tonight’s opponents also missed out on next year’s finals and come into the game on the back of 2-0 loss at the hands of Slovakia.

The teams are out and Amhrán na bhFiann is playing. No Nadia Forde to sing it tonight though, sadly.

The home side kick off with Ireland playing in their black away kit.

Give us your predictions then…

Poland get away down Ireland’s right hand side but the pass if over-hit.

Ireland’s first attack sees Aiden McGeady come inside and run at the Polish backline. The visitors sine a couple of throw-ins and keep possession for a couple of minutes. Polish captain Jakub Blaszczykowski eventually wins back the ball.

Defender Piotr Celeban takes a McGeady shot to the body and requires treatment so Ireland kick the ball out of play.

St Ledger heads clear under pressure from Robert Lewandowski and the Borussia Dortmund striker wins a free-kick 40 yards out from goal. His club mate Blaszczykowski’s delivery is poor, however.

Two minutes later, Lewandowski leaves the foot in on St Ledger.

Ireland looking organised in their shape at the moment with McCarthy and Green screening the back four, Walters on the right, McGeady down the left and Stokes dropping deep off front man Long.

Stephen Ward tracks Waldemar Sobota and concedes the corner with a well-timed challenge. When Celeban then gets a yard to cross moments later, Forde is assured in collecting a high ball.

Super chance. McGeady shows some trickery before his shot is deflected out for a corner. The Spartak Moscow winger hits the set-piece, which is flicked on by Jon Walters but Stephen Kelly can’t make decent contact from 5 yards out.

A bit of pressure from Poland ends in Forde having to smother a shot. Ireland seemed to deal with the initial threat but Stokes got caught in possession on the edge of the box.

McGeady curls in a free-kick and Wilson glances on with the head but it is directed behind the far post and out.

Sean St Ledger is going to have to be replaced here. The Leicester City defender hasn’t been played since August for club or country and his lack of match fitness could be a factor.

John O’Shea is on in his place.

Wasted chance from Poland as Adam Marciniack heads over.

A moment of madness sees John O’Shea, only on the field, shown a yellow card. Lewandowski flicks the ball over the Sunderland defender’s head and he blatantly sticks out his hand to block it.

Credit: INPHO/Donall Farmer

Poland break on the counter after an Ireland attack and Blaszczykowski tries to slip in Lewandowski but it’s slightly over-cooked.

Just the one minutes of added time to be played.

Half-time: Poland 0-0 Ireland

Not a huge amount to report at the break. There were encouraging signs of the type of football Ireland have tried to play but Poland have come into more and more as the minutes ticked by.

It’s a busy night of football around Europe. In the play-offs, Mario Mandzukic and Dario Srna have given Croatia a 2-0 aggregate lead over Iceland but the Bayern Munich striker was then sent off for a horrible tackle.

The great escape is on for France, who have brought themselves level (2-2 on agg) against Ukraine, while Sweden and Portugal are 0-0 at half-time (0-1 on agg) and Greece look to be on their way as they lead Romania 4-2 on agg.

And we’re back underway in Poznan…

Blaszczykowski tries to take on the whole Irish backline but Kelly and Forde cover well.

No changes on either side at half-time for those wondering.

McCarthy picks out McGeady who puts in a decent cross but it’s just too high for Long.

In the next attack, Stokes finds Long but his left-footed effort is lofted well over.

Cristiano Ronaldo has just scored for Portugal while Greece have officially qualified for the World Cup.

Krzysztof Maczynski needs the stretcher to leave the field after a collision with team-mate Cwielong. Lewandowski has also be withdrawn for Lukasz Teodorczyk.

Two substitutions for Ireland – James McCarthy is off for Alex Pearce, while James McClean takes Aiden McGeady’s place.

Great leap by Lukas Szukala to head on target where Forde saves.

A horrible tackle from Michal Pazden leaves Walters on the ground before McClean puts in a brilliant cross but nobody can take advantage.

Anthony Stokes has just been withdrawn for Kevin Doyle.

GOAL FLASH! Zlatan Ibrahimovic has just scored twice to pull Sweden back to 2-2 at the Friends Arena. Portugal are going through on away goals at the moment though.

Two more subs for Ireland — Wes Hoolahan on for Shane Long and Marc Wilson hobbles off with Glenn Whelan taking his place.

WOW! Cristiano Ronaldo has scored a second and third of the night in a couple of minutes to put Portugal 4-2 up on aggregate and now they must be going to Brazil. What a game that sounds like.

Stephen Ward has received a knock while defending a cross as Celeban came crashing into the back of him. The Brighton defender is holding his back but should return for the final few minutes.

Blaszczykowski is off for Martin Robak in what could be the final change of the night.

France have managed to turn their tie around and now lead 3-0 on the night against the Ukraine.

Back here, we’ve got six minutes of injury time.

Hoolahan wins a free-kick and looks to play McClean in over the top quickly. The Wigan winger has strayed offside though. Should have done better to stay in line.

Full-time: Poland 0-0 Ireland

Encouraging in the first half, less so in the second, Ireland ground out a draw against a functional Polish outfit.

These two games were all about the new management team getting to know the players at their disposal and by the time Martin O’Neill names his next  squad, he should have a much more clearer picture.

That’s my lot. We’ll have plenty of more reaction from this and the rest of the night’s games so check back in shortly.

About the author:

Ben Blake

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