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A new-look Ireland side took on Serbia as the side’s World Cup preparations began in earnest.

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Serbia 0-0 Ireland (FT)

Hello, and welcome to this evening’s friendly between Serbia and Ireland.

It should be fascinating to see whether some of the less experienced players starting for Ireland can seize their opportunity tonight.

There has been one late change to the Ireland side – Shane Long has had to withdraw through injury, so Simon Cox comes in in his place. The team in full can be seen below:

Republic of Ireland: Westwood, McShane, O’Shea (c), O’Dea, Kelly, McGeady, McCarthy, Whelan, McClean, Walters, Cox.

Speaking on Setanta, Kevin Kilbane believes not too many more Ireland players will follow Shay Given’s lead and retire from international duty.

Stop tempting fate Kevin!

There doesn’t appear to be a particularly strong level of Irish support for tonight’s game, judging by the photo below anyway. Perhaps everyone’s still recovering from the financial burden of travelling to the Euros.

(INPHO/Donall Farmer)

The national anthems have been sung and we’re almost ready for kick-off…

And we’re underway…

There’s been very little action to report on so far.

Here is the Serbia team by the way:

Stojkovic, Ivanovic, Bisevac, Nastasic, Kolarov, Mijailovic, Kuzmanovic, Ignjovski, Tadic, Tosic, Lekic. Subs: Kahriman, Maksimovic, Duricic, Ninkovic, Tomic, Radovanovic, Basta, Subotic, Markovic, Brkic.

And here are the Ireland subs:

Forde, O’Brien, Long, Green, Coleman, Keogh, Delaney, Randolph.

James McClean fires a free kick into the wall from a promising position just outside the box.

Simon Cox then skips past his man to win another free kick near the corner flag, but the hosts subsequently clear the ball away comfortably.

Ireland appear to be playing 4-5-1 at the moment, with McClean in the centre behind the striker and Cox on the wing.

It’s an interesting move from Trapattoni, and one that his detractors will claim comes a few months too late.

Another Irish corner is cleared comfortably, before a nervous-looking Westwood can only clear the ball at the second time of asking when under pressure from the onrushing striker.

With 15 minutes gone, there is no real urgency in either team’s play, and it seems to be turning into the type of low-key pre-season affair that everyone was expecting.

Westwood does well to hold on to Kolarov’s deflected shot from distance. That save should give the new Ireland number one some confidence, hopefully.

While the game is quiet, I might as well mention that Robin Van Persie has signed for Man United (in case you haven’t heard). You can read the full story here.

Another Ireland corner comes to nothing, as Jon Walters is penalised for an infringement on the defender (not for the first time tonight).

Trap’s men have been poor from set pieces so far, which is a concern ahead of the qualifiers, given that they have been one of our most frequent outlets for goals in recent years.

An ambitious effort, as Glenn Whelan notices the goalkeeper out of position, and he forces him to parry the ball away for a corner with a shot from at least 40 yards.

Meanwhile, down the other end, Stephen Kelly gets close enough to the opposition attacker to ensure his header does not threaten Westwood’s goal.

In tonight’s other friendlies, England are a goal down to Italy, while Lionel Messi has just missed a penalty for Argentina in their game against Ireland’s World Cup group rivals, Germany.

With 40 minutes gone, Ireland’s new formation/faces can be described as a moderate success at best. They have posed minimal attacking threat, though they haven’t looked like conceding either.

However, as I type, a mazy run by a Serbian attacker is eventually stopped thanks to a last-ditch sliding tackle from Darren O’Dea.

And then, down the other end, a nice passing move from the Irish players comes to an abrupt end when McClean pushes the ball too far forward while attempting to beat his man, and it goes harmlessly out for a goal kick.

Aiden McGeady does well to beat his man, but the Serbia defender gets to the cross just ahead of James McClean.

HALF-TIME: SERBIA 0-0 IRELAND

So it’s half-time and the game has unfortunately been as uneventful as its build-up.

However, it’s at least been interesting from a tactical viewpoint, with McClean, McGeady and Cox all playing behind the lone striker at times tonight.

Unsurprisingly, the players have looked less than comfortable at times as a result of all the changes, but they have at least been passing it a bit more than usual and there is definitely potential in this new idea that Trap is attempting to implement.

Moreover, it is a relief to discover he is willing to depart from the rigid, old-fashioned 4-4-2 style that has been the Italian manager’s trademark up until now.

Setanta’s Kevin Kilbane says he would “love” to see Seamus Coleman come on in the second half.

I get the feeling the majority of Irish fans are thinking the same thing.

The second half has begun…

Cox does well to steal the ball off Tosic, as the Serbian player gets ready to pull the trigger just outside the box.

On a sidenote, I must say the referee seems very whistle happy this evening. Every time an Irish player jumps anywhere near a Serbian during a corner or free-kick, he blows up.

Meanwhile, Aiden McGeady has just been booked for deliberately pulling down an onrushing Serbian attacker.

Decent play by Ireland as a number of slick passes lead to James McClean crossing the ball for McGeady to meet, but the winger hits his shot tamely wide.

Seconds later, the Spartak Moscow man hammers a free-kick into the wall from 30 yards out.

Ireland are at least playing with a bit more flow and confidence to their game now, as they ostensibly grow more accustomed to this new formation.

If you thought Ireland playing a system other than 4-4-2 was too good to be true, Trap has reverted to his old ways in one respect – by introducing Paul Green into the action.

Green comes on for Glenn Whelan, whose pot shot in the first-half was the highlight of what was a typically diligent and largely unspectacular performance from the Stoke man.

Serbia have enjoyed a decent spell of late, as the majority of their possession has been in Ireland’s final third.

They still haven’t really threatened to score, with Ireland looking solid, as they invariably tend to do under Trap.

Here’s that aforementioned botched attempt at a clearance from Westwood in the first half.

(INPHO/Donall Farmer)

Westwood pulls off his first great save of the night, gettinbg down well to parry away Kuzmanovic’s powerfully struck free kick.

Meanwhile, James McClean’s evening has come to an end, as he is replaced by Andy Keogh.

The Sunderland player has been relatively quiet, though in his defence, he has had to deal with playing in an unfamiliar role.

It’d be interesting to get a look at the match stats and see how many times Jon Walters has been penalised for an infringement. It must be approaching double figures at this stage.

More Ireland substitutions: Seamus Coleman and Joey O’Brien replace Jon Walters and Aiden McGeady.

There have been some positional switches as a result, and Simon Cox is now operating as the lone striker.

Tomic fires an ambitious shot just over, as we enter into the last five minutes of the game.

With less than two minutes remaining, this game appears to be petering out.

Though as I type, Tosic narrowly fails to latch on to a through ball, following a gut-busting run towards the Irish penalty area.

With only a few seconds remaining, Serbia have a corner…

FULL TIME: IRELAND 0-0 SERBIA

So it’s all over, in what has been, to be frank, a less-than-thrilling game of football.

Nonetheless, I suppose it’s invariably the type of match you get from these pre-season international friendlies.

“Everyone can be very pleased with tonight,” is the somewhat generous verdict of Kevin Kilbane.

In truth, the Irish team were competent without excelling at any point.

Kevin Kilbane says that Trap instructed him not to go beyond the wingers when playing at full-back for Ireland.

It’s hardly a revelation, to be fair.

Alright, that’s it from me for now. Thanks for reading and commenting. And stay tuned, as we’ll have an analysis of what this game means for Ireland’s World Cup qualifying hopes up on the site shortly

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

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