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Dublin: 10 °C Tuesday 22 October, 2019
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Meet the guys aiming to derail Ireland's Euro 2012 hopes

Armenia are in town for tomorrow night’s final group qualifier. Ireland just need a point. Easy, right?

John O'Shea tussles with Armenia's Edgar Malakyan in Yerevan last year.
John O'Shea tussles with Armenia's Edgar Malakyan in Yerevan last year.
Image: INPHO/Donall Farmer

WHEN ARMENIA STEP on to the playing surface at the Aviva Stadium tomorrow evening, Giovanni Trapattoni and his team will be well aware of their capabilities.

Should the visitors lose, Ireland will be the only team in Group B not to have dropped points to their Eurasian counterparts. Have we caught your attention yet?

Previous encounter:

Only a stunning goal from Keith Fahey separated the sides when the two teams met in Yerevan over 12 months ago and that result has become increasingly impressive as the Armenians’ campaign has continued.

Ireland were tested at the back that day – Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger doing well against relatively unknown threats – and the same players that coach Vardan Minasyan has spent time blooding over the last couple of months have improved several times over since. Armenia are capable of putting a massive dent in Irish hopes, if given the opportunity.

Danger men
:

Armenia would not have had a goalscorer of note within their squad before the current campaign. Twenty one goals later they are the top-scoring team in the group (eight more than Ireland, ten more than Russia), and have only conceded one extra goal when you compare their tally to our defensive record at the other end.

Most of their players play in the domestic league – many under Minasyan’s guidance at Pyunik Yerevan – but they also have guys based in Poland, Ukraine and Russia. Their are lead by their captain Sargis Hovsepyan, who has 120 + caps, and is a defender with plenty of experience.

Gevorg Ghazaryan and Yura Movsisyan are two more to keep an eye out for. The former plays with Metalurh Donetsk and now has six international goals to his name at the age of 22, with team-mate Movsisyan (24) also making a fine contribution while plying his trade with Russia side Krasnodar.

The biggest danger is likely to come from playmaker Henrikh Mkhitaryan though, who has been a key factor behind their success. The Shakhtar Donetsk man troubled Shay Given in Yerevan and is his team’s joint top scorer at the moment, along with Ghazaryan.

Coach
:

A former midfield international for his country, Armenian Vardan Minasyan looks after the national side as well as club side Pyunik Yerevan. As a player he spent the bulk of his time with the same team but also had brief spells overseas with Lausanne Sports and Lokomotiv St. Peterburg.

His move into management started at Pyunik and he went on to become assistant coach to Ian Porterfield – the man who took over Aberdeen after Alex Ferguson joined Manchester United in 1986, was the first man to be sacked by a Premier League club (Chelsea) in 1993 and who was then in charge of the Armenian national team for a time.

Minasyan took over the reins briefly after Porterfield’s resignation in 2007 (he was suffering with cancer) and though the national football association flirted with other coaches including Dane Jan Poulsen, they re-engaged the 37-year-old’s services in February 2010 and haven’t looked back since.

What it all means:

Armenia’s pacey counter-attacks caused Ireland plenty of concern in the first game. They come to Dublin knowing that they have already exceeded expectations and have nothing to lose. A draw will do Ireland, but nothing is secured yet and it’s worth remembering that Armenia’s only other defeat in the group was in Moscow.

These guys may have been minnows once, but no longer. Unfortunately, we could well see that reflected in the tactics Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli decide to employ to ensure another play-off spot for the Boys in Green.

Trapattoni willing to wait for Robbie

Smile…. it could be you!

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