Access exclusive podcasts, interviews and analysis with a monthly or annual membership

Become A Member
Dublin: 4°C Sunday 17 January 2021

What banana skin? Five things Ireland must do to avoid defeat this evening

It’s draw or bust for Trap tonight, so we examine what his side must do to avoid an ignominious loss.

The Irish team train ahead of the game today.
The Irish team train ahead of the game today.

IRELAND HAVE BEEN in this situation before.

It has all come down to the final qualification game, and seasoned Irish supporters will be very much accustomed to both the heartache and joy, which the occasion ultimately inspires.

Many people have touted Armenia as tricky opponents ahead of the game this evening, but Trapattoni’s side’s fate is very much in their own hands. Here are five things we must do to avoid the disaster of a defeat.

1. Don’t believe the hype

There’s been so much talk about Armenia of late – you’d almost swear we were facing Barcelona, judging by the tone of some of the articles. But there should be more balance in assessing our opponents tonight. True, they comfortably dispatched Macedonia on Friday. However, they also struggled in the equivalent away fixture, drawing 2-2 against a team that looked incredibly poor against Ireland.

While the manner in which they beat Slovakia 4-0 was impressive, the game was an anomaly in a group in which they have blown hot and cold. Moreover, the world rankings rarely lie, and Armenia currently sit in 44th position – a full 15 places below Ireland.

2. Don’t play for a draw

It may seem like I’m stating the obvious, but this is a mindset that Ireland have been prone to adopting in the past. Under Trapattoni, we have acquired a tendency to do the bare minimum in order to achieve the desired result. Look no further than last Friday, when we essentially stopped playing against Andorra having established a comfortable lead.

Moreover, recall situations in the past in which it was only when the pressure was on that Trapattoni’s men belatedly played without fear. The second leg in the play-off against France, which we needed to win, was a prime example. As was the performance in the away fixture against Italy when they went a goal ahead in the World Cup qualifying campaign. We need to adopt this attitude from early on tonight, if we are to be in any way confident of progressing.

3. Give Aiden McGeady as much ball as possible

(INPHO/James Crombie)

The Spartak Moscow man is arguably our most important player tonight, both in attack and defence. He must display the kind of defensive qualities that have enabled him to become a regular fixture in the side under Trapattoni, particularly with the threat posed by Armenia’s speedy wingers.

In addition, with Damien Duff beginning to look his age, McGeady is arguably the only Ireland player capable of taking on players and beating them. It’s therefore vital that the ex-Celtic star is given the ball at every available opportunity, particularly early on, in order to build up the confidence of a player whose fragile temperament causes him to occasionally disappoint on the big stage.

4. Make optimal use of our set pieces

Let’s face it, Ireland under Trapattoni will never play the most attractive brand of football. We are basically the international equivalent of a Bolton or a Stoke at best.

So with players like Richard Dunne and Sean St Ledger in the side, Ireland must play to their strengths and should always be a major threat at set pieces. Several of our goals under Trapattoni – including the two against Andorra on Friday – have come from set pieces. Therefore, it would be bordering on criminal tonight if Ireland disappoint in this respect, given that they represent one of our primary attacking outlets.

5. Use the bench well

This has been a rather inconsistent aspect of Trapattoni’s tenure. He has at times used the bench well – bringing on Shane Long in the home game against Russia proved a positive step and almost helped Ireland rescue an unlikely point. Conversely, he also chose to introduce Paul McShane in the World Cup play-off second leg against France and the defender’s lack of concentration from a free kick ultimately facilitated Thierry Henry’s infamous handball goal.

It’s impossible to say right now who would be an appropriate sub to use, as it obviously depends on how the match pans out, but he could start by picking the right players to choose from. Consequently, he must reverse his baffling decision against Andorra, in which he neglected to include Seamus Coleman in the match-day squad.

Poll: How will Ireland get on against Armenia tonight?>

Read: Managing expectations: Does Ireland’s record support qualification hopes?>

About the author:

Paul Fennessy

Read next: