Back-to-back defeats against Sweden and Austria last month effectively ended the Republic Of Ireland’s hopes of a place in the play-offs and signalled the end of Giovanni Trapattoni’s reign as manager.
Ireland have only lost one of their last eight games and there have been some good performances along the way. They haven’t conceded a goal in their last three outings and a draw against England at Wembley in May was fully merited, as was a point against this Friday’s opposition Sweden at the Rasundastadion in March.
It’s likely to be all about goals as Giovanni Trapattoni’s side prepare to face minnows the Faroe Islands at the Aviva Stadium. The Irish need to rattle up a big score against the Faroese with goal difference likely to play a part in a tight group behind the Germans.
Given that Montenegro are top of Group H, England probably don’t represent fantastic value to win in Podgorica on Tuesday at 4/5, especially as the likes of Jack Wilshere, Theo Walcott and Gary Cahill have already been ruled out. On the other hand, there’s a train of thought which suggests the Montenegrins are possibly a little flattered by their position in the section and they haven’t come up against a team with England’s all-round quality so far.
Ireland probably surpassed expectations in taking a point of Sweden in Stockholm last Friday but they have to build on the momentum gained by beating Austria back at the Aviva Stadium if they are to keep up their push for World Cup Qualification.
Jack Wilshere’s loss is a blow to England but his absence is likely to be felt more keenly in Montenegro next week rather than against minnows San Marino.
Roy Hodgson also has defensive issues to resolve with Gary Cahill joining Michael Dawson, Rio Ferdinand and Phil Jagielka on the sidelines and the manager is considering using Michael Carrick at centre-back.
The Republic’s World Cup destiny may well be decided over the next five days with vital games in Sweden and at home to Austria. They’ve stuck with Giovanni Trapattoni and Marco Tardelli, despite a poor showing at Euro 2012, but performances need to improve if they are to compete against the world’s best in Brazil.
According to David Beckham, hindsight is a wonderful thing! If only we’d all taken notice of the form book coming into the World Cup then finalists the Netherlands and Spain would have stood out like the thumbs of a hitchhiker at the end of his gap year! Both teams waltzed through their qualifying groups without dropping a point. The Dutch are on a long unbeaten run which includes six victories in South Africa, while Spain’s only defeats in the last two years came in last summer’s Confederations Cup (against the USA) and in their opener against the Swiss in Durban, which caught everyone by surprise.