A modest yet memorable cameo 24 years ago at Euro ’88 is the Republic of Ireland’s only ever appearance at a European Championship. Having been a Thierry Henry handball away from qualifying for the last World Cup in 2010, Giovanni Trapattoni’s side will be relishing playing in a major tournament in Poland-Ukraine this summer. Famous for creating an atmosphere and their support – an expected 40,000 Irish are to travel to Poland where the squad is based.
Ireland qualified for Euro 2012 having finished runners-up in their group to Russia with a decent record of W6 D3 and just one defeat in their ten games – Trapattoni’s side have suffered just two defeats in 24 competitive games. The Boys in Green certainly got the most favourable play-off game possible, been drawn against Estonia with was navigated with ease, 5-1 on aggregate.
The wily old Italian, despite grumblings from fans and the media alike to mix things up, has paid little or no attention to the pandering and stuck to his guns as far as personnel and the way Ireland set up. Put simply, Ireland are a defensive side for one reason and one reason only, the quality of players is not there in abundance like other nations taking part in Euro 2012. Organisation, defensive discipline and attention to the little details as Trapattoni so often preaches are the great strengths of this Irish squad. There is no room for open expansive football in a group containing Spain, Italy and Croatia.
However, there is experience in this squad; Shay Given, Richard Dunne, Robbie Keane and Damien Duff are all veterans of the 2002 World Cup. John O’Shea and Kevin Doyle are also veterans of many squads. Ireland play a set way and that is not about to change – a 4-4-2 formation or a 4-4-1-1 with Keane playing behind Doyle. In Trapattoni’s final 23-man squad there were little surprises, James McCarthy had to withdraw due to family illness, Keith Fahey and Kevin Foley were named in the squad but due to injury were both replaced by Paul Green and Paul McShane respectively. One inclusion that raised both eyebrows and expectations is that of James McClean after a whirlwind six-months at Sunderland.
Ireland open their Euro 2012 campaign to Croatia where a win is vital to make qualification for the knockout stage to even seem vaguely achievable.
Fixtures: Ireland vs. Croatia (June, 10th), Ireland vs. Spain (June, 14th) and Ireland vs. Italy (June 18th)