As I write this article we are 63 days away from the kick off of Euro 2012, the big tournament is creeping up and the excitement is starting to be felt in all countries taking part. Excitement and feverish anticipation is normal of course, but not many nations will be feeling it more than the Republic of Ireland. Cruelly denied their chance to go to the FIFA World Cup in 2010 by a clear ‘hand of God’ from the usually clean cut Henry, the Irish public have never quite got over it, and now they have their chance to put these ghosts to rest in stunning style.
The Republic qualified for the Euros via playoff, beating the Estonians emphatically to finally get to their first major tournament since 2002. Of course, the hard work is still yet to be done, after having been drawn in the ‘Group of Death’ . Having to face Italy, Spain and Croatia is no mean feat, but I for one have a lot of faith. There is no denying that the Republic have a very talented team, packed full of premier league stars. With the likes of Dunne, Long, Walters and Mclean, along with the ever loyal Robbie Keane and Shay Given, you can never write them off.
With all the components of a high quality team, they will arguably do very well. There is strength in goal and defence, a mixture of pace and stability in midfield, and potency up front. In Trappatoni they have a hugely successful manager, widely regarded as the finest in Italian club football history. Currently his win percentage as manager stands at about 50% , which clearly needs to improve, but the experience is there, and nobody knows how he will perform as manager under the pressure of a major tournament , but he will arguably thrive.
A win against Croatia is entirely doable, it’s the one the team surely has to target as a must win, and I believe they will win. The game against Spain will be mostly be for the experience , however sometimes football is a funny game, and although Spain look like they’d beat anyone on the day, nothing is impossible. The game against Italy will be an interesting one, and looking at the past few fixtures, you’d think the Republic stand a fantastic chance. They won the last game v Italy 0-2, and drew the two before that. Italy have not beaten Ireland since 2005. Of course, there was also the famous world cup game at USA 94 in which Ireland won 0-1 thanks to a wonder strike from Houghton. They’ll take heart from this, and would fully deserve to progress.
Of course, a second in group finish would set up a potential fire cracker of an encounter with England, depending on England’s results of course. If this is the case, I for one, cannot wait. Being English of Irish decent, I want both teams to do well, and being a derby of sorts, who knows what could happen. To close however,my view is that the Republic will certainly get out of their group, they have a point to prove and will more than likely prove it. After the group stages anything can happen, but above all, they can be proud of everything they do. The Republic is a proud nation, and I’m sure they will not be let down by their boys in green this summer.
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