UEFA EURO 2012 Team Preview – Republic Of Ireland

Population 4.5 million Area 70,273km2 Capital Dublin Currency Euro Official Language English

FOOTBALL FACTFILE

Football Asocciation Football Association of Ireland (FAI) Official Site http://www.fai.ie Year of formation 1921 Euro Ranking 15 World Ranking 18 National Stadium Aviva Stadium, Dublin Well-known club sides Shamrock Rovers, Shelbourne Dundalk Leading goalscorers Robbie Keane (53), Niall Quinn (21), Frank Stapleton (20) Most capped players Shay Given (120+), Robbie Keane (114+), Kevin Kilabe (110+) European Championship finals attended 1988 Best European Championship performance Group Stage 1988 Playing Record in European Championship P112 W45 D33 L34 Odds of winning UEFA EURO 2012 100/1

JOURNEY TO POLAND/UKRAINE

It’s been two decades since Ireland were last involved in a European Championship, memorably beating England in their first match in 1988 with a well played Ray Houghton header. And it’s been 10 years since they were last involved in a major competition, going out on penalties to Spain in FIFA World Cup 2002 after Robbie Keane had scored a 90th minute equaliser.

It’s been a long road for the Irish since. They fell well short of qualification for any major until Giovanni Trapattoni instilled a renewed confidence among an ageing and experienced squad. They were cheated out of FIFA World Cup 2010 qualification by Thierry Henry’s handball, but thumped Estonia 5-1 on aggregate to qualify for UEFA EURO 2012.

Ireland suffered only one defeat in the process, a 3-2 reverse against group winners Russia, and between losing 3-2 in a friendly to Uruguay in March and a 2-1 home win over Armenia in October, they kep eight consecutive clean sheets, a domestic record in short, the Republic are a changed side, they’re more resilient, gaining a wonderful 0-0 draw in Moscow, more ruthless, as shown by their 4-0 away trouncing of Estonia, and they are regaining a reputation that makes them one of the most feared minnows on the continent.

HOW THEY GOT THERE

03/09/2010 – Group B – Armenia 0-1 Republic of Ireland
07/09/2010 – Group B – Republic of Ireland 3-1 Andorra
08/10/2010 – Group B – Republic of Ireland 2-3 Russia
12/10/2010 – Group B – Solvakia 1-1 Malta
26/03/2011 – Group B – Republic of Ireland 2-1 Macedonia
04/06/2011 – Group B – Macedonia 0-2 Republic of Ireland
02/09/2011 – Group B – Republic of Ireland 0-0 Slovakia
06/09/2011 – Group B – Russia 0-0 Republic of Ireland
07/10/2011 – Group B – Andorra 0-2 Republic of Ireland
11/10/2011 – Group B – Republic of Ireland 2-1 Armenia
11/11/2011 – Play-Off – Estonia 0-4 Republic of Ireland
15/11/2011 – Play-Off – Republic of Ireland 1-1 Estonia

HOME AND AWAY KITS

GROUP FIXTURES – GROUP C

Sunday, 10/06 – Republic of Ireland v Croatia (Poznan, 19:45)
Thursday, 14/06 – Spain v Republic of Ireland (Gdansk, 19:45)
Monday, 18/06 – Italy v Republic of Ireland (Poznan, 19:45)

FINAL SQUAD

Goalkeepers: Shay Given (Aston Villa FC), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland AFC), David Forde (Millwall FC).

Defenders: John O’Shea (Sunderland AFC), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa FC), Stephen Ward (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Sean St Ledger (Leicester City FC), Darren O’Dea (Celtic FC), Stephen Kelly (Fulham FC), Paul McShane (Hull City AFC).

Midfielders: Glenn Whelan (Stoke City FC), Keith Andrews (West Bromwich Albion FC), Aiden McGeady (FC Spartak Moskva), Darron Gibson (Everton FC), Paul Green (unattached), Damien Duff (Fulham FC), Stephen Hunt (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), James McClean (Sunderland AFC).

Forwards: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Kevin Doyle (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Shane Long (West Bromwich Albion FC), Jonathan Walters (Stoke City FC), Simon Cox (West Bromwich Albion FC).

THE DEFENSIVE ROCK – RICHARD DUNNE

While Robbie Keane is the man with the armband, how Richard Dunne leads the back line will decide the fate of the Irish in a difficult Group C. He enjoyed the adulation of travelling support in Moscow, where his outstanding, unflinching performance helped his country to secure a point. They will need lots more of that spirit against Spain, Italy and Croatia.

THE KEEPER – SHAY GIVEN

Brushed aside by Manchester City after the emergence of England’s Joe Hart, Shay Given has rebuilt his club career at an under-achieving Aston Villa and continues to impress as his country’s number one. Alongside established pros such as Damian Duff, John O’Shea, Richard Dunne and Robbie Keane, Given has worked hard to be here and won’t be going home without a fight.

THE CAPTAIN & STAR MAN – ROBBIE KEANE

He may have lost a yard or two of his electric pace, but Robbie Keane’s eye for goal remains undimmed. Only Klaas-Jan Huntelaar and Miroslav Klose scored more than his seven goals in qualifying, and his goal tally for Ireland is more than doubt that of closest rival Niall Quinn. If the Republic are to have any chance of progressing from what would appear, on paper, to be the second-most difficult group of the last 16, you feel Keane will have to be on top form. Whether he and his ageing compadres can keep up performance levels in the latter stages of the competition is a different question.

THE MANAGER – GIOVANNI TRAPATTONI

One of the best-known coaches in world football, it was something of a surprise when Giovanni Trapattoni turned up in Dublin to take charge of an Irish side in disarray. He led them undefeated, including two draws against Italy, in their FIFA World Cup 2010 qualifying group and was hugely unlucky not beat France in the play-offs. He has gone a step further this year by qualifying for Poland/Ukraine and, if he takes the Republic of Ireland beyond this incredibly tough group, it may be his biggest achievement in management to date.

TOURNAMENT PREDICTION

Group Stage – It would be like a miracle and a shock, if Ireland do qualifying from Group C. Spain and Italy should both prove too strong for the Irish and are the favourites to advance from the group. Republic of Ireland will mostly find themselves fighting it out for the third spot with Croatia. One possibility for them to make it out of the group is, if they can get draws against Spain and Italy and a win in the first game against Croatia. That would surely be enough but it looks highly unlikely.

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