A welcome addition to any tournament, the Republic of Ireland will bring their usual gutsy, colourful presence to Euro 2012. But the luck of the Irish clearly does not extend to group draws, as Giovanni Trapattoni’s side find themselves among impressive company.
Just reaching the tournament is an achievement but the Irish are not here just to make up the numbers.
Look for three disciplined, workman-like performances, based around a defensive 4-4-1-1 formation that floods the midfield and forces opponents to do their damage out wide. At the other end, Robbie Keane and Kevin Doyle will be asked to create chances on the counter attack. With Keane, Richard Dunne, John O’Shea and Shay Given, the Irish have plenty of big game experience to draw on.
In The Dugout – Giovanni Trapattoni
Trapattoni deserves great credit for the progress he has overseen. With a shortage of top class talents to call upon, he has built a gritty team that will not win any prizes for the beauty of their play but can hold their own against the big boys. He has managed many of Europe’s elite clubs over the course of his career as well as the Italian national team – but leading the Irish into the knockout rounds at Euro 2012 would rank alongside any of his previous accomplishments.
Key Player – Shay Given
Given will be a busy man in the Irish goal and must be on top form if his team are to pull off an upset or two. Trapattoni is sure to plan disciplined backs-to-the-wall tactics, leaning on Given’s shot-stopping expertise. The Aston Villa goalkeeper will be out to prove a point after seeing former club Manchester City lift the Premier League title this season.
View from Ireland
Reaching Euro 2012 was cause for major celebration among Irish fans who longed to return to the big stage and watch their team pit their wits against Europe’s best. Irish supporters are realistic enough to understand that it will take some shock results for their team to progress to the knockout round – however if they win their opening game against Croatia, expectations may shift. Regardless, they will enjoy the thrill of being part of the tournament.
Like Croatia, Irish heads will have dropped when the groups were drawn. Taking points from Italy and Spain will require many factors to fall their way but, as a spirited group, they will not roll over without a fight. Look for three gutsy displays, even if there are potentially no points at the end of the day – and a trip home after the group stage.