Euro 2012: Ireland to again play on the big stageJune 3rd, 2012 - 6:57 pm ICT by IANS
Warsaw, June 3 (IANS) Whatever happens to his side in the European Championships, Ireland coach Giovanni Trapattoni deserves a vote of thanks from his adopted country for doing a magnificent job.
The Italian has returned the Irish to the finals of the European Championships for the first time since 1988 and ended 10 years of missing out of major finals after the Irish also failed to qualify for the 2006 and 2010 World Cup finals.
The last time the Irish graced the European Championships, a side coached by Jack Charlton and including such talents as John Aldridge, Steve Staunton and Ray Houghton, produced a fine performance to stun a confident England side and draw with the Soviet Union, before a narrow 0-1 defeat to the Netherlands saw them fail to reach the semi-finals, reported Xinhua.
Ireland qualified for Euro 2012 and ended their 24 years in the European wilderness by finishing second behind Russia in Group B and then brushing past Estonia 5-1 on aggregate in the play-offs.
Trapattoni’s side based their campaign on solid defence, organised midfield and an attack based around the goal-sniffing talents of Robbie Keane.
Keane scored five of his side’s 15 goals in the qualifying group, something that points to one of the weaknesses in the squad. The 31-year-old retains his hunger for success despite now playing in the MLS, however, should anything happen to Keane, it is hard to see where other goals will come from.
Kevin Doyle is a talented and hard-working striker, but with 10 goals from 46 international appearances, he could hardly be described as prolific and he will travel to the finals after suffering a painful relegation from the English Premier League with his club side, Wolverhampton Wanderers, the same as winger Stephen Hunt.
Stoke’s battering ram forward Jonathan Walters will add muscle to attack, but isn’t a regular goal-scorer and Trapattoni could find himself relying on Aiden McGeady to add guile up front.
Meanwhile James McClean is the player the fans want to see. Signed from Derry City by Sunderland last summer, the 23-year-old could lay claim to having been one of the surprises of the Premier League this season, scoring five goals in 25 appearances and winning over the fans at the Stadium of Light.
In goal Shay Given is an institution for the Republic with 121 caps and he travels after another excellent season in the Premier League, helping keep Aston Villa in the English top flight.
He will play behind a defence that is experienced but limited and led by Richard Dunne, who has been plagued with physical problems all season. Dunne and Sean St Ledger usually form Trapattoni’s first choice central defensive paring with former Manchester United stopper John O’ Shea providing adaptability.
Ireland can draw strength from the fact that they have always been underdogs and have always (apart from Roy Keane’s walkout from the 2002 World Cup finals) shown incredible team spirit.
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Tags: battering ram, england side, english premier league, euro 2012, giovanni trapattoni, goal scorer, international appearances, jack charlton, john aldridge, jonathan walters, kevin doyle, magnificent job, mcgeady, play offs, qualifying group, robbie keane, stephen hunt, steve staunton, vote of thanks, world cup finals