Slovakia vs Ireland - The Euros Are Just Two Wins Away!
Sometimes, it feels like time is playing tricks on you. Euro 2020 will begin in June 2021; the tournament scheduled four months ago is eight months away. Things are never all that straightforward, are they?!
But one thing’s pretty simple; a pair of victories, and Ireland will be a part of the continental showpiece. Originally set for March, the playoffs stage for the competition have finally rolled around; in the de facto semi-final, Ireland will travel to Slovakia for a one-legged contest to decide whether it’s step closer to qualification, or another summer of picking someone else to root for.
It’s all on the line on Thursday, with kick off at 7.45pm live on Sky Sports Football, Virgin TV 407. As for what you need to know before kickoff – well, read on…
ALL OR NOTHING
Playoff games always have a lot at stake, but the new format introduces even more excitement; rather than a two-legged affair, ties are now one-and-done. It means there’s no such thing as “a good point away from home”, or “a fine result to bring back”; it’s for all the marbles. Another famous night in November isn’t promised; we’ve got to win to get there…
One man who needs no telling about this game’s importance is the boss; Stephen Kenny is well aware he’s facing into the biggest game of his career. His first games in charge delivered both bright spots and sobering moments, as well as a glimpse at the style of play he’ll look to deploy during his time in the hotseat. Building for the future isn’t the name of the game on Thursday, though; it’s suddenly time to think in the short term again.
OH CAPTAIN, MY CAPTAIN
It’s a tale of two captains in the lead-up to the clash – and Ireland are on the wrong side of it. While Slovak leader Marek Hamšík arrives back for his first international in a year, Seamus Coleman sustained a weekend injury that’s all but guaranteed to leave him sidelined. The Everton man has been a lynchpin of this Irish side for a decade; it’s not a great time to be out of action!
THE GOAL HUNT
There’s only so much that the head of Shane Duffy can do; Ireland need goals, and it’s never easy to see where they’ll come from. A David McGoldrick/Aaron Connolly axis appears to be the preferred option, but a combined record of one goal 17 caps can’t fill anyone with confidence. Callum Robinson and Adam Idah provide alternatives – and we really won’t care where the scoring comes from as long as it comes!
A LEAGUE OF HIS OWN
Jack Byrne is the sole representative of our domestic league in the squad – and his performances on home soil have shown him to be head and shoulders against the majority of the competition. It’s always unlikely that players based in Ireland will carve out a spot in a manager’s plans, but if there’s one boss who might be persuaded it’s long-time LOI stalwart Kenny. As fairytales go, it would take some beating…
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