Ireland v Georgia preview
If further evidence were needed that the Republic of Ireland are capable of punching above their weight it came at Wembley last Wednesday night when they held England to a 1-1 draw.
The ROI have been making a habit of giving bigger boys a bloody nose for a long time now; their fans will never tire of talking about the goal Ray Houghton scored to beat the mighty Italy in the 1994 World Cup Finals when Jack Charlton was king.
The Boys in Green, also World Cup Quarter Finalists in 1990, are on the march again under veteran Italian coach, Giovanni Trapattoni with reasonable prospects of making it to Rio next year via the play-offs. Germany are away and clear in their group, but the ROI are engaged in a tight battle with Sweden and Austria to secure second spot.
They meet those rivals (Sweden at home, Austria away) in September and that is crunch time, but before that they must dispose of the Faroe Islands in Dublin next Friday and before that they are expected to beat Georgia in a home friendly on Sunday – Coral go 1/2.
Georgia began playing football as a nation only in 1990 and have achieved little of note on the European stage. They have yet to qualify for a major tournament and are one of the also-rans in the World Cup group dominated by Spain and France. But though they have lost on all four occasions they have met the ROI, they did give them two good games in the 2010 World Cup qualifying stages, Trapattoni’s team squeezing out 2-1 victories on both occasions.
The ROI are a well-organised, determined outfit, usually hard to beat, although Germany did give them a good 6-1 spanking in Dublin last autumn.
Robbie Keane may be coming to the end of his career, but in Shane Long they have an excellent replacement, a hard-working, skilful forward and, as we saw at Wembley, capable of a spectacular strike. Coral rate both Keane and Long 4/1 chances to open the scoring
Millwall keeper, David Forde, has also shown that there is life between the posts after Shay Given. He was solid throughout at Wembley and, unlike the defenders in front of him, couldn’t be blamed for the one England goal.
On paper (the ROI have a FIFA world ranking of 39 compared to Georgia’s 96) Sunday’s friendly should be pretty straight forward, but while the home side are often very good at thwarting the bigger names, they are not the type of team to blow the lesser lights away. Expect another close encounter with the ROI again edging it, perhaps 2-1 again (17/2 with Coral).