Slovakia seems so far away when the house of the FAI is caving in, with no real light at the end of a tunnel and a mountain of debt for Irish football to deal with. The last time Ireland played Slovakia was John Delaney’s high point with the fans and public, he arranged a free train and booze from Brattislava to Zilina, upon landing in Zilina can in hand he he was hoisted a top the shoulders of drunken fans. What a conman and what an embarrassment for those fans carrying him.
But I digress, football keeps on motoring on and waits for no passengers. And the qualification process for Euro 2020 has to be the ultimate exercise in motoring on. To get from 55 European teams down to 24 at the Euros it will take over 350 games and counting. The format started out with Nations League groups, to Euro 2020 qualifying, then to the Nations League Finals back to Euro qualifying and now to cap the marathon off the Nations League play offs.
So here Ireland are again in the play offs (fun fact we now hold the record of been in the most play offs in Europe). First up it’s away to Slovakia in March and if we can get through that game it’s away to Bosnia or Northern Ireland. Not many fans think we have a chance as we just aren’t that good. But then again neither are Slovakia.
They played in a group with Croatia, Wales, Hungary and Azerbaijan finishing third in the group with the highlight of their campaign winning away to Hungary 2-1, they lost twice to Croatia including a bad 4-0 loss at home and ultimately lost out on automatic qualification against Wales whom they lost 1-0 away and drew 1-1 with at home. So Ireland’s results aren’t much better or worse really, if you want to stay away from the match betting you can bet on the Lotto jackpot at Lottoland.
When you look at both teams statistics Slovakia passed it more, had a few more shots but it’s in defence where the starkest stat comes out. Ireland stats for Darren Randolph are immense he made 13 saves while the Slovakia keeper Martin Dubravka made 38. That is huge.
Ireland’s strength is we have one of the best defences in European football, it’s just what’s in front of it that isn’t working, be that a lack of players or a manager making poor decisions, probably a bit of both if we are honest.
So in the most simplistic terms if the Irish defence can keep out their attack and steal a goal we can progress, ie. the same blueprint for the past 10 years. Who knows we might just crap our way to the Euros yet.
Words Tony Phelan