Stephen Kenny didn’t have much luck at the start of his reign where covid affected squads hampered his plans and we had a very poor Nations League in 2020. This time it would appear luck is on his side. With Ukraine and Scotland preoccupied with their World Cup play off games, both teams will not be taking the Nations League too seriously and it should be an opportunity to take advantage of. But first up is a tricky away game in Yerevan, in the mid afternoon heat, against Armenia. If Ireland can win here it will set us up nicely for the double header against Ukraine (Wed 8th June) and Scotland (Saturday 11th).
Kenny has a strong squad to choose from and he will be putting out his strongest 11 in Yerevan. With Bazunu keeping his place and Duffy, Egan and probably Nathan Collins as the back three that is a rock sold defensive core. Kenny also had more luck when it was revealed that Josh Cullen wasn’t suspended for this match, so he will slot in the middle. Up front we now have some great choices, Michael Obafemi might not start but after his super form with Swansea he will be coming off the bench at least. Troy Parrott is another player who had a very good season finish at MK Dons. He had admitted his attitude was wrong and since getting his head into the right space he has improved a lot almost guiding the Dons into the Championship. After his cameo saving goal in the 94th minute against Lithuania he will likely start, and obviously Callum Robinson, who hasn’t put a foot wrong for Kenny in his last few games will get the nod too.
Seamus Coleman will be picked as right wing back but at left back it will be either James McLean, who helped Wigan back into the Championship or Kenny might choose Enda Stevens.
Most likely Kenny will go with Jeff Hendrick alongside Cullen with possibly Jason Knight and Chiedozie Ogbene as the wide men. Alan Browne or Conor Hourihane could start too.
This is the team I think Kenny will pick but I would be happy with several other players starting. Which is another sign of the good work Kenny has accomplished that he now has lots of good options in numerous positions. This Nations League could be the making of Kenny’s reign and he needs to drive home the advantage the luck of the draw has given him, luck which can be found on betting sites like casino NetBet.
Collins, Duffy, Egan,
Coleman, Cullen, Hendrick, McClean
Ogbene, Robinson, Parrott
Ireland have only ever played Armenia twice in our history when we were drawn together in a Euro 2012 qualification group. Ireland won both games scrappily and finished 2nd in the group and landed a play-off draw against Estonia, which Ireland won 4-0, sending the team to Poland for the ill fated Euros where we lost all three group games. In the qualifying group there was also Russia, Slovakia, Macedonia and Andorra. The Armenian’s had a good campaign finishing third in the group with 17 points ahead of Slovakia.
Ireland under manager Giovanni Trapattoni had a lot of luck that campaign. Without playing particular well throughout the campaign we got to the Euro 2012 finals. We robbed a point in Moscow when a Richard Dunne inspired defensive performance saved us when a 3-4 loss would have been a fair result, as mentioned earlier we scrappily beat Armenia and played out some boring draws and lost 3-2 at home to Russia. The hidings we got at Euro 2012 were just rewards for the negativity of the football we played that campaign.
Armenia have never qualified for a major tournament and their qualification campaigns just never quite have enough consistency to land them a play off slot. And their last World Cup 2022 qualifying campaign sums it up, they were in a tough group with Romania, Germany, Iceland, North Macedonia and Liechtenstein. Remarkably after 3 games they sat top of the table with 9 points, beating Liechtenstein 0-1, Iceland 2-0 and Romania 3-2 and then in very predictable fashion it fell apart where they picked up another 3 points and finished 4th in the group.
They are little like Georgia (a team we are oh so familiar with) technically proficient, lots of possession but just lack that winning edge in tight games, where their more experienced European neighbours luck usually falls their way and narrowly winning by the odd goal. There must be so many games where the Armenian coaches leave the pitch thinking but for these minor we could have the three points.
For the 2020 Nations League C qualifying group Armenia surprised North Macedonia, Estonia and Georgia and were promoted into Group B. They are definitely the weakest side on paper with Ireland running them close. Ireland manager Stephen Kenny, had a very rocky start in WC qualification in comparison after our first three WC qualifying games we had zero points but we did the opposite to Armenia and finished strongly.
Manager: Joaquín Caparrós, the Spaniard took over in March 2020. He is a very experienced coach having managed several teams in La Liga like Sevilla, whom he won promotion with and helped establish as one of the top 6 teams in Spain. He has a good record as Armenian coach having played 18 won 7 drawn 5 and lost 6.
Squad: Most of the squad play domestically with a few players in Russia, Cyprus and Kazakhstan. The only player in one of the A list leagues is Armenian legend Henrikh Mkhitaryan, currently with Roma in Italy. He is only just turned 32! I would have thought he was a lot older. Sargis Adamyan, is on loan from Hoffenheim and playing with Club Brugge since January. At Hoffenheim he had a ok scoring record with 5 goals in 15 games in 2019 and only 2 goals last season. Which is still better than any of Ireland’s strikers the past few years.
Star Player: Tigran Barseghyan, a goal scoring midfielder. He has played in Macedonia, Kazakhstan before signing for Slovan Bratislava in November 2021, he hasn’t played yet for the club due to injury. But he had scored 42 goals in the previous three seasons, and he has 8 international goals in 44 games.
Words Carl McMahon