Not seeing the Republic of Ireland team in the world cup in 2018 hurt, and even though it’s fair for all teams to take part, it is a bitter pill to swallow when you see teams such as Panama, Iran and Costa Rica, competing when Ireland are on a par or better than them.
And this time around, for the up-and-coming World Cup qualifiers, there are still a few concerns that it could be another World Cup minus ‘the tricolour’ flying high in the World’s biggest footballing event! after all.
Kenny already has his 29-man squad fully named for the 2 World Cup qualifying matches versus Serbia and then Luxembourg. The team has not played together since November last year after a disappointing run of games after losing the play off for the delayed Euros to Slovakia.
We now have Serbia, which is the big game coming up, a loss will only start chins wagging and heap more pressure on bos Stephen Kenny. Although it’s hard to be positive after the UEFA Nations League and failure to make the last World Cup, this Serbia game is an important one out of all the up-and-coming Ireland fixtures.
After that, the Luxembourg game will definitely be a game Ireland need to win to take some pressure of Stephen Kenny and the boys. The Qatar friendly again will be no walkover, they did win the Asian Cup in 2019 beating Japan 3-1 in the final. While Serbia is the big game the next two games will really shape how fans see the team under Kenny.
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The biggest problem is between the posts. Darren Randolph is missing, and Liverpool’s talented Caoimhin Kelleher is also out. That’s our first 2 goalkeepers out of action so Mark Travers is likely to start, Ireland are also missing the commanding central defensive unit of John Egan. Stepping into a tough role is likely to be Ciaran Clark to cover for Egan. Will Kenny pick Duffy? Or will he go for O’Shea? Duffy hasn’t let Ireland down before but he is woefully out of form at Celtic.
In midfield will Kenny go for younger players like Josh Cullen or will he stick with the experienced players like Jeff Hendrick and Robbie Brady? Conor Hourihane started most games under Kenny but he is also out, so Jason Knight, Jayson Molumby or Alan Browne will all be looking to impress during training and get a place on the team to play Serbia.
There is light at the end of the tunnel, at least for the future, as young goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu looks to be an amazing talent coming through the ranks.
The Dubliner is currently playing for Rochdale. Whether it is too soon for him to become the first-choice keeper for Qatar 2022 is another question, but nonetheless he is one to watch!