It all comes down to this, 90 minutes of football between Ireland against Armenia in a winner “makes the play off’s” take all game.
Ireland knows what they have to do, win or draw and they seal a second successive play off place under Giovanni Trapattoni. It couldn’t be simpler, there is even the unlikely caveat that should we win and Russians somehow, and I mean somehow, slip up at home to Andorra, then we could even top the group.
Of course lose, and we are out, and like our rugby heroes on Saturday a nations disappointment will rest on the shoulders of the eleven men who take to the field on Tuesday night at 6.45pm.
So to the positives then, well we have them beaten already, away from home, remember Keith Fahey’s goal back in September 2010 that was enough gave us a 1-0 win and our opening three points of the campaign. That win seems even more important now than it did back then.
We haven’t conceded a goal in eight games and have only conceded seven throughout the whole qualifying campaign, six less than Tuesday’s visitors.
The Armenian’s look more comfortable going forward than they do defending so if we can get the right balls into the box then we can cause them problems.
The negatives, Armenia have improved since that opening game and have won their last three games scoring 11 goals in the process, including four each past Slovakia and Macedonia.
In all they have scored 21 goals, 8 more than we have so it’s far to say that Shay Given and co. could be in for a difficult evening.
However they can be beaten, Lithuania beat them 3-0 in a friendly in August and table toppers Russia beat them 3-1 when the sides met in their qualifying tie in Moscow.
Barring a miraculous recovery Robbie Keane looks set to miss out on the clash and possibly the play off’s too if we make them.
The LA Galaxy forward has an adductor injury and while the Irish management team are willing to give him every opportunity to prove his fitness, the more likely outcome will be one of Shane Long, Simon Cox and Jon Walters will come into partner Kevin Doyle.
Stephen Ward is suspended so John O’Shea will move to left back with Stephen Kelly more than likely coming in at right back while the return from suspension of Richard Dunne gives Trapattoni a welcome headache, does he renew the Aston Villa’s men effective partnership with Sean St Ledger or keep faith with Darren O’Dea who has put in some decent shifts in a green shirt of late. Another option could be to stick with O’Shea at right back and move O’Dea to left.
Kevin Doyle’s goal against Andorra will have done his confidence the world of good and with Keane likely to miss out a lot of responsibility will rest on the shoulders of the Wolves man. However Doyle has looked sharp in the premier league so far and his ability to run the channels and cause
Gevorg Ghazarian is in fine form at present; the attacking midfielder plays his football in the Ukraine with Metalurh Donetsk and has scored 5 goals so far in this qualifying campaign, scoring in last weekend’s 4-1 win over Macedonia.
If Ireland score first than it could make for an open game which would suit us, the Armenian’s, already very much an attack minded team, would be forced to attack even more which would open up gaps for the likes of McGeady, Doyle and Duff. However the worst thing we can do is sit back and let the Armenian’s dictate the pace of the game, it could make for uncomfortable evening.
Form last 5 games:
Ireland: Robbie Keane 5
Armenia: Henrikh Mkhitarian, Gevorg Ghazarian 5