Man that matters:
Robbie Keane: Ireland’s all-time leading goal scorer is as much an enigma as his homeland’s treatment. Keane has done so much for his country, turning up with vital goals for a decade now. Just in the last qualifying campaign his team-leading seven goals were critical in seeing Ireland through to only its second major championship since World Cup 1994. (Seven goals? Who knew they had created seven chances with that conservative approach?)
And yet, battering Keane is something of an Irish media obsession. A mazy career that has spanned mostly middling spells with Wolves, Coventry, Inter Milan, Leeds, Celtic, West Ham, Tottenham and Liverpool has eventually guided Keane to the L.A. Galaxy. His first year ended successfully in an MLS Cup, but Keane has dipped in form this year – falling in unison right along with the champ’s shocking 2012 collapse.
June 10: vs. Croatia (Poznan, Poland)
June 14: vs. Spain (Gdansk, Poland)
June 18: vs. Italy (Poznan, Poland)
Foursome of knowledge:
- In this corner … legions of Irish fans that may not enjoy Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni’s conservative tactics, but understand the real-world necessity of a regimented approach, which led Ireland to its first European Championship tournament since 1988. And in this corner … legions of Irish fans bristling at the dour tactics and meat-and-potatoes 4-4-1-1, regardless of the results.
- Fan and media frustration grew recently when Trapattoni left his brigade of young guns (James McClean, James McCarthy and Seamus Coleman in particular) stuck on the sideline while relying on the old guard, the experienced men who won qualification. Sunderland winger McClean, for instance, just came off a breakout EPL year. So, stay tuned.
- Trapattoni has set a Monday deadline for goalkeeper Shay Given and defender John O’Shea, who must demonstrate their fitness during a friendly with Hungary or risk being left off the Euro 2012 squad. Given has been slow to recover from a minor knee injury suffered last week in practice. O’Shea, the longtime Manchester United man who just completed his first season at Sunderland, has dealt with an Achilles problem since near the end of his Premiership campaign.
- The highly experienced Given is especially critical to the cause. The basic way now for The Republic of Ireland: tuck in the fullbacks and stubbornly hold opposition scoreless behind Given and blue ribbon Aston Villa center back Richard Dunne, then hope the likes of wide men Aiden McGeady and Damien Duff, along with Kevin Doyle and Keane can somehow concoct one on the other end.
Where they are going:
The worry is being overrun in the midfield not only by Spain, but also by an Italian side whose strength lies in the talented middle third. The tactical chess match in the opener against Croatia will be interesting (not to mention critical); both teams like to sit and counter. So, who will blink? Because the loser of this one find themselves immediately behind the Euro 8 ball, with no port in the storm ahead.
Goalkeepers: Shay Given (Aston Villa FC), Keiren Westwood (Sunderland AFC), David Forde (Millwall FC).
Defenders: John O’Shea (Sunderland AFC), Richard Dunne (Aston Villa FC), Stephen Ward (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Sean St Ledger (Leicester City FC), Darren O’Dea (Celtic FC), Stephen Kelly (Fulham FC), Paul McShane (Hull City AFC).
Midfielders: Glenn Whelan (Stoke City FC), Keith Andrews (West Bromwich Albion FC), Aiden McGeady (FC Spartak Moskva), Darron Gibson (Everton FC), Paul Green (unattached), Damien Duff (Fulham FC), Stephen Hunt (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), James McClean (Sunderland AFC).
Forwards: Robbie Keane (LA Galaxy), Kevin Doyle (Wolverhampton Wanderers FC), Shane Long (West Bromwich Albion FC), Jonathan Walters (Stoke City FC), Simon Cox (West Bromwich Albion FC).
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