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Euro 2016 Republic Of Ireland Preview

A look at Republic Of Ireland's national football team going into the Euro 2016 with a touch of Football Manager 2016.

By on Jun 08, 2016   4559 views   0 comments
EURO 2016 - Euro 2016 Republic Of Ireland Preview
Republic of Ireland, the land of Leprechauns and other such myths and magic, head in to the Euro 2016 with every reason to be optimistic. Following a thoroughly exciting and dramatic qualification phase, where a jaw-dropping victory over World Cup holders Germany inspired the nation, Martin O'Neill's men will be looking to put aside their supposed slim hopes of succeeding the competition and qualify from a truly difficult group.

In only their third outing in this competition, the Republic Of Ireland were drawn in to Group E, where they will face Belgium, Italy and Sweden. The Irish are the second lowest ranked side in the group in terms of the FIFA World Rankings, currently sitting in 33rd, with only Sweden (35th) placed lower. Belgium (2nd) and Italy (12th) are certainly considered favourites to progress to the next round of the competition. Ireland will be relying on Shane Long & co. to lead their side to glory, but Belgium's Eden Hazard, Italy's Giorgio Chiellini and Sweden's Zlatan Ibrahimović will certainly have something to say about that.

European Championships History

The Republic Of Ireland have only qualified for the European Championships twice previously (1988 and 2012). On both occasions, the Irish failed to get out of the group stages of the competition. For Robbie Keane, Shay Given and John O'Shea, the final remnants of Ireland's 1998 U-19 European Championship winning squad, this may prove to be their last opportunity to play part in a successful international campaign.

Key Players

Glasgow-born midfielder James McCarthy will certainly play an important role in the middle of the pitch for Ireland. The twenty-five year old Everton midfielder has made 33 appearances for Ireland to date, but is yet to score for his country. The tireless midfield machine played 37 games for Everton in all competitions in the season just gone, scoring twice.

McCarthy's strongest attribute is certainly defensive ability, having garnered a reputation for being a tough-tackler in the Barclays Premier League. He will be tasked with keeping the likes of Marco Verratti, Axel Witsel and Pontus Wernbloom under check throughout the group stages, while also having the responsibility of moving the ball from defence to attack at speed. McCarthy has been praised in the past for his incredible appetite to win, his unbelievable work rate and his tireless nature on the pitch. He is certainly an important cog in the engine room for Ireland, and will need to be at his best if his country is to succeed.

Everton team mate Seamus Coleman has an important role in the side, tasked with defending Ireland's right flank. The Donegal man has been considered as one of the most consistent performers in the Barclays Premier League over the last few seasons, and has even been linked with a €40M move to Paris Saint-Germain in recent times. Injuries restricted Coleman to 34 appearances for Everton in the past season, which is also the same number of appearances he has made for Ireland throughout his international career.

In terms of Coleman's playing style, he truly has everything required to be a successful full-back. His defensive skills are rather impressive and he rarely lets his side down when it comes to an apt work rate. Physically, he has the energy and the pace to run up and down the flanks, and his ability on the ball makes him a fantastic outlet in attack. His ability to turn a man with a sharp feint makes him a dangerous dribbler, and he knows how to cross a ball too.

Ireland would certainly not have made it to the European Championships without striker Shane Long. The Southampton striker scored a sensational winner against world champions Germany in qualifying to inspire Ireland to reach the competition finals. The twenty-nine year old has made 62 appearances for his country, scoring 16 times. In 32 appearances for Southampton in the past season, Long scored 13 goals, and played a hand in many more.

Quick and strong, Shane Long is certainly the perfect target man. His ability to win a ball in the air, and to be able to hold it up for team mates, makes him a valuable asset to a team who do no hold on to possession all too much, such as Ireland. Shane Long's movement off the ball makes him a difficult player for defenders to keep an eye on, and his goal scoring ability is certainly one to admire. He will be Ireland's most likely goalscorer and will need to find his scoring boots if Ireland are to have any chance of succeeding.

Players To Watch

Darren Randolph's impressive performances in the latter half of the qualifying stages saw him cement his place as Ireland's first choice goalkeeper. Having now made 9 appearances for his country, the twenty-nine year old West Ham back-up shot stopper has produced some terrific moments in an Ireland shirt. His assist for Shane Long's winner against Germany will love long in the memory of his country's people, and he will look to put down a solid tournament performance to attract interest from other Premier League clubs this summer.

Randolph's shot-stopping skills are certainly invaluable to the Irish, and his distribution of the ball is second to none in the Premier League, except perhaps for Kasper Schmeichel. Having made 15 appearances for West Ham in all competition over the course of the season, Randolph will be hoping to give manager Slaven Bilić a reason to pick him more often.

Former Manchester United youngster Robbie Brady faces an important competition ahead of him. The twenty-four year old has cemented his place in Ireland's starting line-up as a left back, and will be looking to add many more to his 23 caps and 4 goals for his country. The Norwich City wide-player had a season to forget, as he made 36 appearances for his side as they were relegated from the Premier League, although he did score an impressive 3 goals in the process.

Brady is capable of occupying any position on the left-hand side, and is somewhat capable of playing on the right wing too. His versatility makes him invaluable to his side. Brady is well-known for his set-piece delivery, and with players such as Shane Long, Jon Walters and John O'Shea to aim at, some threatening dead-ball play is to be expected. Brady's ability on the ball makes him a second winger on the left hand side, and he will look to provide plenty of service to Ireland's attackers over the course of the tournament.

The Manager

Martin O'Neill has a tough task ahead of him to battle for qualification to the next round, and he knows it. His message so far has been for the players to remain calm and to enjoy the competition, while battling their hardest to secure positive results. Having been in charge since 2013, O'Neill has been praised for good work with the Irish team. Alongside him is assistant manager Roy Keane, best known for captaining Manchester United during their golden days, and together they form a fierce pair.

O'Neill's approach to games has been to secure the defensive areas before anything else. Ireland's defensive record in recent years has been nothing short of sensational, and their qualification to the European Championships has been down to that. Not many teams can say that they have claimed a win and a draw in two games against world champions Germany, but O'Neill's men certainly can. Martin O'Neill's side will likely feature a deep defensive line with a lot of pressing from the midfielders and attackers in front of them. This restricts space behind the defense, as well as in front of it, and has proven to be effective.


The Republic Of Ireland is expected to finish fourth place in the group, due to the power of their opponents. If football was decided on work rates and togetherness, the Irish would hands-down win every single game they played. However, football requires a high level of skill to succeed, and that is something which many Irish players lack these days. They no longer have the likes of Roy Keane, Ronnie Whelan, Liam Brady, John Giles, John Aldridge, Kevin Moran or Paul McGrath playing for them. Instead, they must make do with what is available.

Personally, I could see Ireland make the top three in their group. Sweden will be their weakest opposition, and their main players come in the form of Zlatan Ibrahimović and Emil Forsberg. Behind these players, Sweden are not so strong and this could certainly be exposed by Ireland. The Italians lack a high-profile goal scorer, with much of the burden on the shoulders of Ciro Immobile, who scored just 9 goals in the past season. The Belgians will certainly prove to be a much stronger opposition, with great ability in all areas of the pitch. However, if Ireland can pick up points against Sweden and Italy, they have as good a chance as any of qualifying to the next round, but I do see them as the weakest team in their group.

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