Wednesday 7 December 2016

King insists Liechtenstein 'no mugs' as U-21s look to bounce back

John Fallon

Published 11/10/2011 | 05:00

ESCHEN in Liechtenstein was the scene for one of the most embarrassing results in Irish football history, but Noel King hopes his U-21s will have no such problems there in their UEFA Championship qualifier tonight (6.0 Irish time).

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The senior side's scoreless draw in the tiny Alpine venue in 1995 ultimately brought an end of Jack Charlton's golden decade at the helm, although Mick McCarthy banished the demons a year later by recording a 5-0 win in his opening competitive match as manager.

Liechtenstein have since shown they're capable of troubling established countries, as Scotland discovered last Saturday when a solitary goal kept Craig Levein's side in the mix for a Euro play-off.

King attended that qualifier in Vaduz to watch four members of the Liechtenstein senior team set to feature for their U-21s.

"Liechtenstein may be the bottom seeds in our group but they're no mugs," said the Irish manager as the snow that had threatened a postponement of Saturday's Scotland game began to subside.

Without their four best players, who were on senior duty, their U-21s were ahead against top seeds in the group Italy for 20 minutes on Thursday before eventually losing 7-2.

Difficult

"They make things difficult for their opponents, especially in these cold conditions, and we need to approach the game properly," added King.

Manchester City full-back Greg Cunningham, back in an Irish squad for the first time since suffering a broken leg on New Year's Day, agrees with his manager's cautionary note.

He said: "This is a tricky one and we won't be underestimating Liechtenstein. They've scored against the leading seeds in our group, Turkey and Italy, so we'll need a good performance."

Victory is essential to Ireland's prospects of challenging for qualification. Their win over Hungary in last month's opener was followed by a narrow defeat in Turkey five days later.

Capped three times at senior level, Cunningham's addition to the U-21 squad is a boost, but he is likely to be on the bench, having played only a couple of reserve team friendlies for City in recent weeks.

Shamrock Rovers full-back Enda Stevens is poised to deputise for the injured Gavin Gunning, while Terry Dixon, currently rebuilding his promising career with non-league Halifax Town, is pushing for a place in attack.

IRELAND (probable) -- McLoughlin (MK Dons); Connolly (Bolton), Canavan (Scunthorpe), Kiernan (Wigan), Stevens (Shamrock Rovers); Towell (Hibernian), Barton (Preston), Clifford (Chelsea); Brady (Hull), Mason (Cardiff ), White (Leeds).

Irish Independent

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