Thursday 23 February 2017

John Giles: Ireland might just have enough to get out of this mediocre group

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John Giles

John Giles

James McClean of Republic of Ireland, centre, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal with team mates Jonathan Walters, left, and Seamus Colman during the FIFA World Cup Group D Qualifier match between Moldova and Republic of Ireland at Stadionul Zimbru in Chisinau, Moldova. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile
James McClean of Republic of Ireland, centre, celebrates after scoring his side's second goal with team mates Jonathan Walters, left, and Seamus Colman during the FIFA World Cup Group D Qualifier match between Moldova and Republic of Ireland at Stadionul Zimbru in Chisinau, Moldova. Photo by David Maher/Sportsfile

Well one thing is certain after yesterday’s action in Group D. There is no big team in Ireland’s way.

While Wes Hoolahan was giving another master class against Moldova and underlining once again that he should play when he’s fit, Serbia beat Austria and before that Wales dropped points to Georgia.

From what I’ve seen of all the teams in this group, there is no group of players capable of running away with it. There is no team like Germany to take control and leave everyone else trailing.

Which, in turn, means, that the level Ireland have been playing at so far might even be enough by default.

This is not to say that Ireland are any great shakes but they might just have enough to get out of the group.

From the start of this game, Hoolahan was absolutely wonderful. He was bright, energetic and always looking for the ball.

This is nothing new. He does the same in virtually every game he plays and I really do not think there can be any debate about him any more.

Unfortunately, this debate will go on because Martin O’Neill doesn’t trust him fully.

I have long argued that there is no difference between home and away games. It’s the same pitch for both teams and the same conditions.

Hoolahan proved that by taking the game to Moldova and dancing rings around them.

Seamus Coleman lifted his performance level to match and Ireland were on the front foot and comfortable from the moment Shane Long buried the ball for the opening goal.

The concession of an equaliser just before half-time was terrible and Shane Duffy needs to have a look at his role in that.

But Ireland were patient and in the second-half, Hoolahan put his teammates onto the front foot again.

By the time James McClean hit the second goal the momentum was all going Ireland’s way and when he scored a third and his second, that was the end of that.

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