Sport Soccer

Saturday 16 December 2017

Forde confident Ireland have what it takes on road to Brazil

Forde: Tough end to the season
Forde: Tough end to the season
Daniel McDonnell

Daniel McDonnell

FROM his chair in the FAI suite, David Forde can see the end of Lansdowne Road which brings back bad memories from March, the scene of the injury-time deflected David Alaba strike that dented Ireland's World Cup ambitions.

Depression enveloped the stadium as Forde trudged to pick the ball out of the back of the net and, in the immediate aftermath, there was silence in the dressing-room as green-shirted players reflected on two points dropped.

Time is a healer, however, and by the time the Galwegian had returned to the team hotel that night, he was focusing on the positives. Five weeks later, on a trip back to Dublin, he is positively bullish about Ireland's prospects of making Brazil.

"I'm actually very confident," he says, with an assurance that seems more genuine than the general 'say the right thing' standard press conference response.

"I think we will qualify. We're learning as we go along and the players that have come into the side are improving our confidence. Seamus Coleman has been a revelation, and James McCarthy. We look focused and hungry."

His views on second-placed opponents Sweden and Austria vary from what is perhaps the common perception. "I think Austria are a better side," he says. "They are a better footballing side, sharper and quicker.

"We have Sweden at home and after the last game in Stockholm, I think we can beat them here. Then going to Austria after that, we're good on the road and our record speaks for itself. It's still all to play for."

At the age of 33, Forde is happy to be part of the discussion. His ascension to Irish No 1 on account of Keiren Westwood's Sunderland woes were a talking point before the March double-header, but not so much afterwards, with two calm displays suggesting he is comfortable in the position.

With a Wembley date with England later this month and a New York meeting with Spain following on from that – with the qualifier against the Faroe Islands sandwiched in between – there is plenty to look forward to this summer.

The first priority is to secure Championship status for next year though, with Millwall still in difficulty going into what promises to an epic final day on Saturday. "Only three or four weeks ago we had games in hand and had we won those we would only be a few points off the play-offs," he says, a fact that sums up the unbelievably congested second tier.

"But we are a small club in that division in terms of budget and squad numbers, so it can be quite difficult. We've had 11 games in 30 days around the FA Cup semi-final (loss to Wigan at Wembley) so it seems to have taken its toll."

Millwall go to Derby on the final day two points clear of safety after Tuesday's draw with Crystal Palace, and three teams – Sheffield Wednesday, Peterborough and Barnsley – must overtake them if they are to go down.

A point at Derby would save them barring a remarkable sequence of results elsewhere, and they realistically should be fine in the event of a defeat, although Forde is reluctant to talk in those terms.

"There are a few permutations," Forde continues. "But we can't be focusing on what they've got to do. We need a minimum of a draw and, barring a catastrophe, we should be okay."

A stress-free weekend is the target. The last thing he needs is another unwelcome dose of late drama.

David Forde was speaking at the launch of the 2013 eFlow FAI Summer Soccer Schools. Information can be found at

Early online bookers will receive €45 worth of parent and child tickets for Aviva Stadium matches against Georgia, the Faroe Islands or Kazakhstan.

Irish Independent

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