Thursday 22 February 2018

Balkan battle may influence Ireland's Euro U-17 knockout fate in Croatia

Failure to beat Germany in their concluding U-17 European finals group game today in Rijeka will leave Ireland relying on Balkan rivalry to snaffle a place in the quarter-finals. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile
Failure to beat Germany in their concluding U-17 European finals group game today in Rijeka will leave Ireland relying on Balkan rivalry to snaffle a place in the quarter-finals. Photo: Eóin Noonan/Sportsfile

John Fallon

Failure to beat Germany in their concluding U-17 European finals group game today in Rijeka will leave Ireland relying on Balkan rivalry to snaffle a place in the quarter-finals.

A multitude of permutations exist from the final set of Group C fixtures to keep Ireland in Croatia for the knockout stage but only the one outcome of beating the table-toppers guarantees their passage.

Otherwise, their destiny rests in the happenings from nearby Kostrena where Serbia face Bosnia-Herzegovina in a match which Ireland boss Colin O'Brien admits he'll be receiving updates on throughout his own game.

Serbia, who beat the Irish with a late winner in last Thursday's opener, are expected to consign Bosnia to the wooden spoon based on form but the political and historical context is giving the locals, as well as O'Brien, a sense that matters will not be straightforward. A 1-0 win for Bosnia would propel Ireland through irrespective of their result against Germany.

Tensions O'Brien admits he cited the tensions between the nations in his post-match briefing to his players on Sunday after Ireland redeemed hopes of advancing with a 2-1 triumph over Bosnia.

"I've told the players that anything can happen in the other game because it's a derby," revealed O'Brien.

"Getting knocked out by their neighbours is something Bosnia will be keen to avoid.

"We'll have be kept up-to-date on that game too. Still, we have our own job to concentrate on."

Given Germany themselves could need a point to prevent being caught for a top-two finish and dodge a talented England side in the next round, it's highly likely Ireland will need a favour elsewhere.

Germany's Chelsea target Jann-Fiete Arp has already made a splash at the tournament with his 13-minute hat-trick against Bosnia breaking the record for the quickest trio in the history of the tournament.

The Hamburg teen may be flanked or replaced in attack by Eric Hottmann, the similarly robust striker with Bundesliga experience behind him at Vfb Stuttgart.

"A draw or even a defeat might to get us into the quarter-finals but there's no reason why we cannot beat Germany ," asserts Ireland centre-back Jordan Doherty.

"We'll have done our homework on Germany by watching plenty of clips but we've to play our game too. No team is invincible."

Thankfully, Bosnia will be thinking the same about their familiar foes.

Germany v Ireland, Live, Eurosport 2, 11.0am

Irish Independent

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