Richard Dunne: 'Ireland's lack of goals and creativity will be a major worry for Mick McCarthy'
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The easy bit of Euro 2020 qualification is done as far as Ireland are concerned, so the hard part has yet to come.
And we have to win at least one of the three games remaining against Denmark and Switzerland, because our lack of goals, compared to Denmark beating Georgia 5-1 when we only beat them 1-0, could hurt us in the end.
The opportunity is there, but the Ireland team has to go and prove themselves against the bigger sides – and that probably means beating Switzerland in Dublin in the next game.
If we turn those games into something of an emotional battle we can win, but if we try to out-play them it will be tough. It will probably take an old-school kind of game, playing with the heart, playing with passion to get the crowd going, to try and win those matches.
Mick’s objective is to qualify in a short space of time, and so far he has managed to turn around a team that had been under-preforming for a while. Ten points from 12 would have been Mick’s target but the team could have played a lot better, especially at home to Gibraltar.
I know there’s one school of thought that believes the result is all that matters and the Irish team got four points from six last week and are five points clear.
But there’s another argument that the performance has to be better.
Mick has the points on board and he’ll be pleased with that for the moment. However, we need to improve the performances, especially in the games which we knew at the start of the campaign would decide the group – the one at home to Denmark and Switzerland at home and away.
If we can go to Denmark and draw we should be able to beat them at home. The team are in a great position and it’s a good start to the group, but the biggest challenge has yet to come.
It’s strange that the team has played well in two of the tougher games – Denmark away and Georgia at home – and played poorly enough in both games against Gibraltar.
The players will want to be doing better. If I was in that team, I may be just happy with the win, job done.
If I was a supporter, I’d feel a bit of regret that we didn’t score five against Gibraltar to send everyone off into the summer break in a really good mood.
They came out after the win on Monday and toed the line, said that the win was important and it was a professional job, but I know that the supporters were expecting more.
One area where we have struggled is in terms of creativity – scoring goals – so it’s no surprise that when a team puts so many players behind the ball, we just don’t have it in our locker to open them up and find a way through.
When the bigger teams come to play Ireland they try to take us on, the game opens up a bit and we have players who can nick a goal.
But the lack of goals is a worry, especially with a squad where none of the strikers involved in the two games has scored a single goal at international level.
If you’d looked at the fixtures at the very start, you’d have picked out Georgia at home and Gibraltar, home and away, as games where the strikers could nab a few goals. So we have three of the easier games gone and no goals from one of the centre forwards.
I don’t see that creativity in the squad. The way we played on Monday made it difficult for ourselves, we could have let the front four go at them a bit more but that didn’t happen.
And we need to find those goals, though I don’t know where they will come from. We will struggle to finish a game off against big sides. If you are leading 1-0, you should be able to score again, make other teams fear Ireland, fear they will get hurt and we really lack that. Maybe that can change in a year or two as some of those U-21 players start to come through, but I don’t see it in this group.
In fairness to Mick and this squad, it’s a problem across football, the lack of strikers. Transfer fees for centre forwards are crazy as so few of them are available.
We have been fortunate to have had great strikers down through the years but at the moment we are in the middle of a drought, looking for a player to be our saviour, score the goals we need. Every national team is suffering but Ireland more so than most and we can’t rely on a set piece from Shane Duffy.
We need to find that creative spark but I don’t know where it will come from.
One thing may change before the squad come back in September as Robbie Keane could well have taken a job at Middlesbrough by then.
And that would be good for
Ireland as well as Robbie. I know from speaking to Damien Duff that you improve so much from being at it every day, as Damien is at Celtic and Robbie would be at Boro, instead of coming in for a week here and there.
Robbie wants to be a manager in the future and working at Boro (a good club) while keeping up his Ireland job will benefit everyone in the long term.