Wednesday 17 January 2018

'Why are we so scared?' - Five talking points ahead of Ireland's clash with Georgia tonight

Cormac Byrne

Cormac Byrne

Ireland's road to the 2018 World Cup in Russia continues tonight with a clash against Group D minnows Georgia. Here are a few things to watch out for ahead of tonight's clash at the Aviva.

1. Why are we so afraid of a team ranked 137th in the world?

Ireland secured back-to-back wins over the Georgians in the qualification campaign for Euro 2016 but that doesn't really tell the tale.

O'Neill's team needed a piece of brilliance in Tbilisi from Aiden McGeady and a moment of brilliance from Jeff Hendrick at the Aviva to beat the Eastern Europeans by the minimum margin.

Another night of nerves and frustration could be in store.

v Georgia, September 7 'I was playing up front again, there wasn’t many chances in the game. They were difficult to break down and Jeff Hendrick went on a great run, he nutmegged a lad and I thought he’d left it too late to pass it but I managed to hold my man off and finish. That’s where Jeff is quality, I think. A strong lad, built so well and he can definitely play in the Premier League. He did the hard work for me.'

2. Where will the goals come from?

With Robbie Keane retired and Shane Long and Jon Walters still looking for their first league goals of the campaign, Ireland may have to look elsewhere on the field for the goals to beat Georgia.

Shane Duffy should be a danger from set pieces and Robbie Brady is always a threat from direct free kicks.

Jeff Hendrick, who opened the scoring against the Serbians, has been getting into advanced areas for new club Burnley and could be the man to find the onion sack tonight.

Shane Long.jpg
Southampton's Shane Long after the match Reuters / Dylan Martinez

3. The stakes are so high

Wales, Austria and Serbia are going to fancy themselves to take 12 points off Georgia and Moldova by the time the group has concluded. The teams that fails to do so will most likely be watching the World Cup on the TV.

Georgia sickened the Scots last year at home and look more capable of causing an upset than the Moldovans.

Scotland manager Gordon Strachan

4. How are Georgia performing going into tonight's game?

They beat Spain in a friendly before Euro 2016 and finished strongly in their opening fixture in this qualifying campaign before ultimately losing 2-1 to Austria in Tbilisi.

Ucha Lobjanidze, their most experienced player, injured himself in training yesterday and will be a massive loss to the visitors.

during the UEFA EURO 2016 Group D qualifying match between Republic of Ireland and Georgia at Aviva Stadium on September 7, 2015 in Dublin, Ireland.

5. Are Ireland going to play a more expansive game?

There was disappointment in many quarters after the performance in Belgrade but the inclement weather, the pitch and the quality of the opposition made it difficult for us.

Tonight's game will be played in ideal conditions and fans will be hoping to see Ireland abandon the percentages game for a more dominant display in possession.

Robbie Brady, pictured with Wes Hoolahan (right), proved himself for Ireland in Euro 2016. Photo: Sportsfile

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