Jack Charlton faced with major selection headaches for Egypt tie
DESPITE the euphoria generated by Ireland's heroic 1-1 draw with England in the Sant Elia stadium in Cagliari on Monday night, manager Jack Chariton still has a major selection headache before the meeting with Egypt in Palermo on Sunday (kick off 4 p.m. Irish time).
It was a marvellous start to the World Cup for Ireland to collect a point against the old enemy. But that should not disguise the fact that there were obvious deficiencies in Monday's starting line-up.
Ireland had played much better in the past and lost. Rarely did we see the sparkling play so evident in the qualifying games against Hungary, Spain, Northern Ireland and Malta.
England are a hugely over-rated team. Manager Bobby Robson has failed to find the correct blend and their recent home defeat by Uruguay and the draw with Tunisia were obvious distress signals.
Charlton must surely be forced to think again about including David O'Leary in the heart of the defence with the experience of Chris Hughton in one of the full back rows.
One can never call into question the character, determination and battling qualities of Kevin Moran and Mick McCarthy. But it still must be regarded as a luxury to have O'Leary sitting on the subs bench.
England's early goal on Monday night was primarily the fault of the central defenders. One has to have a certain trepidation about this Irish defence facing the reality of World Cup football against the attacking skills of West Germany, Holland, Italy and Brazil.
Strikers such as Voller, Klinsmann, Van Basten, Careca and Vialli all have pace and skill way beyond what England could offer on Monday.
Robson's men played much better Stuttgart two years ago and lost 1-0 Ireland.
It can be argued that they were restricted in this latest meeting because of the battling Irish defensive qualities. But it would be silly to disregard the obvious.
Chris Morris and Steve Staunton fell short of the high standards set in previous internationals. There must be a temptation to again call up Hughton.
The Irish team, who flew from Sardinia to Sicily early yesterday morning, will have a training session in Palermo later today. Charlton will be hoping that Ronnie Whelan is on the mend in the hope that he will be able to play against the Egyptians on Sunday.
There can be no complaints about the work rate of Andy Townsend in the Irish midfield alongside Man of the match, Paul McGrath. Townsend may keep his place, with Whelan shifted to left back, where he has played with distinction for Ireland in the past.
Kevin Sheedy's goal was right out of the top drawer, one of the best strikes in this current World Cup.
Sheedy showed an appetite for the game that perhaps was lacking in the past. He is certain to keep his place.
Alan McLoughlin, winning only his second cap did well when coming in as a substitute midway through the second half in place of John Aldridge who had run himself to a standstill in the style of football demanded by Charlton.
McLoughlin will be the obvious replacement for Ray Houghton whose pelvic injury problem is liable to flare up at any time.
Tony Cascarino had a thankless job up front, often he was a lonely figure in the Irish attack closely watched by Terry Butcher and Des Walker. Cascarino will keep his place, but at least Chariton has Niall Quinn and David Kelly on standby.
Egypt showed that they will be no Iambs to the slaughter with their performance against European champions Holland, in Palermo last night.
What we did learn was that the Egyptians must be treated with the utmost respect and remember that game with Ireland kicks off at 5 p.m. local time when temperatures will be around 80 degrees and humidity a problem for Ireland.
It was also different in Cagliari on Monday night with the chilly conditions, a gale force wind, thunder and lightening plus a torrential downpour.
Ireland have got off to an excellent start, but there is still a long way to go before qualification for the knock out stages can be guaranteed.