Trap gets rub of the green
Fixture list gives Irish every chance of topping group as two crunch double-dates hold key
THE Irish delegation were happy with the draw which placed them in Group B for the Euro 2012 qualifiers, and they appear to be equally satisfied with the second random lottery in Tel Aviv yesterday which devised the fixture list.
Giovanni Trapattoni believes his side are capable of topping the group and feels that the order of play is suited towards achieving that goal.
From a logistics point of view, there are no home or away double-headers.
However, there will be four double-headers that will see Ireland playing at home and away within five-day periods. This will necessitate much dashing around between the Friday and Tuesday games.
Two of these double-dates will see Ireland pitted against main group rivals Russia and Slovakia and will take place at either end of the campaign.
Nevertheless, the FAI managed to land home matches against Andorra and Russia in September and October respectively, which was their target ahead of last week's aborted summit in Moscow.
The difficulty is that the Russian game will be followed in close succession by an encounter with the other expected major players in the group, Slovakia. It's the same in September of next year, albeit the other way around, with the bottom line being that Ireland's prospects of making it to the 2012 finals will largely centre on their performances in two defining weeks.
"The draw is very good," said Trapattoni. "We're not underestimating the opposition, but there were some quite difficult fixtures in the last campaign, and this one is easier."
The itinerary is as follows:
Friday, September 3, 2010
Armenia v IRELAND, Andorra v Russia, Slovakia v Macedonia.
Giovanni Trapattoni compared kicking off with a journey to Armenia with the planned jaunt to Georgia at the beginning of the World Cup adventure, although you can assume that he didn't mean to wish a war upon the Armenian people.
Ireland missed out on going to Tbilisi because of the uncertain situation there, and ended up with a soft trip to Mainz in Germany where they triumphed in a muted atmosphere.
Yerevan represents the cliched 'tough place to go' and they are capable of securing a decent result on home soil. The temperature is likely to be in the region of 20-30 degrees, although the Friday night kick-off should reduce the heat factor.
Certainly, it's a difficult start for the Irish, but if they really want to be considered as contenders to win the group then they must collect all three points. Russia and Slovakia will be expected to accrue full points from their respective fixtures that evening.
Tuesday, September 7, 2010
IRELAND v Andorra, Russia v Slovakia, Macedonia v Armenia.
This fixture is ideal for Ireland. After a long journey to Armenia, they return home to face the easiest match in the group. In addition, it effectively guarantees a winning start to proper business at the new Aviva Stadium, providing the opportunity to build up momentum for the bigger challenges which lie ahead.
Meanwhile, Russia and Slovakia do battle on the same night in Moscow with Ireland, naturally, hoping for a draw between that pair, so that a target of six points from the opening two matches gives Giovanni Trapattoni's side an advantage heading into the crucial pair of matches in October.
"I think we have a good opportunity to gain an advantage, and I hope we do," said Trapattoni.
Friday, October 8, 2010
IRELAND v Russia, Armenia v Slovakia, Andorra v Macedonia.
The marquee fixture of the group, with the money men in the FAI delighted with the timing, as it delivers a significant home fixture in the first year of the rebranded Lansdowne Road.
With the Russians set to have a new manager in place, the Irish will be hoping that the qualification favourites are still adjusting to a fresh voice.
Similar to the away game against Armenia, if the Irish really want to make the step to potential group winners, they need to target full points in this kind of fixture. Draws with Italy and Bulgaria at Croke Park proved costly in the last campaign.
Tuesday, October 12, 2010
Slovakia v IRELAND, Macedonia v Russia, Armenia v Andorra.
Whatever happens against the Russians, Ireland need to pick themselves up quickly for a trip to Slovakia -- where they may end up playing in Zilina rather than Bratislava.
While top spot is the target, a playoff place is the acceptable fall-back and, in that respect, striking a blow early against the Slovakians would be significant. The only World Cup qualifiers in the sextet have a difficult start to the campaign as they come down to earth following the excitement of South Africa, with their trip to Yerevan preceding this fixture.
Ireland were seconds away from success here under Steve Staunton, but the Slovaks, with a young side, have improved greatly since then. Ten points from 12 would be a fantastic opening haul. so a perfect opening three games followed by a draw here would be wonderful.
Saturday, March 26, 2011
IRELAND v Macedonia, Andorra v Slovakia, Russia v Armenia.
The Macedonians are another side to make advances over the last decade, although they are generally a better side at home than away. Therefore, Ireland should be targeting a win here on a weekend where the three top seeds will expect to pick up full points.
Saturday, June 4, 2011
Macedonia v IRELAND, Armenia v Russia, Slovakia v Andorra.
It'll be warm in Skopje, and Ireland must not fall into the same trap as Scotland, who agreed to an early kick-off on a Saturday in the sweltering September heat. The venue holds unhappy memories for Irish fans, but, like Armenia, it is a venue where three points will be required if top spot is the aim.
That said, the Russians face a difficult journey to Yerevan for a tension-filled encounter on the same date, so it will be a test of character for both nations.
Friday September 2, 2011
IRELAND v Slovakia, Andorra v Armenia, Russia v Macedonia.
The decisive week of the campaign for Ireland begins with the Slovakians landing in Dublin. If Giovanni Trapattoni's charges come into this encounter ahead of the Slovaks, then it's a perfect opportunity to rule them out of considerations and ease the pressure ahead of the trip to Moscow.
This is all very hypothetical of course; the only certainty is that the manner in which the big games are pooled together stresses the point that avoiding injuries will be the key determining factor, as Trapattoni suspects. Certainly, this would be the wrong week for a star name to incur a setback.
Tuesday, September 6, 2011
Russia v IRELAND, Slovakia v Armenia, Macedonia v Andorra.
The big one. Trapattoni acknowledges that the optimum position is to head into this fixture protecting a lead over the Russians.
"The important thing is to have the advantage going into those games.
"We believe we could potentially be in a good position going into the first Russia home game, and then the second time we play," he said.
It's far-fetched to anticipate an Irish victory in Moscow. Arguably, the best chance of achieving it would be if Russia were in desperate need of a win and left gaps as they go in search. A point here would be an excellent return.
Friday, October 7, 2011
Andorra v IRELAND, Armenia v Macedonia, Slovakia v Russia.
In the fixture meeting that was rendered pointless by Armenian jockeying, Ireland had targeted a concluding double-header away to Andorra and at home to the Armenians.
So, they'll be happy that the draw has delivered that conclusion. This fixture could take place in either Barcelona or in Andorra itself, with the hosts keen to actually play in their own neck of the woods.
The key fixture of the evening will take place in Slovakia where the Russians will be present. In a group with all the ingredients for a tight finish, that encounter could be crucial.
Tuesday, October 11, 2011
IRELAND v Armenia, Russia v Andorra, Macedonia v Slovakia.
Let's hope this isn't a dead rubber. Ireland finished their World Cup 2010 group with a fixture of no importance against Montenegro; by then, Trap's men knew their fate would be decided by virtue of a play-off.
However, if Ireland are in a battle with the Russians, they should have a fair idea of their destiny by this point, considering the top seeds will win their last game.
There's no chance Trap's men will be able to come from behind on the last day if they're chasing; although if Slovakia are in the frame, they face a tough test in Skopje to end their campaign.
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