5 talking points as Republic of Ireland seek strong end to Euro 2024 qualifying

By Sports Desk October 12, 2023

The Republic of Ireland will attempt to launch a strong finish to a disappointing Euro 2024 qualifying campaign when they welcome Greece to the Aviva Stadium on Friday evening.

Stephen Kenny’s men saw hopes of automatic qualification effectively go up in smoke last month when they were beaten by Group B rivals France in Paris and the Netherlands in Dublin, leaving them with just three points from their five games to date.

Here, the PA news agency takes a look at some of the talking points surrounding a game in which there is little more than pride at stake for the hosts.

Curtains for Kenny?

Despite inheriting an Ireland squad which had secured a Euro 2020 play-off place on which they were ultimately unable to cash in, Kenny stated from early in his reign that qualification for Euro 2024 was his target. Barring an unlikely series of results, the Republic will not make it to Germany automatically and even another ticket for the play-offs looks unlikely as a result of their poor Nations League record. A review of the manager’s tenure will take place next month, but even some of Kenny’s most staunch supporters are starting to turn.

Greek tragedy

 

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The Group B draw left both Ireland and Greece, who were already assured of a play-off spot, facing a difficult task to deny France and the Netherlands the top two berths and as such, the games between the two were going to be crucial. Kenny’s men travelled to Athens in June knowing victory would put them in a strong position from which to mount an attack; they left on the wrong end of a 2-1 scoreline and with the alarm bells already ringing after just two games.

Matt finish?

Matt Doherty in particular did not enjoy his trip to the Greek capital. With his side trailing to Anastasios Bakasetas’ and a second from Girogos Masouras after Nathan Collins had levelled, the defender was sent off after a needless clash with Liverpool’s Kostas Tsimikas. He and his team-mates were less than happy with the behaviour of some of the Greece players during the game and there is a hunger for a measure of revenge within the camp.

When Irish eyes are spying

Greece boss Gus Poyet was a satisfied man after the win at the OPAP Arena, claiming afterwards that he had anticipated what Ireland would do and had therefore been able to combat it. Ireland assistant manager Keith Andrews this week suggested the Uruguayan had enlisted the help of Irish contacts to draw up his masterplan. Time will tell if he has been able to do so once again.

Evan help us

Last month’s 2-0 defeat in Paris and the 2-1 reverse at the hands of the Dutch which followed it might have been different had Kenny been able to call upon one of his emerging stars. Eighteen-year-old Brighton striker Evan Ferguson was forced to withdraw from the squad due to a knee injury, robbing Ireland of their most potent weapon. Ferguson is back and primed and Ireland expects.

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