Ireland V Uruguay –
AFTER the huffing and puffing and eventually getting over the line against Macedonia on Saturday, patrons of the Aviva tonight may see a team of pace and energy, capable of playing attractive football to entertain the masses…and Uruguay will be there too.
Injuries have forced Giovanni Trapattoni to choose a new-look Irish side to face the South-Americans but with a blend of young hopefuls and others keen to force their way into the Italian’s plans, the Irish line-up may actually produce a game worthy of the flair of the visitors.
The manager’s decision to allow the likes of Duff, Keane, and Kilbane to return to their clubs will see players such as James McCarthy and Keith Fahey take their place in a drastically different Irish outfit.
Fahey will look to continue where he left off on Saturday while Trapattoni’s decision to deploy McCarthy just behind striker Long makes for an intriguing evening at Lansdowne Road.
The footballing exploits of tonight’s guests Uruguay are a source of inspiration to sides like Ireland.
Fourth-place finishers at last year’s World Cup, the country with a population of just 3.5 million has always held its own against the power-houses of South-American football.
While Ireland stuttered to a win over Macedonia on Saturday, Uruguay were handed a surprise defeat at the hands of Estonia the night before in Baltic conditions in Talinn, excuse the pun.
Liverpool’s Luis Suarez is not in Dublin but Uruguay will look to their talisman Diego Forlan who is just two goals short of equalling his country’s all time leading scorer record.
Stephen Kelly at first glance seems a surprise choice as captain for the Irish tonight but such is the dearth in experience around him, that the Fulham-man is one of the few with enough caps to be be asked to lead Trapattoni’s charges.
Keirin Westwood, Kevin Foley, and Darren O’Dea retain their places in a defence that will also include Aston Villa’s Ciaran Clark. Someone of that quintet will have to assume responsibility at the back tonight or Ireland could be in for a torrid time.
With Richard Dunne out of the Skopje tie, there is plenty of reasons for others to impress, with Kelly expected to take the central berth; not his natural position. Clark can also play that role but he will line-out at left-back.
Liam Lawrence and Andy Keogh will occupy the flanks while Keith Fahey will be partnered in the centre by the much maligned Paul Green.
Giovanni Trapatonni intimated prior to the Macedonia game that he would choose Gibson for his attacking and shooting prowess but that he saw Green as the man to disrupt technically superior teams.
The Derby County player will have his work cut out to justify the Italian’s faith in him tonight. To be fair to Green, it was in two friendlies against Algeria and Paraguay last year that he impressed in the green shirt. With Gibson, Fahey, Andrews, Whelan, McCarthy, and potentially Clark all vying for the midfield spots, Green really must prove he is up to the standard.
If he is not, Gibson is ready to be launched from the bench along with McGeady who will surely see an introduction after his heroics at the weekend. It is a real shame Seamus Coleman had to withdraw from the squad as this was an ideal game for supporters to have another glimpse of the Donegalman’s talents.
Shane Long leads the Irish attack with striking options limited though Cillian Sheridan and Anthony Stokes had been placed on stand-by.
The Uruguay test is one of three friendlies before Ireland resume the qualification campaign in Macedonia on June 4. A week prior to that will see the conclusion of the Carling Nations Cup with a feisty tie against Northern Ireland and a potential trophy-winning game with Scotland. For the likes of McCarthy and Clark, these games represent a real shot at claiming a starting berth in Skopje.
After the slog of Saturday, tonight could see a game of flowing football from the South-Americans sky blues, and Ireland.