Next month is a big one for the Republic of Ireland. A World Cup qualifier against Austria could go a long way to determining whether Martin O’Neill’s men advance to the finals in Russia next summer but two fixtures against Mexico and Uruguay precede that clash. It won’t be straightforward by any stretch but good performances in the friendlies from Ireland could set them up for a major qualifying scalp at the beginning of June.
Ireland will head across the Atlantic Ocean for a clash with Mexico on June 2 at MetLife Stadium, home to the two American football franchises the New York Jets and the New York Giants. Irish fans at home should prepare themselves for a late one – the match will kick off at 1am due to the change in time zone.
Without Seamus Coleman and Shane Long, Ireland are far from full strength for the trip to the United States with some new names in Martin O’Neill’s squad announced ahead of both friendly fixtures. There is a mix of youth and experience and the manager will be hoping some of his players with little game time at club level can sharpen up and enjoy a successful couple of days on the other side of the Atlantic before heading back to Ireland – although they will have to fare without midfield talisman James McCarthy.
OFFICIAL: Everton manager Ronald Koeman confirms James McCarthy will not feature in Ireland’s upcoming matches against Mexico and Uruguay. pic.twitter.com/hg0cU5bmwM
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Uruguay, currently third in the South America qualifying pool, and Mexico, top of their own respective section, will both give Ireland a stern examination. With Luis Suarez and Javier Hernandez potentially involved, both nations are capable of putting Ireland’s defence to the test and fans will be expecting the Irish to remain compact and adopt a defensive minded approach – particularly in the clash with Mexico.
Ireland will appreciate the return to home soil for the Uruguay game. With the South American side travelling over, O’Neill may see this as a realistic opportunity to put the visitors under pressure ahead of the Austria clash. Of course, winning both matches is important for momentum and confidence but Ireland fans would take hefty defeats in both contests in exchange for three valuable group stage points on June 11th.
Ireland are 6/4 to beat Austria in the football betting markets and that is the priority ahead of next month. If nothing else, O’Neill’s side will be under the cosh in both friendlies and that should prepare their defence for Austria’s visit. Back in October, Ireland emerged victorious in a one-nil victory over in Vienna and James McClean, scorer of the winning goal that day, could be heavily involved once again.
But first and foremost, O’Neill must turn his attention to the trip to New York. Avoiding any serious injuries has to be the number one objective ahead of their games in the United States but Ireland will be confident of putting it up to Mexico. With a bit of luck, two tough friendly encounters should prepare the Republic for a titanic clash with Austria in front of their own fans at the Aviva Stadium where a second win would put the Boys in Green firmly on the road to World Cup qualification.