Friday, October 30, 2009

Ireland squad named for crucial play-off games with France

Ireland manager Giovanni Trapattoni has left Steve Finnan, Steven Reid, Andy Reid and Clinton Morrison out of his squad to face France in their World Cup 2010 qualifying play-off.

It had been rumoured that Finnan would be included to address issues with cover in defence. Steven Reid has been played for Blackburn in recent weeks but Trapattoni has opted not to bring the midfielder back into the squad.

Trapattoni has repeatedly omitted Andy Reid from Ireland squads since clashing with the Sunderland midfielder when the side played Georgia in September.

Hibernian striker Anthony Stokes has been called into the squad and Coventry striker Leon Best is also included.

The matches will take place on 14 and 18 November, with Ireland at home for the first leg.

Shay Given
Keiren Westwood
Joe Murphy

John O'Shea
Richard Dunne
Stephen Kelly
Kevin Kilbane
Eddie Nolan
Sean St. Ledger
Paul McShane
Darren O’Dea

Aiden McGeady
Damien Duff
Darron Gibson
Glenn Whelan
Keith Andrews
Liam Miller
Stephen Hunt
Andy Keogh
Liam Lawrence

Kevin Doyle
Robbie Keane
Shane Long
Leon Best
Anthony Stokes

Friday, October 23, 2009

‘Going Green On November 14’ campaign continues to gather pace

The ‘Going Green On November 14’ campaign continues to gather pace with radio interviews, email campaigns, a Facebook group and Twitter pages all being used to publicise and create a momentum within the whole island for the upcoming World cup play-off game with France on November 14th.

Fans from the Ireland supporters forum – You Boys In Green, have been working overtime to try and create the conditions that will turn Croke Park into an Irish fortress for the game.

Even President McAleese has been contacted at Áras an Uachtaráin about wearing Green on the day of the match.

Every radio station, newspaper, media outlet and interested party in the country is being contacted and the hope is that corporate sponsorship can be obtained for card displays, Green t-shirts, huge flags etc.. to turn Croke Park green in mid November and turn the decibel level up to a point that the French team will know what the roar of Ireland’s 12th man sounds like when they come out of the tunnel at Croke Park on the 14TH of November.

The demand for tickets for the home and away legs is huge and both games are already guaranteed sell-outs. An FAI spokesperson said that the demand for tickets for the away leg in Paris was astronomical and with only 8500 tickets available to the Irish fans from official sources, many will use contacts from the previous Irish invasion by 30000 fans of Paris in 2004, to secure tickets for game in France.

For all the latest news on the ‘Going Green On November 14’ campaign visit YBIG, join the Facebook group or follow the campaign on Twitter.

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

French running scared of Irish support

The French Football Federation (FFF) have struck a blow to hopes of Ireland fans after restricting the away side's allocation to 8000 for the second leg of the World Cup play-off in the Stade de France.

The French are running scared of a potential Irish invasion of Paris.In 2004 Ireland were backed by a 30,000 strong support as they held France to a 0-0 draw in a World Cup qualifier in Paris.

Ireland were able to draw such a large contingent of fans into the stadium as match tickets were available online or by telephone and they were snapped up by the Green Army.

But it seems the French have learned their lesson and the tickets will only be available to buy in person.

Ireland host France at Croke Park in Dublin first before the return leg at the Stade de France four days later to decide which of the two teams qualifies for South Africa.

France coach Raymond Domenech, with bitter memories of 2004 when the huge Irish turned up and outsang their French hosts, demanded on Monday that Ireland be limited to a quarter of the total 80,000 available tickets for the Stade de France, namely 20,000.

'We can't have the Irish having more tickets than what they should be allowed, 20,000 - with 60,000 French fans around them,' Domenech told AFP.

The French Football Federation (FFF) proved even stingier on Wednesday when they allocated just 8,000 tickets to the Irish fans.

The FFF's decision was in accordance with their ticket allocation policy during the World Cup qualifiers, although it appears they have also taken Domenech's concerns to heart.

The FFF said no tickets would be sold over the internet to either set of fans, with tickets for the 18 November match going on sale from French retail outlets on Thursday.

The FFF said in a statement: 'The Irish supporters are taken care of directly by their federation, with 10 percent of the total ticket allocation being allocated as was done for all the other World Cup qualifiers.

'There will be no sale of tickets over the internet.'

A maximum of four tickets will be available per transaction and per person and tickets, once bought, would not be transferable.

French football officials added they would be cracking down on the re-sale of tickets at the stadium but also through the internet.

Monday, October 19, 2009

World Cup play-off draw - Ireland v France

Ireland will meet France in the World Cup play-offs after the draw was made at FIFA headquarters in Zurich this afternoon.

The two legs will be played on Saturday, 14 November and Wednesday, 18 November, with the Republic at home for the first leg.

Draw for the European World Cup play-offs:

Ireland v France
Portugal v Bosnia-Herzegovina
Greece v Ukraine
Russia v Slovenia

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

100 caps Given to captain Ireland

Shay Given will captain Ireland in Wednesday night's final World Cup qualifier against Montenegro as he wins his 100th senior international cap.

Manager Giovanni Trapattoni has handed the 33-year-old Donegal man the captain's armband as he and full-back Kevin Kilbane each complete a century to leave themselves only two adrift of Steve Staunton, Ireland's most-capped player.

The Manchester City keeper takes over from Robbie Keane, who may play only 45 minutes at Croke Park as Trapattoni attempts to keep his players fresh for next month's play-off.

Given goes into the game knowing he must avoid a second caution of the qualifying campaign if he is to make himself available for the first match of the play-off.

Midfielders Keith Andrews and Aiden McGeady are likely to be rested for just that reason, while striker Leon Best is also on a yellow card.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Keane on 'heartbreaking' Italian draw

Ireland's dramatic 2-2 draw with Italy may have secured them a 2010 World Cup play-off place but for captain Robbie Keane the result triggered mixed emotions.

Ireland thought they had snatched a win over the world champions when Sean St Ledger put them into a 2-1 lead with three minutes remaining on Saturday.

That would have pushed the Irish to within a point of Italy in Group 8 and given them every chance of gaining automatic qualification for South Africa if results went their way in the final batch of qualifiers on Wednesday.

But just as the 70,000 crowd at Croke Park were celebrating, Alberto Gilardino levelled in the final minute to send Italy through and the Irish to the play-offs.

Gilardino's killer blow left Keane and his teammates feeling as though they had lost the match.

Keane reflected: "Of course, that's the reaction you have after the game.

"If it was the 60th minute or something, it's a bit different, but the last few minutes, it's a bit heart-breaking.

"We are in the play-offs now and everyone always expected us in the play-offs. But when you are that close, who knows?

"Italy could have drawn (against Cyprus) on Wednesday. You never know.

"To be this close, it's obviously difficult. But we have to pick ourselves back up. It's done now."

Ireland's Italian coach Giovanni Trapattoni bemoaned his side's lack of experience.

"We are happy but we are also disappointed because the last two minutes we need this experience because we are a young team; we only have four or five senior players.

"I am sure this will be for us a great lesson because we could have won."

He continued: "But we must not defend the result. The last five minutes we must keep the advantage in a game, we must play we must play slowly. But with three minutes to go, we concede to a counter attack. That is inexperience when you are 2-1 against the world champions.

"That is a silly mistake or habit, to always go upfront. We must learn to control the situation. In training, we have worked on these situations.

"I thought we had it won. But we had too much enthusiasm in the final minutes. We were also tired. But it is difficult when you are building a team and you have 20 or so players from six or seven different clubs. Each of them has different habits at their own club."

Ireland were upset at FIFA's decision to introduce a seeding system for the play-offs, meaning Trapattoni's team are set to face the likes of France, Russia, Portugal or Sweden.

Asked who he wanted to meet Keane replied: "I don't know. Which teams are in it - France, Portugal?

"There are tough teams in there and I am sure we will get one of the toughest teams, there's no question about that.

"We never get an easy ride, do we? No matter what, it is going to be tough.

"We will see who we get. France, Portugal, Ukraine or whoever, it's going to be tough.

"They all have quality players in their team. No matter who we get, it is going to be difficult - but we always make it difficult for ourselves."

Friday, October 9, 2009

St Ledger looking to continue dream

Ireland defender Sean St Ledger admits Saturday's World Cup qualifier against Italy is the biggest game of his career.

The central defender has started Ireland's last five games and is set to continue at Croke Park as Giovanni Trapattoni's men attempt to pip the Azzurri to top spot in Group Eight.

Ireland need to guarantee a win to keep their hopes of an automatic qualification spot for next year's tournament in South Africa alive, and 24-year-old St Ledger believes they have nothing to lose.

"I would imagine that, when the fixtures came out, this would be the game everyone was looking at and, from a footballer's point of view, it is probably the same," he said.

"You have to take each game one step at a time but, now the game is here, it is massive.

"It's massive. It's the biggest game of my career to date. We are playing one of the great football nations, not just now but in terms of history as well.

"If you look at the importance of the game, realistically, we are probably looking at the play-offs and that's going to be tough for us.

"But we have got nothing much to lose. We can go out there and try to beat the Italians."

"St Ledger has had a busy year which has seen the defender move from Preston to Middlesbrough on a short-term deal with a view to a permanent move, as well as being thrust onto the international scene.

"Only a few months back I wasn't in the squad at all and now I have got five caps," he added. "It's like a dream come true.

"I wasn't in the squad to go to Italy, which was obviously disappointing at the time, but it is going to be strange walking out with the likes of Gattuso and people like that.

"Only a couple of years ago, I was playing against Bradford in front of 2,000 people and their dogs. It's a major difference but something I would like to taste more of."

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Given wants to give the Irish a party next summer

Shay Given is desperate to give the Irish nation a chance to dance in the streets as he once did by securing another trip to the World Cup finals.

The Irish keeper was a teenager back in 1994 when Ray Houghton’s strike at Giants Stadium in New York saw off the mighty Italy and sparked one of the most memorable nights in Ireland’s football history.

Fifteen years on, 33-year-old Given will be between the posts as Ireland attempt to repeat the feat against the Italians, the reigning World champions, at Croke Park on Saturday evening with a place at next summer’s finals in South Africa at stake.

Asked about that night, Given said: “I was in Lifford, back in Donegal with the family watching it. It’s a special memory.

“Looking back over the history of Ireland, it was a special goal. Ray Houghton chipped (Gianluca) Pagliuca and we were celebrating around the cars in Lifford as if we had won the World Cup.

“It was a special atmosphere and great memories, and it is up to us as a team to try to recreate some of those memories. The only way we can do that is to get back to the World Cup.

“There will be young guys growing up in Ireland wanting to support us and South Africa next year, and it is up to us to get the country there.”

Even victory at the weekend would leave Ireland with work to do when they meet Montenegro in Dublin on Wednesday evening with Italy currently four points clear at the top of Group Eight and hot favourites to claim the one automatic qualification spot.

However, Given, whose side need two more points to at least clinch a play-off berth, is determined to heap as much pressure as possible on Marcello Lippi’s men for the final game at home to Cyprus.

He said: “Of course we would love to top the group, and that rules out the play-offs.

“But obviously, Italy are in the driving seat and even if they lose on Saturday, they have still got Cyprus at home on the Wednesday.

“But we would like to put the pressure on the Italians in the last game.

“We need two points to guarantee second and hopefully, we can get three on Saturday and then we will see what happens on Wednesday.”

There has been dismay and anger within the Ireland camp since they met up at their training base in Malahide on Tuesday at FIFA’s decision last week to seed the draw for play-offs, an announcement they believe leaves them at a considerable disadvantage.

However, Trapattoni, who called for the rule to be changed in the future, is nevertheless confident his team can get results against the best – as they did when they drew 1-1 in Italy in April – and Given agrees.

He said: “We will not be afraid of anybody, but I just feel what FIFA did was wrong.

“But when it comes around to if we do end up in the play-offs, then whoever we get picked against, we will be right up for it and results like the one away in Italy against the world champions will give us huge belief whoever we are drawn against.”

Given, like full-back Kevin Kilbane, will win his 99th senior international cap, if selected, against the Italians, and they would then become just the second and third Irishmen to complete a century against Montenegro, following in the footsteps of Steve Staunton.

However, that will all be secondary as the Manchester City goalkeeper attempts to make a return trip to the biggest stage of all after playing at the 2002 finals in the Far East.

He said: “It was the highlight of my Irish career to play in the World Cup finals.

“The Houghton goal was the highlight as a fan, but to actually play in a World Cup finals is something very special and something I want to be part of again.

“There are two massive games coming up and a lot of points at stake and important points. We have got to really focus on what we do as a team and not on me getting 100 caps.”

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

John O'Shea - World Cup qualification would be huge

Manchester United's Waterford born defender John O'Shea has revealed his strong desire to go to next summer's World Cup with Ireland, having missed the squad back in his country's previous appearance in the competition in 2002.

The versatile defender failed to make the Ireland cut for the World Cup in 2002. Now firmly entrenched in coach Giovanni Trapattoni's plans, he admits that making it to the World Cup would be as big as anything he has achieved with the Red Devils.

"Obviously Mick stuck with the squad that got him there and there was no problem with that," O'Shea said to The Irish Independent.

"It would have been great to go. To get to a World Cup would be huge, it would be up there with anything that I've done. Time's running out, as they say."

Ireland play Italy at home on Saturday, and look to have a play-off spot all but guaranteed. If they are able to defeat the Azzurri, they may even have a narrow chance of topping their qualifying group, should they beat Montenegro at home & Italy fail to beat Cyprus.