Saturday, March 23, 2013

Solid display in Stockholm by 'The Boys In Green'

Ireland's World Cup qualification hopes received a great boost after a fighting 0-0 draw against Sweden in Stockholm last night.

Giovanni Trapattoni's 'Boys In Green' had the better of the first-half exchanges with Shane Long wasting their best chance, blasting over when he had time and space inside the box.

But the away point, against their main rivals for a play-off place in Group C, sets Ireland up perfectly for Tuesday's home game against Austria in the Aviva stadium.

Manager Trapattoni brought in James McCarthy, originally dropped in favour of Paul Green, after Glenn Whelan failed to recover from an ankle injury.

Ireland threatened early with James McClean and Robbie Keane beating their markers on the left wing, while Shane Long twisted and turned Andreas Granqvist, but blasted over from 16 yards when the goal opened up.

Sweden won a couple of corners, but were generally off the pace around the pitch. However, David Forde - making his competitive debut - was tested by Tobias Hysen's volley midway through the half, and had to be alert as Kim Kallstrom's free kick made its way across a crowded penalty box untouched.

If Ireland's plan was to keep Zlatan Ibrahimovic on the periphery, then it was working, with the temperamental PSG striker dropping deep for some action and looking none too pleased with his team-mates when they failed to deliver the ball to his liking.

Still, the ex-Juventus man almost snuck a goal when his shot from an unlikely angle deflected off Seamus Coleman. Forde was stranded but the ball rolled the right side of the post from Ireland's point of view.

Just before the break, Green, honest and hard-working throughout, went in the book for a late challenge on Alexander Kacaniklic, but the Boys in Green were not allowing the hosts to create in the final third and the majority in the 49,436 in attendance at the Friends Arena began to whistle their frustration.

Long and West Brom team-mate Jonas Olsson were enjoying a private battle, clashing on a number of occasions, as Ireland again began the half brightly.

Even when Clark and Green misplaced passes, Erik Hamren's side couldn't take advantage and Coleman made a magnificent tackle as Ibrahimovic threatened on the edge of the box.
Moments later, Larsson fired wide from 18 yards after another poor clearance by Clark, who was preferred to Sean St Ledger in central defence.

Up the other end, Ireland were struggling to create any clear-cut chances. Captain Keane beat the offside trap but over-hit his cross and then Olsson miscued a clearance but the ball evaded Walters.
With legs tiring, Trapattoni introduced Wes Hoolahan for Keane, Andy Keogh for McClean and Conor Sammon for Long.

Sweden almost claimed what would have been three undeserved points deep into injury time.
The ball dropped for Rasmus Elm is the box, but O'Shea, who was given the Irish man-of-the-match award by the home judge, was on hand to soften the strike and Forde guided it over the bar.
The goalkeeper then caught the resulting corner and with that Ireland had their point, and Trapattoni, who came in for a lot of criticism ahead of the game, had made his.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

Kelly backs David Forde to produce against Sweden

Ireland goalkeeping coach Alan Kelly believes that David Forde's life experience will make him more than capable of coping with the pressure of his competitive debut on Friday night.

The 33-year-old has been promoted ahead of Keiren Westwood due to the latter's lack of first-team action at Sunderland, and Giovanni Trapattoni has decided to stick with the Galwegian instead of recalling Shay Given.

Forde faces a major test in Stockholm, but Kelly feels that the player's strength of character will see him through, referencing the highs and lows that he has tasted before reaching this stage.
"Experience," responded Kelly (right), when asked about Forde's biggest strengths. "I don't just mean on the pitch but in life, getting knock backs, appreciating what you have at the right times. He definitely has that. He's a good communicator and has a great work-ethic.

"It has all come together at the right time and in the right place and he's there on merit now."
Although Forde has always had faith in his own ability, Kelly has noted his current confidence, believing that a good run of form at club level with Millwall and the full support of Trapattoni has put a spring in his step.

"He's kept three clean sheets in his last three games and he's won a spot in the FA Cup semi-final and a Wembley appearance," said Kelly.

"David is an absolute gentleman and one of the hardest working goalkeepers I have worked with, he's always looking to improve.

"He really has come through the ranks in the League of Ireland and then back and forward over the water – he has really served his apprenticeship. I look at him now and I'm seeing him believe now. He is a big lad and his stature has grown in these two weeks. He believes this is his stage and this is his time. To have that mindset and faith in your ability gives you confidence going into the game."

Forde did struggle with his kicking in the early stages of last month's friendly with Poland, but Kelly shrugged off that as a possible concern. "It's something you work on in training," he said. "David would be the first to come over and say, 'I did this and that'. You go over it and put a train of thought in a player's mind so when it comes to the next time they don't have negative thoughts."