Monday, 5 December 2011

Irish fans should be delighted with the draw for Euro 2012 - Even if we are the worst team in the group

Being in a group like that is what it’s all about.

Every fan should embrace this opportunity our heroic team has landed.

On paper we are in the bottom seeds.

So we were going to be the worst team, no matter what group we were drawn in.

Which is great news.

We will be second favourites in every game.

A tag that sits a lot more comfortably with Ireland then the dreaded pressure that comes with being favourites.

Being the worst team also takes all the pressure off hoping to secure a ‘nice’ group.

No matter what other three teams ended up in Ireland’s group, they were all going to be better than us.

Croatia to start with - is one such team.

This opening game will be crucial and a win here will really set us up.

The Croats are quite similar to ourselves, albeit having had the better of things more recently.

But Ireland have played Croatia on numerous occasions over the last ten years in friendlies.

There has never been much between the sides.

And there won’t be again this time round.

Whoever wins this one, will certainly fancy their chances in what could effectively be a straight knock out game against the Italians.

Spain are the stand-out team in the world right now.

They are far superior to every team, let alone the worst team in the group.

Every player and every team should have the ambition of playing against the best team in the world.

A side aiming to be the first ever team to win three major tournaments in a row is the stuff of dreams.

The Spanish will be clear favourites to win the group.

1 defeat in their last 41 competitive games is a startling statistic.

Let’s hope they get two victories against Italy and Croatia.

If we can sneak a draw, with the sort of luck that England had against them in their recent victory, it will be a massive result.

But defeat should not harm our chances too much, on the premise that Spain will be looking to win all three of their games.

Then we finish with Italy.

We have played the Italians 3 times under Trap.

2 draws in the qualifying group for World Cup 2010.

And a 2-0 victory in Liege at the start of a summer.

Of all the big teams to get, Italy were certainly not the worst.

Trap will know them inside out and the fact he will play against his country of birth will add spice to the occasion as well as deflect some of the attention off the players.

This will hopefully be a straight shoot-out to qualify for the knock-out stages.

And if we are to have ambitions to win the tournament, which I think we do, then getting Spain in our group is also a massive advantage.

It of course means that we can’t play them again until the final.

And with the two teams from our group set to meet two teams from the England France group, the quarter final looks as mouth watering as it could be for an Irish fan.

Yet not a lot of pundits seem to believe Ireland have a chance of getting out of the group let alone winning the tournament.

I wonder what Roy Keane would think.

If ever anyone needed proof that the underdog can triumph, they need look no further than the European Championships.

Greece were the worst team on paper in 2004.

Denmark weren’t even in Euro ‘92 until a few weeks before the tournament started.

They too were the worse team on paper.

Both handed tough group draws as is the case with most groups throughout the history of the European Championships.

Greece were given Russia, Spain and hosts Portugal in 2004.

Denmark given England, France and hosts Sweden in 1992.

But being in the European Championships is all about playing against the best teams.

This gives us a great opportunity to play against the winners of the last two World Cups.

The current holders of the European Championships as well.

Ireland are most definitely sitting at the top table now.

It’s great being back.

Everyone in my generation remembers Houghton sticking the ball in the English net.

Bonner against the Romanians.

Houghton again in Giants stadium.

Getting Spain and Italy in our group has just handed us 2 huge opportunities to create similar historic occasions.

And all of these occasions came when we given a tough group.

‘88 and ‘90 saw us paired with England and Holland.

Throw USSR into our European Championship group and we had the two eventual finalists.

‘94 had us paired with eventual runners-up Italy along with Mexico and a Norwegian team that had lit up European qualification by finishing top of a group with the English and the Dutch.

‘02 again had us with the runners-up in the form of Germany and reigning African Nations champions Cameroon.

What this current group has done is hand us an opportunity to play against the best teams in the world and to create history again.

It took a long time for this Irish team to get back to the top table.

The players will be relishing this group.

So should we.

Even if we are the worst team in it...

1 comment:

  1. Cannot wait! Best tournement irish team ever? Given, O'Shea, McGrath, McCarthy, Irwin, Houghton, Keane, Whelan, Duff, Keane, Quinn.