|The Boys in Green's qualification hopes are still alive|
A draw at home against Poland wouldn't usually be greeted with huge cheers and celebrations but after scoring an injury time equaliser courtesy of Shane Long that 1 point feels like 3 for Martin O'Neill's Republic of Ireland side.
The draw now leaves Ireland in 4th place in Group D after five games, 3 points behind group leaders and last nights opponents Poland and 2 behind both Germany and Scotland. Although a draw was not a brilliant result, it was far better than a defeat that would have left the Republic of Ireland 6 points adrift of leaders Poland and 3 back from 2nd and 3rd place.
The performance of the team could be split into two periods, the first half hour of the game was a train wreck, Ireland were unable to get the ball down and pass it instead opting for hopeless long balls time and time again to no avail. A Robbie Brady mistake then led to Poland opening the scoring with a rasping strike from former Wolves man Peszko.
As poor as O’Neill’s side were in this half hour, the next 60 minutes almost made up for that. The intensity they played with and commitment shown by every player was admirable and eventually led to Shane Long nabbing a late goal to grab a well deserved point, you could argue they deserved to win but a point was satisfactory in the circumstances it came.
Shane Long no doubt made a claim for a starting place in upcoming matches but the real star of the show was Wes Hoolahan. The Norwich man when playing more centrally was the difference, his willingness to attack and ability to pick out a pass stood out above Ireland’s other midfield players and he now must have nailed down a spot in the starting eleven for the next few internationals.
As creative as Hoolahan was the two men behind him, McCarthy and Whelan, offered very little going forward. Whelan, at times, seems almost afraid to play the ball forward instead opting to play it around at the back to the frustration of many while McCarthy who did make more of an impact in the latter stages seemed disinterested at times.
The positives from the game however must outweigh the negatives. The Republic made table toppers Poland look very average for 60 minutes, The system used in the second half with Walters moving up-front alongside Keane and Hoolahan playing more centrally reaped dividends, opening the possibility of O’Neill implementing that tactic for the rest of the campaign.
Most importantly, after the game the chances of qualifying are still intact and with the huge confidence that comes with a late goal, Ireland have every chance of qualifying from the group and making it to France next year.
Tough fixtures still remain in the campaign with the return game against Poland in Warsaw still to come and the visits of group rivals Scotland and Germany to the Aviva. Qualification is made that bit easier however with the best third place team (currently Scotland) gaining automatic qualification along with the top two. Should the Republic of Ireland finish in third but not be the best placed they will be entered into the playoffs, so theres still a lot to play for.
June 13 ROI vs Scotland
Sep 4 Gibraltar vs ROI
Sep 7 ROI vs Georgia
Oct 8 ROI vs Germany
Oct 11 Poland vs ROI