The Republic of Ireland are already out of the race for qualification in the upcoming edition of football’s greatest spectacle – the FIFA World Cup. Their campaign so far has been underwhelming as the Boys in Green have secured only five points from six matches.
Nothing but pride will be at stake for Stephen Kenny’s boys when they take the field at the Aviva Stadium on Wednesday, 11th November. But for their opposition in Portugal, stakes have never been higher.
Fernando Santos’ team have won five and drawn one of their six matches. With 16 points, they are placed at the second position in UEFA Group A – one point behind table-toppers Serbia, who have played seven matches.
Though they are assured of at least a play-offs spot, A Selecao will be aiming for a direct entry in the World Cup. Portugal will fight for nothing but a win in this match, but given their superior goal difference, even a draw will take them to the top of the table.
Depending upon the outcome of this match, Cristiano Ronaldo and co. will need either a draw or a win in their last match against Serbia to secure a direct entry in 2022’s mega event.
Let us take an in-depth look at both sides to see who might emerge victoriously in this match.
REPUBLIC OF IRELAND IN THE 2022 FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFIER SO FAR
Placed in a tough group alongside some big names of world football in the likes of Portugal and Serbia, the Republic of Ireland were always likely to struggle for a place in the play-offs, let alone a direct entry in the next edition of the World Cup.
That being said, it has to be admitted that their performances have not done justice to their potential as a team. Stephen Kenny’s team started with a 3-2 defeat against Serbia, and while that result was not surprising, hardly anyone saw the 1-0 home defeat against Luxembourg coming.
The Boys in Green put up a resilient show against Portugal at the Estadio Algarve as they led by a 1-0 margin till the dying minutes of the game. Unfortunately, the unstoppable phenomenon called Cristiano Ronaldo came in between the Republic of Ireland and a remarkable away victory as two goals from the Portuguese icon in the last seven minutes of the match gave the hosts a 2-1 win.
With three consecutive defeats, the Boys in Green’s campaign was as good as over but they should be given some credit for showing up in the second half of the qualifiers.
In their fourth match, Ireland secured a 1-1 draw against Azerbaijan and then managed to hold Serbia to a 1-1 draw.
Ireland’s first victory in this campaign came in their previous match against Azerbaijan. Playing far away from home at the Baku Olympic Stadium, Kenny’s boys managed to register a 3-0 triumph thanks to a brace from Callum Robinson and a late strike from Chiedozie Ogbene.
PREDICTED LINEUP AND TACTICS AGAINST PORTUGAL
West Bromwich Albion’s Jayson Molumby and Preston North End’s Alan Browne have served their suspension and are now back in contention for a midfield role. Given his experience, Browne is expected to get the place.
Kenny is likely to set his team up in a 3-5-2 formation. Gavin Bazunu, the teenage custodian from Portsmouth, looks all set to be deployed under the sticks entrusted with a seemingly impossible task of keeping the intimidating attack of Ronaldo-Jota-Silva at bay.
Andrew Omobamidele, Shane Duffy, and John Egan are likely to form the three-man backline with Tottenham’s Matt Doherty and Wigan Athletic’s James McClean operating as wing-backs.
Alongside Brown, Josh Cullen and Jeff Hendrick are expected to line up at the centre of the park.
Having netted a brace in his last match for the national team, Callum Robinson is certain to retain his place up front.
Cardiff City striker James Collins would have been Robinson’s ideal strike partner, but given his injury, Norwich City’s Adam Idah is expected to get a golden opportunity of proving his mettle at the big stage.
Probable Playing XI: Gavin Bazunu, Andrew Omobamidele, Shane Duffy, John Egan, Matt Doherty, Jeff Hendrick, Josh Cullen, Alan Browne, James McClean, Callum Robinson, Adam Idah
PORTUGAL IN THE 2022 FIFA WORLD CUP QUALIFIER SO FAR
Portugal have been far from convincing in this round but have somehow managed to place themselves at the driver’s seat for a direct entry in next’s year World Cup.
In their first match against a comparatively much weaker opponent in Azerbaijan, Portugal secured a win only because of a Maksim Medvedev own goal.
In their second game, Serbia managed to hold them to a 1-1 draw. In their third outing, the Navegadores put up a more convincing show against the weakest team on paper from their group in Luxembourg.
Fernando Santos’ men did get the better of Republic of Ireland in their fourth fixture. But as highlighted earlier, it would not have been possible without Cristiano Ronaldo’s brilliance. The 36-year-old goal-machine added the Republic of Ireland side to the long list of teams who have been ‘Ronaldo’d’ – that is – teams who saw an almost certain victory getting snatched away by Ronaldo’s late goals.
In their last two matches, however, A Selecao have looked more like their usual selves. They defeated Azerbaijan by a 3-0 margin, and in the previous outing against Luxembourg, they emerged as 5-0 winners with Ronaldo netting a hat-trick.
PREDICTED LINEUPS AND TACTICS AGAINST REPUBLIC OF IRELAND
Fernando Santos will have almost all of his first-team players available for selection. But with the match against Serbia likely to be a virtual knockout contest for a direct World Cup slot, it will be interesting to see whether the Portuguese tactician fields all of his trump cards in this game.
With left-back Nuno Mendes serving a suspension, Joao Cancelo is likely to be deployed at the left flank. Despite being a right-sided defender, Cancelo should not have any problems operating from the left as he does it often for his club Manchester City.
Diogo Dalot could be preferred for the right-back role ahead of Nelson Semedo, with the centre-back duo of Pepe and Ruben Dias completing the four-man backline. Namesakes Joao Moutinho and Joao Palhinha are expected to be deployed in the middle.
Manchester United’s Bruno Fernandes will have a free role – linking up with attack when Portugal have the possession and helping Moutinho and Palhinha out when they do not.
Alongside Cristiano Ronaldo, Diogo Jota and Bernando Silva will comprise what is one of the more dangerous attacking three in world football currently.
Probable Playing XI: Rui Patricio, Diogo Dalot, Pepe, Ruben Dias, Joao Cancelo, Joao Moutinho, Joao Palhinha, Bruno Fernandes, Bernardo Silva, Cristiano Ronaldo, Diogo Jota