- Story / Irish defender Richard Dunne ready for French battle / Click here
Gallery / Ireland's big five: The men who need to perform in the playoff / Click here
- Video / Ireland's qualification journey up to now / Click here
- Video / We have to stop Thierry Henry from doing this / Click here
We are just hours away from the biggest soccer match to take place in Dublin for many a year.
Ireland take on France in the first leg of the World Cup playoff at Croke Park, and if ever there was a need for an Irish crowd to inspire our warriors then today is the day.
The French are good, but in Raymond Domenech they have a manager who is a bit of an oddball and not very respected by his players. Consequently, they are a Gallic bunch of moaners who are legends in their own heads.
We have Trapattoni, but as much experience and as much wisdom he has and despite the fact that he was born on St. Paddy’s day, he can’t put on an Irish uniform and play for us.
The Irish team needs to find a little more, and demand a little more out of themselves for this one. Even Signor Trapattoni has said so.
Possession is nine tenths of the law, and Ireland cannot afford to surrender it to their French opponents as easily as they have to other teams during the current campaign.
Quite frankly, the French players are too good to serve the ball up to them on a platter.
If the boys in green are to progress then every set piece will have to be executed perfectly. Against Italy we scored from two set pieces, a skillfully thought out free kick in the first half and a back post header from a free in the dying minutes.
We are most dangerous from set plays and need to exploit that against the French, who have a bit of a soft center at the back in the form of Abidal and Gallas.
Richard Dunne could be our best weapon, both offensively and defensively. Though easier said than done, Ireland have to do four things to keep this tie alive going to Paris next Wednesday:
1. Get stuck into the French, take no prisoners and unruffle the feathers of Les Bleus.
2. Retain as much possession as possible. This is key, we just need to hold on to the ball as much as we can, Henry or Anelka can't hurt us if they don't have the ball, can they?
3. Take our chances at set pieces. Every corner will be precious. In a game against such skillful opposition, we have to get the right delivery from every corner and every free kick to profit as much as possible.
4. If we score, we cannot turn unto headless chickens like we did at the end of the Italy game. We need controlled aggression, and a consistent and high level of concentration from the first whistle to the last.
That doesn't sound too hard now does it!
The French deserve our respect, but not our awe. Thierry Henry scored a belter of a goal to beat us at Lansdowne Road a few years back, and the French team that night was as good if not better than the current version.
Mentally, the Irish team that lost that night haven't a patch on the strong minded men that will line out tonight for Ireland. Trap and his men need to take that attitude on to the field and excel if they are to grind out a result.
Come on Ireland!