Ireland play Qatar in lieu of any World Cup qualifiers because they don’t exist and we won’t be speaking about them ever again – thanks. Now, what has the oil-rich Arab state got in store for us? A distraction hopefully because this is the closest any of us will be getting to Doha unless you’ve got a teeth whitening booked in Dubai for the summer out of blind optimism.
But, the show must go on. Much like The Simpsons, we’ve built up enough nostalgia now that they’ve have to reincarnate Steve Staunton for us to stop watching and we’re bound to the Irish national team for life just because Romanians can’t take penalties and Robbie Brady has a big head.
For all the laughing we’ve done at the expense of smaller footballing nations in the past, I don’t quite feel like right now is the opportune moment to revel in the fact we’ve players playing in England. Qatar won an Asian Cup not so long ago, don’t you know.
So, let’s do that reverse psychology thing here and see if it works. Lord knows, we’ve tried everything else. Please, let this manifest some form of positive. Here’s your Bet Builder, filed through gritted teeth.
You might think I’m being funny, but Ireland couldn’t beat Luxembourg with their first-choice XI and those were competitive games. What in the world would make you think they’d beat Qatar – a nation who desperately need to treat every game as competitive in order to avoid major embarrassment in front of their own country in 18 months’ time.
There’s a lot of snobbery around Qatar – as if they’re a team who have no tangible talent and who are merely in the World Cup to make up numbers. They’ve been using an analytical approach to maximise their capabilities for years now. That’s one step further in the right direction than Ireland have been going.
I can’t quite shake the sense that Ireland are rattled. I believe Stephen Kenny is absolutely the right man for the job, but there’s a sense of anxiety from the nation in general about just how far they can fall if they continue to put in poor performances.
If Ireland are to salvage anything from this game, and I don’t think they will – it’ll be in a reactive state and certainly not from grabbing the bull by the horns as it were. But, don’t be surprised to see Ireland conceding in the opening half here.
A goal. I remember them! We scored two in Serbia, but ultimately couldn’t break the defensive superpower that is Luxembourg. IThe Boys In Green have goals in them, and if Qatar possess one weakness, it’s their lack of pragmatism when it comes to playing out from the back. They’ll frequently be dispossessed in bad areas, so I fancy Ireland to at least grab one.
I don’t care who Stephen Kenny selects here, Almoez Ali will be the best natural finisher on the pitch. Not only did he light up recent tournaments for his nation, but he’s bagged against some sides of considerable note too – like Ecuador, Japan, Paraguay, South Korea and Ghana.
I feel like the country can’t underestimate any side ever again, and yet somehow they’ll continue to do so against Qatar here. When will we ever learn?
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