After the shit-show that was Wales v Ireland in the UEFA Nations League last Thursday, Ireland have a chance to salvage a little pride in Tuesday night’s international friendly away to Poland.
With most of Martin O’Neill’s thread-bare international squad looking forward to a return to the relative anonymity of their club sides and the on-going saga within the camp, the fixture couldn’t have come at a worse time. Expect damage limitation to be the main motivation.
Worryingly, Ireland has not won an International away friendly since a 4-1 victory over Oman in September 2012. That translates into five draws and five losses since then.
‘I don’t do friendlies,’ was the mantra of a former international in the Irish set-up, now looking to motivate the Boys in Green. So rather than where will the goals come from, it could be more a case of where will the goals stop coming from, if Lewandowski & Co. get rolling.
The battling 1-0 win against Wales 11 months ago in World Cup qualifying seems a distant memory now.
Martin O’Neill is never shy of parking the bus – even in friendlies. Where once the moral victory of a battling low-scoring draw was the hallmark of this squad (the 0-0 draw in the first leg of the World Cup play-off v Denmark being a case in point), his side have uncharacteristically conceded nine goals in their last two competitive games against the Danes at home and Wales away.
While there was no disgrace in friendly away defeats to Turkey and subsequent World Champions France, it all adds up to this Irish side losing four of their last five games with just a narrow 2-1 win over the USA to boast of.
With Seamus Coleman also an absentee through injury, we can’t see anything other than a Poland win at 1/2 but if you wanted a little more bang for your buck, then 13/8 Poland -1 goal on the handicap is very appealing.
There’s going to be goals here even if Ireland go all Mickey Harte for the 90 minutes and try to suffocate the Poles.
And it’s not just a bland reading of the stats that lead us to this conclusion, even if the sides have met an eye-popping 27 times at International level.
Poland has won this contest 11 times compared to Ireland’s six from those 27 meetings. But dig a little deeper and you’ll see that the Poles have lost just one of their last eight games against The Boys In Green. A bigger negative is that Ireland have failed to score in five of their last eight games against the Poles.
Robert Lewandowski is set to win his 100th cap on Tuesday night and will want to celebrate it with a win. With that kind of motivation, the odds are slim that the Bayern Munich beanpole won’t add to his all-time leading goalscorer record of 55 goals for his country.
Anyone fancying the Poles to score early and then play keep-ball while Ireland do all the donkey work, could do worse than the 13/10 that Poland win to nil.
Portsmouth’s Ronan Curtis has made a mercy dash to give Ireland options up front – or at least a pair of 22-year-old legs that still have a bit of movement in them. It’s unlikely to be enough for Ireland to rediscover their scoring touch though.
Declan Rice and Harry Arter aside, to miss the attacking threat that any of James McClean, David Meyler, Robbie Brady and Shane Long offer an Irish side is a body blow at the best of times. That they’re all missing at once is potentially the knock-out blow in a game like this.
You can see how a Welsh side, that were subsequently beaten 2-0 by a no-longer-striking Danish side, were made to look like the free-flowing Brazilian team of the 1970’s and early 80’s.
Poland mightn’t have covered themselves in glory at World Cup 2018 but at least they qualified and Italy had to come from behind to sneak a 1-1 draw at home to them last Friday.
We don’t like pinning our hopes – or our dosh – to exact scorelines, so the 13-5 about Poland scoring more than 2.5 goals gives us some wriggle room and looks a play.
It could be a very long night in the trenches for O’Neill’s side.