There are still several permutations to play out in Euro 2020 Qualification Group D to see who finishes in the top two spots and gains automatic qualification for Euro 2020. A win for Ireland in Geneva and we can start getting the summer sick-notes ready. Failing that, a win in Dublin in our last game against Denmark should put us through on head-to-head, depending on other results.
And failing that, we still have the playoffs as a back-up, but getting through the group is still our best chance as we’re unlikely to be one of the better teams along the playoff route. We should really be hoping to get the job done in the next two games.
Denmark are in pole position in the group after beating the Swiss on Saturday. The 1-0 win was thanks to some outstanding saves from Kasper Schmeichel (worth Youtube-ing) and Yussuf Poulsen’s late winner that was superbly assisted by Christian Eriksen. The Swiss on the balance of play and chances created deserved at least a point, if not all three.
This game though was a classic example of the “Gareth Bale rule”, showing the difference world-class players make to international teams. We knew what it was like when we had Roy Keane, Damien Duff and Robbie Keane, and the Danes do now as Schmeichel and Eriksen were the difference on Saturday.
We don’t have any now. That’s why we (or some of us at least… ok, maybe it’s just Mick) are happy to take a 0-0 away to Georgia and see if we just about sneak into one of the two top spots.
In fairness, Mick is right in what he is saying. Georgia keep the ball extremely well. We tried a high-press against them in the early stages on Saturday, but it did not work. Some of it was not as slick or co-ordinated as it could be, some of it was just badly timed – McClean in particular – and ended up having the opposite as Georgia could advance easier with the gaps we left, but I don’t expect us to press the Swiss and it will be more of a case of sitting in tight with a 4-5-1.
Packing the midfield will curtail our already limited attacking threat and force the Swiss to go wide, and Shane Duffy and John Egan should be able to deal with any high crosses comfortably enough. Switzerland’s main striker, Haris Seferovic, should not cause us any problems. He had one good season for Benfica in 2018/19 (23 goals in 29 league games) but every other season has been a poor return for a striker. He went eight months with just one goal for both club and country in 2018 and was dropped during the World Cup.
The threat from Switzerland will come from elsewhere and we saw in Dublin the danger in how they opened us up through the middle for Fabian Schar’s goal. Lucky for us, Switzerland are missing their one world-class player, Xherdan Shaqiri, but are still justifiably short favourites for this game. They are under pressure to win it now too after losing Saturday. The markets have reacted accordingly with 4/9 available now for a Swiss win after been closer to 4/7 last week. The current price seems just about a fair price for any non-Irish punters, but my heart says not to back against Ireland digging out a result.
Based on the above, under 1.5 goals is a play at 15/8. If Ireland score first then, they will just look to barricade an already shut-up shop. If Switzerland score first, then they will look to drop back and cut out the late goals that have already cost them this campaign – they’ve conceded five goals in the 84th minute or later in the 3 matches against the Danes and Ireland!
If Switzerland do score, then Ricardo Rodriguez First Goalscorer (10/1) is worth a look. Eight goals in 67 international appearances is a decent record for a defender but he is also playing in a more advanced role now as attacking left wing-back. Only for Kasper Schmeichel, this bet would have clicked Saturday.
If you want an Irish angle, then Aaron Connolly at 12/1 for first goalscorer would be a very good interest bet if he starts, which he should. Based on the Georgia game, his pace and running in behind will give us more than James Collins’ hold-up play. If McCarthy opts to keep the Brighton youngster on the bench, there’s always the classic go-to-bet for Irish punters: Shane Duffy anytime goalscorer (12/1). He was unlucky that his injury-time header against Georgia went straight at the keeper.
To be honest, though, we don’t care how we get to EURO 2020, just get there this week if we can….