*All prices are bang up to date with our snazzy widgets, while odds in copy are accurate at time of publishing but subject to change
Nations League, Saturday, 2pm
Live on RTE2, Premier Sports
The Nations League is actually the competition equivalent of Stephen Kenny’s Republic of Ireland.
At the beginning, the traditionalists hated it and said it didn’t make sense, but a couple of years in that’s switched. People aren’t truly convinced of its success, but it’s no longer easy to say it’s not better than what went before it.
Sometimes good things take time.
There was a time when Ireland playing four times in fourteen days would bring about a mass exodus from Dublin airport, but due to the actual entertainment value of the current side and the difficulty of within a kilometre of your flight these days, it seems like everyone is content to watch the progression.
And that’s the key term. While Kenny’s back-three, high-press, inter-linking style certainly passes the eye test, unless results produce a fast track to major tournaments, it’s all pointless.
Armenia is the fixture you want to build confidence and it’s also, incidentally, the game I want first to build up the coffers because Ireland are about to put on their best performance since the mid-90s Eurovision run.
Bet Builder time.
While I could wax lyrical about our own improvements, it’s worth dissecting the opposition first.
Under their current boss, they’re perceived to be a bit like Ireland in that they’re adapting their style of play to be more forward-thinking, particularly at home, and this should play into Ireland’s hands.
The issue that this setup faces is there’s not one Premier League quality link man between the front three and midfield.
You’re relying on a successful dribble, second ball or great finish when teams sit deep against you.
Armenia will try to keep the ball, which will lead to mistakes that should give Ireland more clear-cut chances, and that’s the only way you can guarantee the Boys in Green will beat you despite all the progress they’ve made in terms of keeping possession.
They continuously take risks with the ball because they’re being led to believe that there’s a serious change coming in Yerevan – that this level of possession-based football will inspire a generation.
Except it didn’t. It just made Henrikh Mkhitaryan retire instead. They cannot keep the ball for long spells and despite this, they persist.
Ireland’s best performances come away from home against teams with a committed philosophy. This will be one of those nights.
Take the Luxembourg and Azerbaijan games – both of those teams are much better than Armenia and possess genuine goal threats. You might laugh at me saying that about the latter, but genuinely, their sides competing in Europe at a decent level has filled the Luxembourg squad with top-level experience.
Ireland should comfortably see this out. Only one of the current Armenian squad has scored more than four international goals, despite the average age actually being quite old.
I wanted to take him to net, but he’s one of the more selfless players to grace Ireland in a while, so I like the insurance of him passing across the face of goal for Michael Obafemi to score from six inches out to make it nine-nil.
FREE BET IF 1 LEG LETS YOU DOWN
If one leg of your 4+ fold Bet Builder fails to land, you get up to £/€10 back as a free bet. Customers can qualify for 1 Bet Builder Free Bet If 1 Leg Lets You Down per day up to £/€10. The free bets will be credited by 12pm the following day.
- Elon Musk’s plan to ban post-match apologies from Twitter
- Revealed: How Erik Ten Hag Got Steve McClaren Back To Man United
- Mindfulness centre helps Man United fans adapt to their team being s***e
- Ballon d’Or 2022 odds: Will Mo Salah, Lionel Messi or Cristiano Ronaldo win?
- Paddy’s popular Bet Builder strikes gold with 22/1 Women’s FA Cup final winner