We’re all part of Trappy’s army!
It’s going to be pretty special. Euro 2012 kicks off on Friday and for the first time since 1988, Stuttgart and all that, Ireland will be part of it. The fiesta of football that is any major football championships is Mecca for any football fan but the presence of Ireland means much added excitement and even non-football fans should be drawn in. Brian Hayes Curtin travels to Poznan next week, and here are his thoughts on the most exciting football event for Irish fans in 22 years
For many Irish fans, Euro 2012 represents the first chance to attend a tournament that Ireland will be playing in on this continent. The last time that happened was when Ireland stormed to the quarter-finals of the 1990 World Cup in Italy, 22 years ago! Ten years ago this week, Ireland drew with Germany in the World Cup in South Korea, the last time Ireland qualified for a major football tournament at all.
So it’s going to be a great, compact tournament where all the games are in the evening. This sociable scheduling means most of us can watch the matches after work, and most people won’t have to pull a ‘sicky’ to catch the Ireland matches!
The European Championships has the added bonus of being far more unpredictable than World Cups. In 13 tournaments, there have been three genuine shocks: Czechoslovakia in 1976, Denmark in 1992 and most recently Greece in 2004.
The good news is that we are not dissimilar to the Greek team that shocked all of Europe eight years ago.
We are also defensively strong, and haven’t lost a match in 13 games, very well organised and strong in the air. We also have a striker who has an excellent record in international football – Robbie Keane boasts 53 goals in 117 games.
At international tournaments, where coaches don’t have much access to players, it is often teams who can meld best as a team that do well. Germany have always had a knack of achieving this and Spain have managed to do it too, mainly by using Barcelona’s style of play as their template.
Ireland have had the same gameplan for four years, the players are well used to it and hopefully this will help to compensate for our lack of quality. Our team spirit means that our players often perform better than our world ranking would suggest.
And in terms of world ranking we are up against it. We face teams that are first, eight and twelfth, while we are in eighteenth place. So getting out of our group would be a triumph, let alone winning the thing! However, it can be done.
Ireland’s odds to win Euro 2012 are at 80/1. Only one team have longer odds with Paddy Power and that is Greece at 100/1. Ireland’s odds reflect the difficulty of our group which contains the 2006 and 2012 World Cup winners. Spain are short-priced favourites to win again this time. They are defending the title they won four years ago in Vienna.
Ireland are 10/3 to qualify from Group C with Croatia closest, but not very close at 13/8. Spain are unbackable at 1/9, while despite Italian travails over match fixing, they are at 4/6.
While Robbie has a hatful of goals for Ireland, we don’t create many chances and have never beaten a team ranked higher than us in a competitive match under Giovanni Trapattoni - a bad omen. It explains why Robbie Keane is 66/1 for top scorer. No value there anyway!
A better choice might be Robert Landowski at 22/1 or Alexander Kerzhakov at 33/1. Both deserve consideration for being in the weakest group, A, which also contains Greece and Czech Republic.
However, a better choice might be someone who hits form during the tournament, something that perhaps ended their club season in good form and should start for their country. In the absence of Wayne Rooney for two games through suspension, England’s Andy Carroll could be a dark horse at 40/1. Do it!