Republic of Ireland v Qatar
Tuesday October 12, 19:45
Live On Sky Sports
Ireland seek winning habit
There was no disguising the feelings of relief around the Ireland camp in Azerbaijan on Saturday.
A reasonably comfortable 3-0 win in Baku was a first competitive triumph for Stephen Kenny and dampens down noise around his position although he’s far from out of the woods yet.
Callum Robinson was the hero, bagging a first half brace after a week where his vaccine views had attracted headlines for the wrong reasons.
The revitalised Shane Duffy was central to the success and, afterwards, he spoke of the importance of Tuesday night’s friendly with Qatar.
If Kenny’s Ireland had a bit more credit in the bank right now, they could afford to write this game off and experiment.
But a return of just two wins from 17 matches under the manager shows how they have struggled for consistency and Duffy is amongst a group of senior players who feel that the younger members of the squad need to learn how to win regularly.
That’s why any punters presuming Ireland will switch off here is dangerous. With over 20,000 tickets sold to a fanbase enthused by a regenerated squad, it would be a failure in performance if this becomes a non-event.
The Qatar formguide
Qatar are less of an unknown quantity since FIFA pitched them into Ireland’s qualifying cycle as a non-competitive group member. It means they get a series of friendlies against the other teams in Ireland’s pool and their results have been a mixed bag.
They registered ‘home’ victories over Azerbaijan and Luxembourg in their base in Hungary, and drew 1-1 with Ireland there in March. But they have conceded a total of ten goals and scored just one across their three meetings with Portugal (2) and Serbia (1).
FIFA’s golden children are building up a body of experience by gaining entry to other confederational tournaments, participating in the 2019 Copa America and CONCACAF’S Gold Cup in the summer just gone where they lost narrowly to the USA in the semi finals.
Their finest hour was winning the Asian Cup in 2019 and, in truth, it would appear they save their better displays for the competitions whereas these European friendlies do not appear to be drawing the same levels from them despite their Spanish coach Felix Sanchez-Bas working off a settled enough side.
They do like to attack, which perhaps explains why they’ve shipped goals against Portugal and Serbia rather than parking the bus. In the March match with Ireland, there were a glut of chances at both ends (12 shots to 11 for Qatar on the shot count but Kenny’s side got more on target)
Strong start can win day
What must be said about March, however, is that a close to full strength Qatar team were taking on an Irish side making eight changes from a qualifier three days earlier. Qatar will face a stronger local team here, presuming that Kenny avoids the temptation to make sweeping changes.
He has hinted at a couple of tweaks with Liverpool’s Caoimhin Kelleher a fine alternative to excellent Manchester City goalkeeper Gavin Bazunu. There is the option of rotating in the forward areas with Brighton’s Aaron Connolly a man with a point to prove after his exclusion in Baku – although it’s by no means guaranteed that he starts with goalscoring sub on Saturday Chiedozie Ogbene also in the equation.
Derby’s Jason Knight will strengthen midfield if he has overcome an illness. It’s more likely that Kenny will mix things up later on in the game but the mission should be to bring an impressive second half showing on Saturday into the early exchanges here.
Qatar are well drilled and fit as they spend a lot of time in camp with a view to the big prize next winter. However, they are slow starters within games and have conceded the first goal in six of the seven games in this European series. Ireland are [5/6] to win and you will do worse bets at those bets but the [15/8] about Half Time/Full Time is the way to go here.
Strong start can win day
Ireland were quite open in Baku, with their 3-4-2-1 shape leaving them vulnerable to sides that counter well and Qatar are reasonable enough in that department. But they’re not a good defensive unit and vulnerable on set pieces. Expecting high scoring Ireland games is dangerous but under Kenny, they are trending upwards in terms of both goals scored and goals conceded.
Qatar’s five matches in the Gold Cup threw up a cumulative total of 18 goals with a 3-2 win and 3-3 draw included so the form guide does make the case for Over 2.5 Goals at [5/4] to appeal presuming that both sides will be engaged enough to operate at a high tempo.