Ireland’s run-in for World Cup qualification

On Friday the 24th April Ireland played out an intense 0-0 draw with Wales to mark the halfway point in the qualification stages to reach Russia for the World Cup in  2018.

So far they’ve played 5 matches and gone unbeaten picking up 11 points leaving them joint top but with Serbia edging them out on goal difference.

The results have been as follows:

Serbia 2-2 Republic of Ireland-FK Crevna Zvezda-Belgrade

Republic of Ireland 1-0 Georgia-Aviva Stadium-Dublin

Moldova 1-3 Republic of Ireland-Zimbru-Chisinau

Austria-0-1 Republic of Ireland-Ernst Happel Stadium-Vienna

Republic of Ireland-0-0 Wales-Aviva Stadium-Dublin

Considering that the boys in green were away for the Austria and Serbia game if they keep up this form they look set to qualify for Russia.

The next 5 games are:

Republic of Ireland vs Austria-11th of June-Aviva Stadium-Dublin

Georgia vs Republic of Ireland-2nd of September-Boris Paichadze National Stadium-Tbilisi

Republic of Ireland vs Serbia-5th of September-Aviva Stadium-Dublin

Republic of Ireland vs Moldova-6th of October-Aviva Stadium-Dublin

Wales vs Republic of Ireland-9th of October-City Stadium-Cardiff

With a couple of tough games and Seamus Coleman out for the foreseeable future it looks tough but I believe Martin O’Neil’s men have enough to qualify automatically or through the play offs.

 

My Champions League Round 16 Predictions: Part 2

This week kicks off the first leg of the other four games in the Champions League round 16 and again I’m trying to predict the results.Last week I got 2/4 of the games but I’m going for all four this week.

Bayer Leverkusen v Atletico Madrid

With Atletico Madrid topping their group over Bayern Munich, they got matched with Leverkusen, who finished second  below Monaco in their group. I have a feeling this one is going to be close but with Madrid coming out on top. I think Griezman will be the difference overall, maybe not with a goal but with his overall play. So I’m going with an Atletico Madrid win.

Manchester City v Monaco

Monaco topped their group over Bayer Leverkusen and Manchester City came second under Barcelona.  Monaco are  currently topping the Ligue I and City are currently sitting on second in the EPL but I think City will pull through. Even with them being shaky at the back and Monaco’s Falco flying a the moment, I think City’s midfield and forwards have the better quality to pull them through. So I’m going to go with a Man City win.

FC Porto v Juventus

Juventus came first in their group over Sevilla, while FC Porto came second to Leicester City in their group. Out of the four games, this game is the easiest to predict. I think Juventus’s quality all over the pitch will just be too much for Porto, much like the Arsenal vs Bayern Munich match. So I’m going for a Juventus win.

Sevilla v Leicester City

This is the opposite to the match above, with Sevilla coming below Juventus and The Foxes finishing above Porto. Leicester are currently struggling in the Premier League, with relegation a very real threat, and Sevilla are doing extremely well in the La Liga, currently third, just three points behind leaders Real Madrid. Based on this and how much better the players are performing, I think it’s a clear winner. I’m going to go with a Sevilla win.

My Champions League Round 16 Predictions:Part 1

Next week kicks off the first round of the Champions League round 16, and I’m going to do my best to predict the winners and losers of each match.

PSG vs FC Barcelona

This match is one of the big two in the draw. With both teams dwelling in second in their respective leagues (disappointing for both of them), they’ll be looking to win this competition. PSG haven’t looked the same since Ibrahimovic left for Manchester United this summer and, without him, I just don’t see them causing Luis Enrique’s men enough problems, so I’m going to go for a win for Barcelona.

Benfica vs Dortmund

After a great group stage in which they topped the UCL group with Real Madrid, Dortmund drew Benfica. Benfica only scraped qualification, finishing one point above Besiktas. Even with Jonas, I don’t see Benfica getting out of this. I think the quality of Aubameyang and Reus up front, as well as the quality of Bartra and so on at the back, will pull through. I’m predicting a Dortmund win.

Real Madrid vs Napoli

As I mentioned earlier, Madrid finished second in their group, while Napoli topped theirs. I can’t see this tie being anything other than a win for Zidane’s men, thanks to their quality all over the pitch. Even with Napoli’s trio of Mertens, Callejon and Insigne, they have to get past Real’s brick wall of a defence, and then not concede against Ronaldo (among others), which leads me to predict a win for Real Madrid.

Bayern Munich vs Arsenal

This is the other of the two big games, with these two having a recent history of playing each other in the Champions League (4 out of the last 5 seasons). After Chelsea’s thumping of Arsenal at the weekend, they’ll be out looking for blood but, unfortunately, I don’t think that’ll be enough to beat the current German champions. I think Bayern outmatch them in almost all, if not every, position on the pitch, and will be too much for Wenger’s men to handle. Due to this, I’m going with a Bayern win.

Opinion:How Irish media is joining the English trend of hyping football players

With the rise of  websites like Balls.ie, Sportsjoe.ie and The42, a lot more Irish players are getting a lot more attention than they would have gotten five or ten years ago. This is fantastic and leads to more opportunities to find players like Daryl Horgan (a very talented player). In my opinion, he may have been overlooked without these websites posting articles about him, which would have meant no move to Preston North-End and no Ireland cap. However, this now seems to have led to sports websites trying to over-hype more and more under the radar players, to try and garner another success story.

No one loves taking the mick out of the English media for overhyping more than the Irish, but some Irish websites have begun to do it with already established players. An example of this would be the Robbie Brady transfer saga to Norwich. Balls.ie were posting stories about a move by Brady to a Premier League side with a transfer fee of £25 million.

Don’t get me wrong: I love Robbie Brady as much as the next Irishman and I will never forget that night in Lille, but £25 million is asking a bit much. Norwich fans have stated their discontent with Brady over social media, saying he is a different player with the green jersey on, and perhaps they’re right. However, these websites are only seeing the international Brady who could be worth that much, and not his current club form.

At the end of the day, I believe these websites should (deservedly) hype up some of these players, but keep in mind not every Irish player will be the next Robbie Keane .

Opinion:Why changing the World Cup to 48 teams is bad for football.

On Tuesday the 10th of January, in a meeting in Zurich, FIFA unanimously voted to expand the tournament from 32 teams to 48. This is the first expansion since 1998, with the change coming in for the 2026 World Cup.The tournament will now have 80 matches, instead of the previous 64 and will run for 32 days.

A major change is that there will now be a first stage – 16 groups with 3 teams in each – preceding the knockout stages, with the eventual winners still only playing 7 games.With information from FIFA research, they are expected to make a 521 million Sterling profit (599 million euro) increasing their revenue to 5.29 billion Sterling (6 billion euro).When asked the reason for the expansion, FIFA President Gianni Infantino responded “Why expand? Football is more than just Europe and South America”

While that is true, I don’t think a World Cup expansion is the way to go about it. The World Cup is the biggest and most prestigious tournament in football and arguably in the sporting world. Just making it to  the World Cup is the same as winning it for many countries eg Georgia, Iceland etc.So expanding the tournament would devalue that aspect for those countries.

The 2016 Euros  increased the tournament size from 16 to 24 and it saw smaller nations like Iceland do well, and involved more matches. In truth, it also brought the quailty of the matches down, with some of the smaller nations, like Romania  and others, adopting defensive tatics against bigger countries like France.This expansion in the World Cup could see the same result with a lot of new smaller nations participating.

As Gianni Infantino said, “Football is more than just Europe and South America”. Instead of expanding the World Cup, FIFA could use its profits to help fund smaller nations’ youth systems, to make football more competive and help improve overall quailty. As China has showed recently, many  countries are willing to put money in.Other countries are as willing to put the money in but simply don’t have enough. FIFA could help them out with the extraoridinary money it makes, by funding competitions like the  AFC Asian Cup to make them more competitive and getting more recognition, in the way Copa America and the Euros have.