Ireland v France
Saturday 14 November 2009 and Wednesday 18 November 2009
2010 World Cup Qualifying
The last time that the Republic of Ireland qualified for the World Cup, in 2002, they took the playoff route to book their place in Korea/Japan
This time, the route is the same, but while Ireland were in the favorite role against Iran last time around, they‘re decided underdogs this time, as Giovanni Trapattoni’s side meets 1998 World Cup champions France with a ticket to South Africa on the line.
Republic of Ireland Preview
After advancing to the round of 16 at the 2002 World Cup, Ireland failed to qualify for Euro 2004, the 2006 World Cup, and Euro 2008. Then, the well-traveled Trapattoni was installed as manager in May 2008, and his arrival brought about quite the reversal of fortunes.
Ireland earned a relatively favorable draw in a Group Eight where their toughest competition was reigning World Cup champions Italy, and their qualification campaign started with three wins and a draw in their first four matches.
They weren’t able to keep up that hot form through the duration and finished six points behind group winners Italy, but an unbeaten run through qualifying – which included draws home and away against Italy – saw Ireland finish solidly ahead of Bulgaria for that coveted second spot.
Ireland don’t have any pressing injury concerns outside of having some headaches about cover for #1 keeper Shay Given, who will have to contend with most of France‘s big guns. That includes Bordeaux playmaker Yoann Gourcuff, who‘s back after missing the last two qualifiers last month due to a hamstring injury.
However, one danger man he won’t have to deal with is Bayern Munich star Franck Ribery, who continues to be on the shelf due to tendonitis in his left knee.
While Trapattoni’s job of getting Ireland to the playoffs is one to be praised, Raymond Domenech could well finally see his tumultuous tenure come to an end if France fail to qualify.
After a disappointing group stage exit at Euro 2008, France’s World Cup qualification got off to a stuttering start with a 3-1 defeat away to Austria.
In the end, France did do enough to seal second place behind Serbia in Group Seven, but there was many an unconvincing performance in the qualifiers. As such, the onus is on France to produce the kind of performance that restores some confidence in Domenech’s merits and the team‘s ability to make a deep run in South Africa.
As was the case eight years ago, the first leg in this tie will be in Dublin. That first leg at Landsdowne Road against Iran was a 2-0 win that eased the pressure going in the second leg, and while a win would be a dream result, the goal for Ireland will be to at least ensure that there‘ll be more to play for in the second leg than just pride.
Ireland v France Prediction
A draw at Croke Park would hand France the advantage going to the second leg, but Ireland weren’t intimidated by having to face Italy in a hostile environment, they won’t crumble against France.
With that in mind, it’d be ideal for France to win in Dublin on Saturday, but at the very least, a draw and an away goal or two would put the French in a commanding position ahead of Wednesday’s match at the Stade de France.
Prediction: Republic of Ireland to qualify.
Listen to all our World Cup qualifying predictions on this week’s Soccerlens podcast.