Wojciech Zdrojkowski

Analyzing the Opposition – Republic of Ireland

The younger Poland side will have to be wary of Ireland's experience and wise heads / Getty Images
Analyzing the Opposition – Republic of Ireland

This Sunday Poland will face off against the Republic of Ireland in Dublin, but what do we know about the opponents?

While Poland and Ireland have met many times in the past (25 to be exact), only two of those matches were competitive, both ending in draws during the UEFA EURO 92 qualifying campaign.

Overall, despite the vast majority of games being friendlies, Poland have had a good record in their encounters with the Irish (10 wins, 9 draws, 6 loses).

The last meetings between the two sides were friendlies.

The two nations played each other twice in 2013, with Ireland winning 2:0 at home in Dublin, before the sides drew 0:0 in Poznan later that year. The two teams also met five years earlier in Dublin, where Poland won 3:2 and a young Robert Lewandowski, still breaking in to the team, came on as a substitute and scored a late goal. The only other player from the current squad to feature in that match was Lukasz Fabianski, who played the full 90 minutes. Notably, Jakub Blaszczykowski also played.

Poland have had a good start to their UEFA EURO 2016 qualifying campaign. Almost at the halfway point, they sit top of the Group D with 10 points, with only the 2:2 draw at home to Scotland giving fans any cause for concern so far.

The Republic of Ireland have not had a bad start either. They’ve played the same teams as Poland and achieved good results. Both teams picked up victories over the weaker sides in the group, and both put in good performances against the Germans. Poland drew at home to Scotland, while Ireland lost away, but at one point Poland were losing their game too and didn’t look overly convincing.

The Irish team have not really improved their results since Martin O’Neill took over from Giovanni Trapattoni (who coached them for five and a half years). With Roy Keane as his assistant manager, O’Neill has had some good results over the last few months, including a 4:1 win over the USA and the already mentioned draw against Germany in Gelsenkirchen after a late John O’Shea equalizer.

O’Neill has also suffered some defeats, such as the 5:1 thrashing by Portugal before the World Cup and the recent 1:0 loss in Scotland. His record since taking over is as close to average as it could be, with five wins, four draws and four defeats to his name.

From the results in the group so far, it’s difficult to separate the sides too much. Poland’s 2:0 win over Germany has done great things for their image, but the draw at home to Scotland brought them back down to earth. Ireland are a solid team with solid results, and will pose a problem.

They have won their last three games in Dublin, and won five of their last six. Poland have so far won both of their away games in the group [albeit in matches against weak opposition].

Ireland’s squad looks dangerous, but not too threatening. It has recognizable faces, such as 34-year-old Robbie Keane or former Manchester United defender John O’Shea.

Shay Given is also in the squad, although Martin O’Neill has recently placed him on the bench, favoring Millwall FC’s David Forde.

There are also younger (compared to those mentioned) faces such as Aiden McGeady of Everton FC, who fans may remember from his performances at Celtic FC and Spartak Moscow, and James McClean of Wigan Athletic.

Most of the Irish squad is naturally made up of guys who play in UK, with only strikers Kevin Doyle and Robbie Keane plying their trades in the US.

As Poland well know, Ireland have a hard, physical, uncompromising style of direct football.

The generally younger Polish side will have to be wary of Ireland’s experience and wise heads, and not get caught up in any possible scrambles and bust ups on the pitch. If they manage this, they should have the quality to get a good result.

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Wojciech Zdrojkowski

Wojciech Zdrojkowski is a PSN Columnist and freelance journalist. In his pre-PSN resume he has written previously for several different independent football news blogs.

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