The Republic of Ireland reached the finals of Euro 2016 by the skin of their teeth via a third-placed playoff against Bosnia and Herzegovina.
Although, a win against Germany shows that they do have the capacity to challenge the big boys. Let’s assess their chances in Euro 2016…
The Republic of Ireland took part in their first ever major tournament at Euro 1988, and fans still have fond memories of their 1-0 win over England.
This came thanks to a goal from Ray Houghton and a driving performance by Paul McGrath at the heart of midfield.
After a draw with the Soviet Union in their next game, they needed to take a point off Holland in the last round to make the semi-finals. However, they lost by a goal to nil to the eventual champions.
Previous manager, Giovanni Trapattoni, led them to Euro 2012 via a play-off win over Estonia. They lost three games in a group consisting of Italy, Croatia and Spain.
Despite the players’ praise for their fans, then ITV pundit – and now assistant manager – Roy Keane criticised the team for a lack of ambition.
Route to Euro 2016
The Republic of Ireland qualified via a play-off after coming third place in a group consisting of world champions, Germany, Scotland, and a Lewandowski-infused Poland.
Facing tough opponents, they were able to win once against Germany at home, despite also losing against Georgia and only taking a point off Scotland.
They were leading in their last game against Poland, until a last-ditch equaliser from Robert Lewandowski meant they had to settle for a play-off place.
In the play-off, they were drawn to face Bosnia and Herzegovina. Ireland overcame a few early scares to win 2-0 at home in the second leg, following a 1-1 draw in the first.
Martin O’Neill became manager of the Republic of Ireland in 2013 and immediately appointed Roy Keane as his assistant. Together, they have led the squad to nine wins, eight draws and five defeats in 22 games.
Whereas Trappatoni adopted highly-defensive tactics, O’Neill and Keane make use of creative players – such as Robbie Brady, Wes Hoolahan and Jeff Hendrick – that the Italian ignored.
Most important player
They got through the play-offs without Shane Long, but the Southampton man’s hard work and stamina make him perfect for use in the O’Neill/Keane system.
Daryl Murphy did a great job as his replacement over the two-legged play-off against Bosnia. Long’s ability to hold up the ball and harass defenders will ensure that he keeps his place for Euro 2016.
The highlight of Long’s international career so far must be his emphatic winner against Germany in Dublin in the qualifiers.
He may not have the class of a young Robbie Keane, but his ability as an impact player makes him a danger to any opponent.
At 24, Derby County’s Jeff Hendrick seems to improve with every match. The midfielder is blessed with dribbling flair, as well as an ability to sell dummies, a case in point being the way in which he set up Walter’s goal against Georgia.
Alongside the defensively-minded Glenn Whelan and James McCarthy, Hendrick is free to take on a more advanced role, pushing forward with the aim of putting attackers through on goal.
Here at Ladbrokes, we can’t see the Republic of Ireland advancing beyond Group E, which includes Italy and top-ranked Belgium. In placing Ireland at 11/8 to get through to the knockout phase, their doing so would certainly not be beyond the realms of possibility.
With O’Neill and Keane on board, the squad will be going to the tournament intending to put up a fight. This could lead to one or two entertaining – and even giant-killing – displays.