MARK O’HAIRE (@MarkOHaire) assesses the odds as Ireland welcome Switzerland to Dublin for Friday night’s friendly.
Republic Of Ireland v Switzerland | Friday 19.45 | Premier Sports
It’s 24 years to the day on Friday since Ireland last beat Switzerland; Shakespears Sister was number one whilst Jack Charlton was in charge of the Boys In Green with Roy Hodgson in the Swiss dugout. Memories.
The two nations meet for a fifth time since that 1992 night and both have Euro 2016 on their minds. As with all friendlies, your powder should be kept relatively dry, but there are a few clues as to how the duo will approach this contest.
Republic boss Martin O’Neill has whittled his original 40-man squad down to 33 and the home coach has hinted he’ll be fielding a stronger side on Good Friday, with more experimentation and auditions arriving in Tuesday night’s clash with Slovakia.
John Walters will be absent against the Swiss – scorer of five goals in his last six appearances in the green jersey – but even so, the tight knit Irish group should have enough in the attacking third to cause La Nati a few problems.
Ireland have scored in 17 of their last 18 internationals at the Aviva Stadium, including all four friendlies in Dublin during O’Neill’s reign. Three of those non-competitive clashes featured both sides scoring and Over 2.5 Goals and so finding a goals-based angle is advised.
ROI are famed for their pragmatic approach and strong home record but friendly matches at the Aviva haven’t been anywhere near as cagey as qualifiers. Half of Ireland’s last 10 meaningless matches featured Over 2.5 Goals compared to just 2/10 competitive games (excluding the two fixtures with Gibraltar).
The Boyes In Green conceded just seven goals on their way to Euro 2016 qualification – only once leaking more than a solitary goal – but have leaked in five of their last eight friendlies and so against an attack-minded Swiss side, goals could well be on the agenda.
O’Neill’s recent Dublin record (W6-D3-L0) includes six shutouts as well as victories over world champions Germany and Bosnia, so the Greens do make reasonable appeal at even-money in the Draw No Bet market, especially considering La Nati have picked up just one win in five away friendlies (W1-D2-L2).
But I’ll take the 21/20 from William Hill on Both Teams To Score. The visitors are a more adventurous proposition under Vladimir Petkovic than they ever were under Ottmar Hitzfeld and there’s plenty of offensive talent capable of unlocking a pressure-fire Irish backline.
La Nati have netted in 12 of their past 13 matches, 10 of which featured at least three goals or more, and 14 players grabbed a goal during qualifying. The Swiss arrive with a W9-D2-L2 return from their past 13 internationals and certainly won’t be short of confidence.
They’re a decent unit but ex-Lazio coach Petkovic has brought his own uncapped and inexperienced players for trials here including 19-year-old Cameroon-born sensation Breel Embolo and whilst I expect the guests to get on the scoresheet, I can’t resist a wee interest in the 2-1 home success at 10/1 (Bet365).
Ireland v Switzerland – Both Teams To Score (21/20 William Hill)
Ireland v Switzerland – Ireland to win 2-1 (10/1 Bet365)
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