INTERNATIONAL football fanatic Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) takes a look at Sunday's friendly international between Ireland and Uruguay from Dublin.
Republic of Ireland v Uruguay | Sunday 18:00 | Premier Sports
“Austria is the be-all and end-all,” said Republic of Ireland head coach Martin O'Neill in the immediate aftermath of Thursday night’s chastening 3-1 defeat to Mexico in New Jersey.
Ireland’s boss was far from dispirited despite seeing his experimental side outclassed by El Tri and appeared in upbeat mood before the flight home. With Sunday’s international against Uruguay on the agenda, there’s no time to dwell on any negatives.
O’Neill made no secret of his ambition to field a 3-5-2 formation with his below-strength squad in the States; after a reasonable opening stanza, Ireland were soon brutally exploited by the canny Mexicans with the margin of victory perhaps not fully reflecting the winners’ dominance.
Darren Randolph and James McClean were the only Premier League starters on show for ROI, who found holding possession difficult with two wingers in Daryl Horgan and Callum O’Dowda operating in central midfield roles. Daryl Murphy and David McGoldrick struggled to make an impact in attack and with no natural striker on the bench, Ireland were restricted up front.
The cavalry has arrived
But O’Neill seems set to ring the changes this weekend with 10 players and a combined 437 caps worth of international experience joining the group in Dublin on Friday afternoon to prepare for the Aviva Stadium encounter with Urugauy.
Robbie Brady, Jeff Hendrick, Glenn Whelan, Jonathan Walters, John O’Shea, Kieren Westwood, Harry Arter, Aiden McGeady, Johnny Hayes and Stephen Quinn are now part of the Irish party and with the crucial World Cup qualifying showdown against Austria now just a week away, improvements are expected.
Lack of friendly fire
Still, don’t expect the Republic to be at full tilt. O’Neill doesn’t place a huge amount of emphasis on friendly matches with the Boys In Green claiming just two victories in their last eight non-competitive outings (W2-D3-L3) whilst losing such encounters to Belarus and Iceland in the past year.
Go back to 2011 and the Republic’s nine friendly triumphs have arrived against Oman (x3), Bosnia, Poland, Switzerland, Georgia, Latvia and USA. Meanwhile, under O’Neill’s tutorship Ireland’s return in meaningless matches is W5-D6-L6.
Uruguay too good to ignore
Uruguay might be missing star striker Luis Suarez but Edison Cavani is available and he could be the difference in Dublin as La Celeste bid to enhance their impressive run of friendly results against European nations.
Since beating the Irish here in 2011, Oscar Tabarez’s troops have played 14 non-competitive fixtures against European nations with a record of W7-D5-L2, losing to Spain and Germany. They have beaten France and Italy during that sample.
Centre-half Diego Godin’s absence is a minor headache with clubmate Jose Gimenez available as a replacement and so with Irish eyes distracted, there shouldn’t be any concerns in supporting the South Americans on Sunday.
Uruguay are 13/8 (Matchbook) to triumph and it’s a good enough price to get involved with but I’m taking the insurance of the Asian Handicap line with La Celeste 0 available at 16/19 (188BET) – just like the Draw No Bet market, we’ll see our stake returned should the match end all-square.
Republic of Ireland v Uruguay – Uruguay 0 Asian Handicap (16/19 188BET)