REPUBLIC OF IRELAND continue their Euro 2020 qualifying campaign with a tricky contest against Georgia on Tuesday evening. Mark O'Haire (@MarkOHaire) sets the scene.
Republic of Ireland v Georgia | Tuesday 26th March 2019, 19:45 | Sky Sports
Mick McCarthy started his second stint in charge of the Republic of Ireland with an unconvincing 1-0 victory in Gibraltar on Saturday night. Jeff Hendrick’s strike ended a drought of 446 minutes without a goal for the Boys In Green as they sealed only a second success in 12 outings since October 2017.
Without a guaranteed play-off place to fall back on following a poor Nations League campaign under the stewardship of Martin O’Neill, Ireland know they must secure a top-two finish to feature at Euro 2020. However, pitted alongside the likes of Denmark and Switzerland, plus Tuesday’s tricky opponents Georgia, makes life tough for McCarthy.
If on-field progress is in short supply, ROI may also have to deal with frustration from the stands. There has been a suggestion that Irish supporters could hold a tennis-ball protest at the Aviva over issues involving FAI chief executive John Delaney; the CEO is leaving his role only to take up a new post of executive vice-president despite consistent calls to quit the association altogether.
Back to the football and the two teams in Dublin know each other well having faced off in each of the past two qualifying campaigns, as well as five of the last nine. Georgia have held their own in recent contests (W0-D3-L1) with all four fixtures featuring fewer than three goals, and it’s hard to imagine anything other than a cagey encounter again on Tuesday evening.
Cagey encounter on the cards
Georgia +1 on the Asian Handicap stands out at 3/4 (Unibet) – this selection would see our stake returned should the Irish win by exactly one goal. Seven of the hosts past 10 victories in competitive football arrived via a one-goal margin with matches against Moldova and Gibraltar the only games to end in a cushy Irish success since 2015.
The Boys In Green have beaten Georgia in eight of their last nine meetings but six triumphs arrived by a solitary goal and the visitors have certainly impressed in recent duels with both ROI and Wales. Indeed, the Crusaders haven’t conceded more than a single goal in five of their last six competitive away trips to UEFA nations ranked similarly to Ireland (#19-#40).
Vladimir Weiss’ troops were the better side home and away during World Cup qualification against Ireland, and also managed to contain a full-strength Wales squad in that same campaign. What’s more, Georgia have taken eight victories from 11 since the start of last year following a fine Nations League effort against Kazakhstan, Latvia and Andorra.
That excellent Nations League form has ensured Georgia of a Euro 2020 play-off next year and the Crusaders have W2-D5-L4 on their travels in away or neutral fixtures since October 2016 with each loss ending 1-0. Meanwhile, on Saturday the visitors posed plenty of problems for Switzerland in Tbilisi before losing their way after the interval in a 2-0 defeat.
Giorgi Chakvetadze, Georgia's best player, missed the Switzerland game through injury but is in contention to feature here. His influence could prove key with the Crusaders’ ability to keep the ball while sitting reasonably deep and counter-attacking causing ROI plenty of problems when they last travelled to Dublin in October 2016.
As well as supporting Georgia in the Asian Handicap market, there’s definitely mileage in backing Under 2.25 Goals here too. We’d make a full stakes profit should one or zero goals be seen at the Aviva with exactly two goals seeing a half-stakes pay-out earned – the hosts’ last five outings have all seen fewer than two goals.