International Football Preview
By Mark Rawlinson
England and Ireland meet for the first time in eighteen as the old rivals lock horns at Wembley Stadium on Wednesday evening.
The last time the two nations met was back in February 1995 but it’ll be a match many want to forget as crowd trouble between Lansdowne Road caused the match to be abandoned after only 27 minutes.
Ireland were leading 1-0 when the game was suspended following David Kelly’s early goal but the pair will finally get to play out a full 90 minutes for the first time since 1991.
That EURO 1992 Qualifier saw the game finish 1-1 with Niall Quinn’s 29th minute goal cancelling out Lee Dixon’s goal which allowed England to go onto qualify for the main tournament in Sweden whilst Ireland finished a point behind meaning they did not.
At that time, Ireland were within the top ten in the FIFA World Rankings but over the past 20 years, their record has caused a spiral of decline for the national side. They reached the 1994 and 2002 World Cups, reaching the first knockout phase of both but have done little else in the meantime.
They of course reached the EUROs in Poland/Ukraine last summer but it was a disastrous tournament for them. They finished rock bottom of their group, scoring only one goal all tournament and suffering a hefty 4-0 loss to eventual winners Spain.
Even former Ireland legend Roy Keane was distraught with what he witnessed at the tournament and laid into the team in the post-match TV coverage following that defeat to Spain.
It has been a rough time for Giovanni Trappatoni’s side of late although they are still in contention to qualify for next year’s World Cup in Brazil.
England meanwhile are unbeaten in their World Cup Qualifying group but still trail Montenegro by two points after their draw in March.
Roy Hodgson has stuck to a generally unchanged side since the last international break with Reading keeper Alex McCarthy the only uncapped player in the squad. They are though without Steven Gerrard, Andy Carroll, Jack Wilshire, Tom Cleverly and Kyle Walker who are all absent through injury.
Ashley Cole will also captain the side in recognition of his 100th cap for England that he made back in March but the decision has been described as a controversial one. His misdemeanours on Twitter have been one concern raised by some fans, with the left-back criticising the FA a few months ago via his account.
The other notable friendly this evening sees Ecuador take on Germany at the Sun Life Stadium in Florida. The South American side are up to their highest ever ranking of 10th and would be a decent punt with Sportingbet at 18/5. Bet Victor are offering the best odds on a Germany win at 20/23.
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